Lady of Rage: Waiting to Exhale Part One

Any man who has ever played the wall at a club can tell you there’s nothing more refreshing than an assertive woman. In the world of Rap, it’s an understatement to say it requires assertion to come of age around Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Tha Dogg Pound. The Lady of Rage’s pounding lyricism […]

Any man who has ever played the wall at a club can tell you there’s nothing more refreshing than an assertive woman. In the world of Rap, it’s an understatement to say it requires assertion to come of age around Suge Knight, Dr. Dre, Snoop, and Tha Dogg Pound. The Lady of Rage’s pounding lyricism on “Stranded on Death Row” only foreshadowed her praises on “Afro Puffs” two years later.

The Lady of Rage’s time came at last, in 1997, with Necessary Roughness. Though critics praised the album, the headless record company didn’t support the project – allowing the album to break a flawless label history of Gold and Platinum. In the year following, added to the murders in Rap, Rage retreated to her native, Virginia.

With acting roles in Next Friday plus other appearances, Rage stayed busy – but removed from her past. With a few guest verses, compilation work, and several AllHipHop Rumor updates, a return to Rap had been long projected. Last week, a mixtape, “VA to L.A.” was released, and quickly delivered Lady of Rage to our masses – touching on the past and the future. “Unfucwithable” on Doggystyle All-Stars was the last big piece of work I remember of yours. What have you been up to the last two or three years?

Lady of Rage: I’ve been up to: working on album; trying to get a deal. I’ve been working on myself – my spirit and my outlook on life. On your outro, you mention that industry people are not always returning your calls. How has the search for the deal been going?

Lady of Rage: With Boss Lady Entertainment [the company behind the mixtape], we really haven’t gone full steam ahead as far as actually pounding the pavement for a deal. [As far as the phone calls], I’d see certain artists or producers out and say, “Is there anything I can do for your?” and [we’d exchange numbers]. When I’d call or follow-up, it’s phony. I hate it. I hate it with a passion. I hate the runaround. After I call a person four or five times, I don’t call ‘em anymore. I hold grudges. I shouldn’t, but I take all of that stuff personally. Mixtapes mean different things for different artists. For you, what is the best case scenario as a result of this mixtape?

Lady of Rage: The best case scenario is that Jay-Z would hear it and want to sign me. The next best case scenario is that people will know that I’m still doin’ this, my skills haven’t dulled or anything, and I’m free agent. Whoever comes with the best offer to me will definitely not regret it. I think the average Hip-Hopper would see you wanting to get signed, and say “Why not Snoop? Why not Dre?” Why not?

Lady of Rage: As far as Snoop, yes – we were supposed to do business together, but things didn’t work that way. I think the distributor wasn’t sure if I was or wasn’t still signed to Death Row, and didn’t want the hassle. As far as Snoop, it’s not anything personal. As far as Dre, I would love to work with Dre – but I don’t have any contact to him. He’s a hard guy to get in touch with. I don’t think I have any burnt bridges at all. Even with Suge, I saw Suge a while ago when I was at Death Row [offices], and he knows I’m venturing on and stuff. Even if he offered me a deal, if it was right, I might go that route. I’m just trying to get the best thing. This is my second time around. My first time, I came out in the midst of turmoil as far as Suge going to jail, Dre leaving, ‘Pac getting killed – and in the midst of that, [Necessary Roughness] was released with no type of marketing or promotion. I’ve always been intrigued by your album. In 1997, Death Row released more albums in one year, than they have in the last seven or eight. I had heard specifically, that your project was salvaged by DJ Premier because it was old material on the cutting room floor…

Lady of Rage: That’s news to me. I didn’t know all that. I don’t know if Premier saved the project. But I know Premier, was definitely one of the artists I wanted to work with. I wasn’t allowed to work with many of the producers I wanted to. I had to work with what I had. How does Necessary Roughness sit with you today?

Lady of Rage: I wish it could have gotten more exposure. Those lyrics on there…I feel if that whole album was remixed, and put out right now, it’d [do well]. I feel that I’m still a dope lyricist, and as far as females are concerned, if I’m not in the Top Three, there’s something wrong, and as far as males, if I’m not in the Top Twenty, lyrically [something’s wrong]. That’s how much I believe in my music. I could be under false pretense, but I don’t think so. If everybody could’ve heard Necessary Roughness, then they’d know, “Wow, she really is a dope MC.” This was 1997. “Afro Puffs” was three years prior. Why was the “strike while the iron’s hot” motto not used?

Lady of Rage: When I first came to Death Row, they told me my album was going to be the next album put out after The Chronic. Then they said Snoop’s, but after Snoop’s mine. Then came Above The Rim. So, I kept getting pushed back. I don’t know if it was a male thing or not. “Afro Puffs” I believe, could’ve gone platinum as a single. Also, when I write, I don’t write like Snoop and Daz and everybody like that. I don’t feel like writing in the studio ‘cause I don’t like a lot of people around me. I like to be at home, in my room. I was slower than the rest. I really don’t know. The chemistry with you and Dre was so right, but so minimal. Is there unreleased material from those days?

Lady of Rage: Oh no! Like I said, when I write – I don’t do anything extra. I do what I have to do, that’s it. If I die tonight, you wouldn’t get another album from Rage. One of the little known moments was the b-side to “Dre Day,” called “Puffin’ on Blunts and Drankin’ Tanqueray.” This freestyle with you, Tha Dogg Pound, and Dre was classic. Tell me about that moment…

Lady of Rage: Those days were just…I don’t know if magic is the word. There was just a vibe. Dre used to make beats, and I would always walk in and say, “I don’t like that beat” – from the gate. I was always the one complainin’. But when I walked in that day, and I heard that track, I was like, “I like that!” Blunts and Tanqueray were circulating, and we just did it. I’m at a loss for words. I think I got [The Quotable] in The Source that month for that. I’ve gotten that twice. The other was, “Microphone Pon C##.” A lot of artists do crazy things to get kicked off labels. It’s rumored that you did a number on Death Row’s lobby. Is there any merit to that?

Lady of Rage: [laughs] Well… I don’t know if I did a number on it. I went up there one day to pick something up. I’d been going up there all the time. Suge was locked up at the time, things were run differently. When I got to the lobby, the guy there told me I needed an appointment to go upstairs. I was like, “I need an appointment? For what?” All I got was, “Things are different now.” I was insulted by that. I’m one of the artists, one of the reasons this office is here, I feel. I didn’t sell millions of records, but I was on those things. This is mine’s like Dre’s, Snoop’s, Suge’s, whatever. I said, “Can you go get the package for me?” When he went upstairs, I picked up something and I broke some things up, and really give them a reason for not lettin’ me in here. I never went back again until I couple of months ago. I was just mad. I was pregnant, I was mad, that was slap in the face. What was it like on the recent visit? And why would you go back to Death Row?

Lady of Rage: I went back because my daughter’s father works up there. I didn’t go back there for business or anything. I went up there for that. Suge was in the parking lot at the time. I hadn’t seen him since he got released. We spoke to each other like, “You look nice,” and that was it. No, “What the Hell you doin’ here?” None of that. That [lobby] incident, I don’t believe Suge had anything to do with it. I told him about it. I wrote him a couple letters – told him how I was upset about different things, and I didn’t wanna be on Death Row anymore. That was it. He said that whatever I wanted to do, he was with me.