She rocks rough and stuff with her afro puffs! Back in 2007, I had the privilege of chatting it up with The Lady of Rage about her career. Rage had been on my “hit-list” for a few years at this point and one day luck smiled upon me when she started working closely with my big brother Jazzy D. The moment Jazzy said, “Hey bro. I’m helping Rage out. Would you like to talk to her?” I was like, “Hell yes I do!” Jazzy got us on the phone and the result was this magical interview. So sit back, relax, put your reading glasses on and travel back to the year 2007 and learn a thing or two about The Lady of Rage.
Interview by Tim “Styles” Sanchez
Styles: Tell us about life before Death Row back in Farmville, Virginia. When did you get started with hip- hop?
Rage: I started writing in the 6th grade seriously as a rapper but I used to write poetry, so it’s basically one and the same. It got more serious as I attended High School, 12th grade actually. I was in English class one day and my best friend at the time he was messing with me and he hit me. I didn’t have an MC name at the time and he was like, “Damn! The Lady of Rage?” I said, “Say that again?” and he said, “The Lady of Rage.” I said, “I like that. That’s going to be my name.”
So I went in to the bathroom and I tagged the wall with “The Lady of Rage” and thus it was born. After that I went to Texas for a while with my grandfather and I became more popular out there. Then I went to New York. When I was in New York, I met a couple of people who were interested in me. The first person I met was Beverly Goodman, who happens to be the mother of Niles Rogers from the group Chic. She was doing a PSA on Aids Awareness and she wanted me to do it.
Before I went to New York, I was in Arkansas and when I left Texas I called up my friend up and she was an MC too at the time, Lady C. I asked her to go to New York and she asked how we were going to get there. I suggested that we hitch-hike and she was like, “hitch-hike?” I was like, “Yeah.” I would take my grandfather’s gun and we would both get in the backseat, get in a car with only one person and if anybody tried anything I would pull the gun out, get out and we would be safe. She didn’t want to do it. So I asked another friend in Arkansas who was a rapper also. She said ok, but I wanted to work a while to save up some money. I worked at McDonalds for three months and saved up some money and it was time to go but then she was like, “We don’t know anybody.” I told her that it didn’t matter because we knew each other. She didn’t want to go so I went on my own. I didn’t know anyone.
Styles: Did you hitch-hike as planned?
Rage: No. I ended up going with someone from Virginia who drove out there. He just dropped me off in Manhattan.
Styles: Had you already developed that fiery lyrical style yet?
Rage: It was progressing daily. Every day it was a new thing, a new stick to my flame. I was already a good MC.
Styles: Were you battling people already?
Rage: In Texas I was. In New York I didn’t battle as much, but in Texas I did a lot. I lost a couple of shows but it didn’t bother me because I knew, like my friend it bothered her and she was all down in the dumps, but I was like “they don’t know how I am.” I just had that attitude that I am the “shit.” If you don’t know it by now, then you will know it later. That’s just how I carried it. No obstacles, nothing deterred me. I was focused on what I wanted to do. Whether I won or lost it didn’t matter because I had one goal and one aim in mind and nothing was going to stop me or deflate my balloon.
Styles: Now before you came around, I hadn’t heard a female MC spit with such power. I followed all of the female rappers in the 80’s, but when you came on the scene I was like “Damn! She’s going toe to toe with the guys!”
Rage: That’s how it was. I was going against the guys. Girls, at that time, a lot of them weren’t writing their own stuff. Me being a poet and good in English, plus I couldn’t watch a lot of television, so I think that helped me use my imagination a lot more. I was just good with words. Just going against guys, it made me proud when they would ask me who wrote that. I would tell them, “I wrote it”, with an extra little cockiness to it. So it was a whole new respect for me because they knew I wrote and I rhymed.
So back to New York…. I worked with Mrs. Beverly and I met this guy named Shakim, he was working with The L.A. Posse. They were working on their compilation and I did a few songs with them. At the time I was working at Chung King Records, working there and living there. I met Chubb Rock at Chung King Records and he took an interest in me. He was going to work with me but then I got a call from Dr. Dre. He told me that he was listening to The L.A. Posse’s album and he heard me, and that he was getting a new label together and he wanted to know if I would be a part of it. I said, “How do I know that you are Dr. Dre?” He said, “There is only one way to find out,” and he sent me a ticket.
I asked Chubb if he felt if I should go. At first he was concerned because Ice Cube had left N.W.A. and he had Yo-Yo. So Chubb thought that it might be a gimmick thing, you know, Dre & Rage vs. Ice Cube & Yo-Yo. I thought about it and I was like, “Are you sure Chubb’s? You don’t think I should go out there and see what they are talking about?” He was like, “You know what? I can’t front on Dre. Dre is all that. Go out there and see what they are talking about. If nothing happens then call me and I will send you back out here, and I will do your album myself.” But it never got to that point….
