If Nina Simone had been born 40 years later and shot that forked tongue of hers at raps instead of between-song rants, she might come across like Bahamadia. A Philly native whose barbed rhymes are as sharp and thoughtful as they are complex, Bahamadia's a sort of renaissance lady of the rap world: She never rhymes about getting paid or getting laid and is equally at home rhyming over hip-hop, breaks, acid jazz and drum & bass beats. And, alas, in the sorry world of commercial hip-hop, such broad horizons dictate a certain level of obscurity. There's an inverse relationship between the quantity of syllables within an artist's rhymes and the quantity of spins on commercial radio: Too many of the former equals too few of the latter.Luckily, though, smart musicians appreciate smart rappers even if radio doesn't. Since her debut release, Kollage, dropped in '96, Bahamadia has guested on a wide array of projects. She's worked with Brit drum & bass king Roni Size (that's her rhyming on the seminal track "New Forms"), the Brand New Heavies, Morcheeba, Lauryn Hill, Sweetback (Sade's backing band), the Herbalizer, former Dee-light member Towa Tei, Guru of Gang Starr (who introduced the world to her prowess) and fellow Phillies the Roots. Quite a résumé.
Her recent EP -- released five years after her debut -- illustrates her breadth; rather than working with Gang Starr's DJ Premier on the beats as she did on Kollage, on BB Queen she's working with lesser known but (nearly) equally adept producers, and rather than hooking up with lame-ass commercial rappers, she's hooked up with stellar SF rapper Planet Asia. The result is a seven-track explosion that touches on all her influences and foreshadows the direction of urban sounds by melding jungle, hip-hop and breakbeat.
Bahamadia appears in St. Louis as part of a benefit supporting Blacks Assisting Blacks Against AIDS. Like Bahamadia herself, smart, diverse talent will be showcased, most of it local: Jive Turkey, Bits 'n Pieces, DJ K-9 (hip-hop) and DJ Don Tinsley (fantastic house).
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