— by James Montgomery, with additional reporting by Matt Paco
When Priscilla Diaz was 7, she decided to tell her father that she knew how to spit rhymes like a pro. The only problem: He had no idea what she was talking about.
"My father was cooking in the kitchen, and I said to him, 'Yo Dad! Yo Dad, I can spit!' And he was like, 'Yo, if you spit at me, I'm gonna ground you for life!' " laughed Diaz, now 10. "He didn't really know what spit meant. So I said, 'Dad, lemme spit, please let me spit,' and he said, 'Go ahead, spit on your plate.' So I started rhyming, and he dropped the plate in front of me and he said, 'How in the world did you do that?' He was bugging out."
So began the MC career of Priscilla "P-Star" Diaz, the self-proclaimed "young feminist phenomenon" who has already made the rounds on the mixtape circuit; rubbed elbows with Beyoncé and Ludacris; won the Little Miss Harlem beauty pageant; and even stole the show on an episode of MTV's "Made" last year, when she lyrically ripped an aspiring rapper named Niles on the streets of Harlem — all before entering middle school.
She's done it all with her dad's blessing (he's now her manager). And thanks to a strict moral code — she wants to be an inspiration to kids her age, sort of like a "hip-hop Selena" — she's done it without dropping a single curse word.
"I was probably in second grade and I was at school and there were these fifth-graders rapping really loud, battling each other. And I hear them cursing, and I said to them, 'Yo! Y'all should not be using obscene language!' " P-Star said. "And they laughed, so I thought to myself, 'Let me become the rapper then, let me rap so aggressively but without obscene language. No booty, no cursing, no nothing.' I want to teach these kids that, you know, you can rap really hard but you don't have to curse or anything, you don't have to be 50 Cent, talking about guns and stuff like that. I don't think that's the right way to explain things."
And she's working hard at living up to those words, teaching kids the importance of knowing their roots (her song "In the Shadow" is about the struggles of Martin Luther King Jr. and Rosa Parks), and espousing the virtues of education ("ABC" manages to work geometry and social studies into the lyrical flow). But P-Star also knows when to keep it light. Her first single, "Biggie Bounce," is full of shout-outs to clubs, rides and cribs, and "I Got It Made" is a throwback to the boastful party rhymes of old.
"I can get serious in my raps, but it's mostly about having fun," she said. "So I also wanted to make a lot of songs about having fun, because if I never had fun, I wouldn't be doing this."
Her life wasn't always this much fun. P grew up in a foster home (her mother struggled with drug addiction), and after her father was finally awarded custody, they lived in a rough section of the Bronx while he underwent surgery to have a tumor removed from his stomach. When he discovered P's talent, her dad agreed to support her any way he could — even if that meant moving into a shelter in Harlem to save money.
"I love my daddy dearly, and I want to help him because he helped me a lot. He took me out of foster care, he supported me, and I want to pay him back," she said. "I want to tell everybody about that. I want to make a difference in this world. I want to help others like he helped me. So I actually wrote a rap about it, and it's going to be on my new album."
And while she's still working on that album (it's due in September on Harlem's HUNC Records), P-Star knows she has to deliver something hot to justify the hype surrounding her. You'd think that would be a lot for an 10-year-old to handle, but as she's proven time after time, she's not your average 10-year-old.
"To do this, you have to make sure you want it — not because you can rap and you think you're good, but because you want it," she said. "And I dearly do want this. This is my heart right now. This is my love. And I don't ever want to do anything else."
What do you think of this story? You Tell Us...
E-Mail this story to a friend