Styles: So did you and Chubb Rock ever record anything together?
Rage: I did something on his “The One” album. It was called “Bring Em Home Safe” about the Gulf War. I was under the name of Rockin’ Robin.
Styles: So you arrived in Los Angeles, got off the plane and what happened after that?
Rage: I arrived in L.A. and I had flown out there with The Leaders of the New School – we were on the same flight. They were going to do “In Living Color.” When I got to the airport nobody was there to pick me up. I left a message and was like, “I have a round-trip ticket. I can go back as quick as I came.”
Styles: What? (laughter)……
Rage: I was like, “I don’t believe this!” I don’t know if it was Busta Rhymes or Charlie Brown but one of them said, “We are not going to leave you out here. You can come to the room with us.” I stayed with them that weekend. Then I finally spoke to Suge and he said that someone was there to get me but I still to this day believe that nobody was there to get me, because I was out there for a while.
Then he (Suge) took me to a spot to stay and we didn’t record right away. I took a job at The Palladium as a security guard and it was kind of shaky at first. If you didn’t have that drive and if you didn’t want it bad enough, then you probably would have gone home.
Styles: (laughs)… I probably would have gotten back on that plane.
Rage: Right, right (laughs)… I just couldn’t. Then Deep Cover came out and then The Chronic came out and that’s when everybody was introduced to me.
Styles: Tell us about working on The Chronic. We’ve all heard the classic songs that you busted on, “Stranded On Death Row,” the chattering on “High Powered” and so forth. What was that whole experience like?
Rage: It was just wonderful. I never knew that it was going to be that large. I didn’t know that it was going to be ground-breaking or a classic. I was just anxious to do what I had to do and be heard. I just wanted somebody to hear me, because I felt that way. I want everybody to know my name and I am going to make sure that you remember my name. Everything that I do, I am going to leave an impression. So everything Dre wanted me to be on, it was a privilege and I felt that I had to do my best.
It was fun and it was a good thing. We were hungry at the time. We didn’t have any money but we didn’t care! We had that same hunger where we were like, “We are going to eat these tracks up!” The food and the money didn’t matter at the time, or being broke and getting evicted.
Styles: During the recording were you still working a job?
Rage: No, I had quit. I quit and then I started hustling (laughs). Then I just was mainly in to the making of The Chronic. Once that happened and we got our deals, I didn’t have to do any of that. It was a good experience, very memorable.
Styles: I remember reading that Dre was actually pushing for your album to come out, but I guess disagreements with Suge led to other projects coming out instead. What all happened there, because I remember that we were all waiting for your album after The Chronic?
Rage: I don’t have a clue. I know that when I came there, I was told that my album was going to be after The Chronic. Snoop blew up so much off of that album that it was only natural for him to be the next artist out. Then I was told that I was going to be after Snoop. I don’t know what it was, it still amazes me to this day. I don’t know if it was some male chauvinistic ways in it because all of the females there it seems like they got pushed back.
I remember The Dogg Pound, everybody was having a meeting one time at Death Row, and they were talking about their album coming out. I was like, “No! My album is coming out next!” I told Suge that he should have a contest in The Source and tell the fans that Death Row is having a problem deciding who should be the next artist to come out, and let the fans decide who should be next! One of The Dogg Pound guys was like, “I know who’s going to be the one to win” and I was like, “Yeah and I know who’s going to be the one NOT to!” Meaning that it was going to be me (to win) hands down. That’s just how I felt because all of the buzz was on me. I don’t know why it didn’t happen. Then when it DID happen, it was in the midst of turmoil, the empire was falling. 2Pac got killed, Suge was locked up, Dre left and Snoop was on the verge of leaving. Then you release mine with no type of promotion, no marketing, no nothing? That’s how it happened and I was crushed by that. Still it didn’t stop me. “Verbal Abuse” will make up for all of that.
Styles: I love that song “Afro Puffs.” That is one of my all-time favorites. Tell us about that song and how it all came about.
Rage: With Dre, he was always like, “Do you got anything for this?” You always had to have something ready because you never knew when he wanted you to do something. He asked if I had anything for this, I had heard the beat (for Afro Puffs) and as a matter of fact I didn’t like it.
Styles: You didn’t?
