Creative Silence

How Do You End Up Featured On Kendrick Lamar's Album? Rapsody Tells Her Story

Rap appears on 'Complexion (A Zulu Love),' off of K. Dot's To Pimp A Butterfly.

To Pimp A Butterfly has been out for less than 24 hours, so there's still a lot to digest about Kendrick Lamar’s good kid m.A.A.d city follow up.

One thing that was immediately clear, though, was that one of the only featured rap verses on the album -- or maybe the only, depending on how you view Snoop Dogg's sing-songy flow on "Institutionalize" and George Clinton's on "Wesley's Theory" -- came from an unlikely source. Or, at least, unlikely to some.

Rapsody’s appearance on "Complexion (A Zulu Love)" was not only a triumph for the North Carolina rapper, but a crucial element of the song, which examines how the complexion of someone's skin can influence both the way they look at themeless and the way others view them.

Rap's name may be unfamiliar to non-hip-hop fans, but she's been carving her path for a few years now, having signed with 9th Wonder's Jamla Records, and with a handful of mixtapes and an album on her resume, including 2012's The Idea of Beautiful.

This also wasn't the first time she and K. Dot worked together. In 2011, he appeared on "Rock the Bells," off of her For Everything mixtape.

In the midst of a whirlwind of a day following the release, Rap explained to MTV News how she ended up on the album, what she wanted to accomplish with her verse, and what's in store next.

MTV: You and Kendrick worked together a few years back. I know everyone's busy with recording and tour -- so how much had you kept in touch since then?

Rapsody: Outside of when he hit me for this verse, I wanna say the last time I remember seeing him was about two years ago. It was before the "Control" verse. When I did She Got Game, that was the first tweet that he tweeted after the "Control" verse. We had reached out to him to do something for She Got Game, [but he couldn't do it]. He was like, I hate I couldn't do the verse, but I'mma send this tweet out.

MTV: When did he hit you for this?

Rapsody: He actually hit 9th first. I was traveling, I was on my way to Toronto, and it was January 11. I had a layover in Charlotte and I got stuck. 9th hit me like, 'Dave [Free, Kendrick's manager] just hit me, and Kendrick wants to send something.' I was like, 'Wow.' This was an idea that Kendrick had come up with I think around 2013, about a year and a half ago -- it was a day after the "Control" verse came out, [that he had the idea] for us to work together.

Time went on. I didn't know if it was still gonna happen. As an artist, you come up with different ideas, things change. I wasn't tripping on it. But he hit us up January 11. 9th hit me, I did the Toronto show, then I flew to D.C. the next day, because 9th had a birthday party that weekend. They sent the song, 9th drove up and met me, we went to the studio that night.

MTV: What did you know about the track?

Rapsody: I talked to Kendrick earlier that day. He didn't tell me much. I didn't hear his verse at all. All I got was where the beat changes. He told me the song's title was "Complexion." I guess we didn't have to go into great detail; I kind of knew where he was going with it.

He said, all races are important, but this is something special that we really need to address, especially within the black community, with colorism, and light-skinned verses dark-skinned. So, it wasn't a hard concept to get. I did the verse and sent it to him that night.

My first time hearing the song in its entirety was last night. It was a hard secret to keep. I didn't tell my mom -- I didn't tell anybody.

MTV: Did you skip to it when the album came out?

Rapsody: Nah. I didn't wanna do that. I let it rock.

MTV: Wow. That's discipline. Tell me a little about the approach you took in the verse and what you wanted to get across.

Rapsody: Before he hit me, I was watching this documentary called "Dark Girls," and it was talking about the light-skinned versus dark-skinned issue that goes on within the African-American community. And I took it back to when I was younger, I was the darkest skinned person in my family. I remember how I used to feel -- like I wasn't pretty enough, or I wasn't good enough.

I remember I was about eight-years-old, my sister had a little bottle of bleach cream because she had a spot on her leg she was trying to get out, but I took it and put it on my body. It's something that happens a lot. I have a younger niece, she's five now, I remember when she was about to turn four, she didn't like black Barbie dolls.

I wanted to touch on how we look on each other. Good hair, light skin, you must be smart; if you're black, you're dark-skinned, you're ugly. That really happens. This is something that started with slavery, when they divided the house n---as and field n---as, and it's still a part of today's society and things that we battle with.

Just to touch on those subjects, and how we all need to love ourselves and love those shades and colors, and it's all beautiful.

MTV: When did you get to the point where you didn't buy into the construct that lighter is better?

Rapsody: Man, a big thing is hip-hop. Seeing Queen Latifah and MC Lyte and Lauryn Hill did it for me the most. Just that whole '90s era, Black is Beautiful, the Spike Lee films, that's when I learned to love myself. I gravitated to it. That's what got me into Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni. All of that together opened my eyes.

MTV: Do you feel like, now that you're in the position they were in, that can be your role, too?

Rapsody: Definitely. Especially seeing it with my niece. That's what really did it. It's like, I have to talk about that, I have to talk about what's going on with Trayvon Martin and Mike Brown. I have a nephew, and he's gonna grow up, and his dad is gonna have to have that hard conversation. I know I'm in a position, whether I want to be or not, to be a role model. I take that seriously, and I try to do the right thing with it, because we don't have the balance that we had, especially when I was younger.

MTV: I know you dropped your Beauty and the Beast EP last year, and this is a great start to 2015. What do you have planned for the rest of the year?

Rapsody: We're gonna re-release Beauty and the Beast as a deluxe version with a few extra songs on it, which will be soon. And then around fall of this year, I'm gonna release my sophomore album. We're currently working on that, and I'm excited about it.


VMAs 2018