Last week, City Pages ran an interview with Psalm One – the only female rapper in the 20-year history of Rhymesayers Entertainment.
In it, the real-life Cristalle Bowen takes issue with the beloved Twin Cities record label for its handling of her career ("I don't feel I was ever given that opportunity or platform to kind of grow"), its underrepresentation of women ("It's very telling that I'm the only woman that they've signed"), and its culture ("In the office, I've been called a 'dyke'"). You can read our entire conversation with the Chicago-based MC here.
Before we published the interview with Psalm One, we asked Rhymesayers to respond to her charges. They declined.
On Tuesday, however, Rhymesayers CEO Brent "Siddiq" Sayers published a lengthy Facebook note addressing Psalm One, with whom the label released just one album – 2006's The Death of Frequent Flyer. He also voices his own concerns about the lack of female voices on Rhymesayers and in hip-hop in general. Diplomatic and seemingly heartfelt, the open letter rejects Psalm's account of her treatment at Rhymesayers, but accepts blame for the label not showcasing more female artists.
On Psalm One, he writes:
"It’s been over six years since Psalm’s business relationship with Rhymesayers ended, yet we’ve promoted her shows and releases, invited her to perform at Soundset and spoke several times about new music and the possibility of releasing it through Rhymesayers.On the lack women involved with Rhymesayers, he writes:
In all this time, Psalm has never spoken to me about feeling uncomfortable as a woman on our label, or any disparaging words being used in regard to her sexuality. While I don’t blame her for perhaps not knowing how to raise those issues, I wish she would have felt more free to do so. This isn’t behavior we condone or accept and I would have welcomed the opportunity to address it with her.
Psalm continues to use the Rhymesayers name and reputation to her benefit, as well as take shots at us publicly when it’s of benefit to her. The timing and tone of her interview strike me as insincere. She doesn’t offer any self reflection or critique. She tells the story as if she’s done everything right and the label who invested in her has left her out because of her identity, and that’s just not true."
"As president of Rhymesayers, I didn’t fail Psalm One. If I’ve failed anyone, I failed my daughter, my nieces, all of the women we work with and our women fans who deserve to see themselves consistently represented in our life’s work.You can read Siddiq's full statement here.
It’s not easy to swim against the current and be the exception in a male dominated culture. It takes an intentional commitment and a consistency that I haven’t prioritized enough. I accept the challenge and welcome the reminder to make it more of a priority going forward. My people and I can do better."
But count Psalm One among the unimpressed. Posting from her personal account, she left the following message on the thread accompanying Rhymesayers' Facebook post:
"SIDDIQ, with all due respect, you were the first person at RSE to ever call me a dyke. You also refused several meetings to get to know me, and I've never toured the USA with Atmosphere. if you'd like to continue to speak publicly about this, MY door is always open. Why are you lying?"
Rhymesayers 20, the label's big anniversary concert blowout at Target Center, goes down Friday. Atmosphere, Brother Ali, P.O.S, Aesop Rock, Prof, and many others are slated to perform.
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