Imagine working with one of the hottest rappers in the present music industry after several years of relentless grinding and hard work. While you’re imagining it, Virginia raptress Audra The Rapper is living it. The 21-year-old Richmond native has extended her local buzz to the eyes and ears of Miami’s own Rick Ross. In the past year, she has made several show appearances, promoted her music via Twitter and released a mixtape that reflects how far Audra can travel in the business. Her “you-will-see-me” attitude matched with her unique style fuels opportunities and has led this fresh hipster to the position as the first lady of Maybach Music.
The Wall Magazine got the chance to talk to the rising artist as she humbly explains when she put her rhymes to rhythm, how she linked up with The Bawse and her truthful opinion of the rap game.
When was the first time you realized that rapping would be your career?
I knew I always wanted to do music. When I was little, we have home videos where we’re just in the house singing. That song “Lately” by En Vogue— I used to just sing that over and over, and I used to tell my mom that I was gonna be a singer. So, I always knew music was what I wanted to do. I thought I could sing but I surely couldn’t [laugh]. But when I was about 14 is when I knew I wanted to rap. I used to battle heavy before I started recording. I used to battle at school, at the lunch table or at football games in Richmond. There’s this radio station called 106.5 The Beat, and they used to have rap battles every night on the radio station, and I’d be at home listening like, ‘Ooh, if I was on there, what would I say?’ That’s when I really got into it heavy.
Who were you musical influences growing up?
Lauryn Hill. I got the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill when it first came out, and I was about eight or nine. I told my mom that I needed that ‘cause Everything Is Everything was her single. Nine years old and I knew. And my second mixtape was titled after her, paying homage to her; it was called the Miseducation of Audra. A lot of people ask, ‘How could you look up to Lauryn Hill, and you talk about this, you do that?” You know, she influences me but she isn’t me. Definitely as far as respect. Respect for herself, respect for her craft and respect for her beliefs through her music. Like, you can listen to her music and see where her mind frame was, listen to her music and hear her beliefs, listen to her music and see where her thought process is and she influences me in that sense. To know that there’s more than what meets the eye. People can be cognitively aroused from me more so than just visually.
What are some of the best and worst experiences you’ve had while grinding?
The AFRAM Festival. I think that was ’08 and because that was the year MC Lyte was on it, Ray J, Lloyd and Keyshia Cole. There was about 9,000 people. I prepared for that for a long time ‘cause my first concert was AFRAM to go see Erykah Badu when I was like six, so for me to be able to do that show years later was big for me. And then to be able to open up for MC Lyte, that was real big to me. I really can’t think of a worst show. I can’t think of a show where the turnout wasn’t good or the promotion wasn’t heavy, but I can really say that I’ve been able to get something from everything. Like, I can do a show and only three people show up but one of those three people was somebody who gave me press or something. So, I really can’t think of coming home and thinking that show sucked.
All of that optimism and hard work paid off because you signed to Maybach. How did you get down with that music group?
Earlier in 2010, I went to Power 92.1 with my homegirl. When we get there, we just talking to A-Plus on 92.1 and Rick Ross and DJ Khaled come in because that was Stone Soul, which is the biggest annual concert. They come in and I’m in the back just observing and Ross was like, ‘I just joined Twitter yesterday,’ so on commercial break I’m like, ‘What’s your name?’ He gives me his name and he was like, ‘Tell me your name, so I can follow you,’ and of course I told him @Audratherapper, so he was like, ‘Oh, you rap? Follow me.’ So when we walked downstairs, he had me rap and rap and rap and rap. I’m spitting for him and he says, ‘Take this number down and hit me up.’ So, we exchange contacts and he gave me his mixtape; that was the same day The Albert Anastasia EP dropped—when people first got introduced to “B.M.F.” So, I called him, I texted him, I did all this and I never heard from him or got an answer, nothing. But then a few days later, he was like, ‘I really f with your music’ on Twitter, and that meant the world to me. But that was it. Then, homecoming season comes around and I end up being booked on the same show as him at the Richmond Coliseum. I opened for him, so he got to see me perform and I did my song over his “B.M.F.” beat. So, when we were backstage, he does a drop for me saying, ‘I cosign Audra. She got next.’ So, I give him the mixtape and he’s like, ‘Cool. I’ma check it out.’ The next day I get a tweet like, ‘Hit us up.’ That was from the DJ, so I gave him my number. Then the day after that I get a phone call, the day after that I get flight information and the day after that I’m in Miami recording with him! So that show was the point that solidified it.
Now, you definitely have been working hard to get respect for your craft, so what other upcoming artists are you feeling and have a mutual respect for?
There’s this artist named Brandon Hines—he’s been on the grind a lot, but he really hasn’t broke mainstream. I’m really always looking to him to see what he’s working on or what he’s got coming up ‘cause I really like him. Um, that whole G.O.O.D. Music camp. CyHi Da Prynce, Big Sean, them niggas is on it right now. I feel J. Cole is the most underrated. He’s my top five for 2010.
What would you say were your favorite mixtapes that dropped this past year?
Oh, Kush & Orange Juice, Finally Famous, and you know what? I really like this mixtape, but I thought it was underestimated—Sex Tape by Willie from Day 26. Yo, I listen to it all that time. I was not expecting that to come from him. Oh, and I would say Friday Night Lights!
I peeped on Twitter that you hate being identified as a “female” rapper. Why is that?
I took a lot of feminist classes at Old Dominion University, and it really just got me thinking that whenever people say “female” they’re giving it a negative connotation that doesn’t hold high expectations just by saying that. It just doesn’t have positive meaning to it, so I really hate that.
What are your feelings about Nicki Minaj who is the frontrunner for “female” rappers right now?
I like NIcki. I can really say now that I like Nicki, and I’m glad she switched her lane ‘cause when she first came out with Gucci’s camp, her brand was pure sex then. At first I was like, ‘Aw man, this is cliché.’ But now we’ve seen her switch over to a more positive brand than what she was showing at first. She’s been lyrical, but that wasn’t being seen ‘cause niggas were just seeing the sex, but she dumbed that down and she really made niggas pay attention a bit more.
What do you think of the state of hip-hop?
I think it’s in a good place. If this was a year and a half ago, I don’t think I could really say the same ‘cause that was when it was in that heavy dance phase. But I think it’s in a good place and it’s transitioning. ‘Cause you know with everything—with growth and with time, there’s always change. So when people say that hip-hop’s dying or hip-hop’s dead—no. It’s just changing and people can’t accept change. It’s more toward the hipster era now. Like, the cool kids.
What can people expect next from you?
I’m doing a mixtape. It’s gonna be titled No Such Thing Does Exist. It’s like saying the impossible is possible and that’s really how I feel about my career. It’s like that for a lot of people. I just started working on it ‘cause, honestly, I was working on an album to shop for a deal, and I’m still working on the album, but this mixtape is really gonna be priority right now ‘cause a lot of attention is on me since Ross brought me on the team. And I like mixtapes ‘cause I’m able to record with no inhibitions or nothing. With an album you need a flow, you need a theme, you need a concept, but with mixtapes I can really be diverse. I can have a pop track, I can have a rock track. I can do whatever I want on it.