We caught up with the Windy City’s hardest four-piece female collective about music industry misogyny and approaching N.W.A’s legacy from a new perspective.
By now, you're probably well aware that Straight Outta Compton -- the film depicting N.W.A's rise from violent South Central LA to hip-hop's world stage -- is this summer's biggest blockbuster. But, in addition to raking it in at the box office, the film's release has also inspired a new rap supergroup to come together and explore N.W.A's explosive energy from a different perspective: an all-female one.
W.W.A., or Women With Attitude, powerfully unites four of Chicago's heaviest hitting female MCs: Sasha Go Hard, Chella H, Lucci Vee, and Drillary Clinton herself, Katie Got Bandz. "It seemed like it would be cool to have an all-ladies version," Lucci told i-D of the collective's motivation to band together. Although each member boasts a distinct flow, the group's sounds are largely located in the gritty energy of Chicago's homegrown drill scene. Putting individual ambitions on pause, W.W.A came together to show the world what Chicago's all about. "Chella came up with the idea, then we all linked up and came up with a plan to make it happen," said Sasha.
Recently, the group unveiled the first phase of that plan -- their debut collaborative track and accompanying video, Straight Outta Chicago. More "an introduction to the project" than a single, says Chella, the song leverages the South Central forefathers' most seminal record for 21st century Chi-town. While Lucci drew inspiration from the group's "toughness and gritty lyrics" on her verse, Chella noted that the four-piece outfit's aggressive honesty regarding both their environment and personal experiences inspired her to follow suit: "I respect how N.W.A. expressed their real feelings through their music." Opening her verse with "I lost my BD and my brother in the same week / so in case you couldn't tell, me I'm up in the streets," Chella arrives with the same raw power that seeps from N.W.A's earliest efforts.
There are sociocultural parallels between the streets of Compton in 88 and Chicago today -- over 600 homicides last year made Chicago America's 2014 murder capital. But while N.W.A popularised gangsta rap as a genre, W.W.A.'s lyrics are a powerful commentary on the environment that incubated such hostility than an actual endorsement of that violence. "Even if it's gang banging or card cracking being mentioned, it doesn't mean it's something we are glorifying," Lucci agreed, "it just means that's what we grew up seeing and what we know."
But while Straight Outta Compton demonstrates just how relevant LA's complicated saga of police brutality and institutionalised racism is today, the film's release has also occasioned questions about the group's past misogyny. Ice Cube recently defended degrading lyrics in Rolling Stone. And, after a scene depicting Dr. Dre's abuse of Dee Barnes was cut from the film, Dre issued a statement to The New York Times apologising for his violent actions (which former fiancee Michel'le didn't exactly find sincere).
Although W.W.A.'s members have experienced gender-based discrimination in the music industry, they contend that it's these experiences that push them to deliver in the recording booth. "The one thing you cannot deny is talent," Lucci said, "so I always break through the barriers once they hear I can actually rap." "It's kinda tougher being a female rapper coming up, but it's up to you to handle your business," Sasha added.
The group's anticipated EP is on its way, and will be released independently -- a move the members sought to make from the get-go. "We all are putting our blood, sweat, and tears into this without any major backing," said Lucci. "Already, the success has been great."
Text Emily Manning
Image via @chellachicago