Rage: I never liked Afro Puffs…
Rage: Never…. As a matter of fact, he didn’t ask if I had anything for that beat, he TOLD me to rhyme to it. I just picked the song that I had and threw it on there. He was like, “Yeah, yeah, yeah, that was it” and I was like, “What?” That’s what I like about producers like Dre. I like to be directed and guided even if I put up a little fuss or a fight. He will basically just say, “Shut up and just do it. I know what I am doing.” That was our relationship. I would go in and the beat is not even finished and I would be like, “I don’t like this. I don’t like that.” Everything with me was, “I don’t like that!” (Laughs) …He just got to the point of “Shut up and just do it” and I did it. I begged them to please take it off of the soundtrack because I felt that it would ruin my career. I thought that I needed to be on more of a “Lyrical Gangbang” or “Stranded On Death Row” type of beats. You know, hard underground EPMD type of stuff. They told me that they took it off of the soundtrack but they didn’t, and I am glad that they didn’t because we would probably would not be talking right now.
Styles: That song bangs in the rides… that’s crazy. So after Dre left, didn’t you consider leaving too?
Rage: Of course I considered but I knew that I wouldn’t be released. There was nothing I could do but wait out my contract. He (Dre) was the reason that I came. I felt like a child in a divorced family. I was stuck with one but I wanted to go with the other.
People wanted to work with me. There was so much stuff that was offered to me – to be on the Ladies First song or come and be a part of the video. Irv Gotti had wanted me to be on this song called “Usual Suspects” with Ja Rule, Mic Geronimo, Jadakiss and I believe Jay Z too. If he wasn’t on it then I know that he was there for the recording. Death Row would not give me the ok to do it. I am the type of person that whatever a person’s beef is, I don’t care if I am a part of your crew, if it has nothing to do with me then it has nothing to do with me. I felt that I am trying to make music and if these people are hot and they want me to be with them, that just only helps make me even hotter. I get more fans by fans of those guys hearing me on their stuff. I didn’t understand why they couldn’t see that. Whatever beef they had was between them all, don’t hold me back. Let me do my thing. I felt that I was held back by not being able to work with the people that I wanted to work with. I wanted to work with Puffy, Jermaine Dupri and other people that I couldn’t work with. That’s why now, whatever label I go to, I have to have creative control because I definitely will not be held back.
Styles: When did your contract with Death Row expire?
Rage: I believe it was 2002 or 2003…
Styles: And that whole time all you could do was just sit?
Rage: Basically, unless they gave me the ok to do something …
Styles: Which was pretty rare?
Styles: Wow… So you got out in 2003, what happened to you at that point?
Rage: I did some stuff with Snoop and DJ Premier.
Styles: No signing with any labels?
Rage: Some people wanted to. Shaq wanted to do something with me, and Loud Records too but I felt a loyalty to Snoop. I would ask Snoop about this person and that person wanting to sign me and he would be like, “I want to work with you. I want to sign you.”
So us having a relationship for all of these years, he knows how I am, so I was like, “Ok. I will work with you”. But (sighs) …. nothing has happened to this day. He gave me a couple of contracts but I wanted some changes that never got changed. Nothing ever went through with that. I think a lot of people think that I am signed to Snoop but I am not signed to anyone. I am a free agent. I am signed to his wife as management but as far as anything else I am not signed to Snoop or anyone else for that matter.
For my album, I have 3 more songs that I would like to do and then I am going to shop it around. I don’t have the money to get the big producer names that I would like to have but once I get a deal. I can revamp some of the songs that I have with the producers that I want or do new songs. The producers I want are Timbaland, Just Blaze, Clark Kent, DJ Premier… Premier is like my brother so I know he’ll do it.
Styles: The name of this album is “Verbal Abuse” right?
Rage: Yes. It’s basically the same formula that people know of Rage but with a little more growth and a little more subject matter. Not all blackadocious, not calmer but a little more subject matter, meaningful stuff that you can use and take, words to ponder on.
Styles: Are you concerned at all about how much hip-hop has changed in the past several years?
Rage: I would say so. I was talking to my aunt the other day about it. When someone says that they listened to a particular song and decided to kill somebody, I don’t agree with that, but all of the “Fuck these ho’s! Fuck these bitches! Fuck those niggas!” I do believe after a period of time it desensitizes the youth. You look at me as a ho or a bitch or some dumb thug. I feel that we need to take responsibility for that and somehow rearrange the way we come across because our audience is getting younger and younger and very influential. They look up to rappers like they are Gods. I feel that a lot of the rappers get caught up in their alter egos and feel that they have to be whoever all of the time. I separate Robin from Rage. I don’t have a problem with being myself or being humble. I don’t have a problem with not being bling’d out all of the time. I feel that image for a lot of these MC’s is being extra hard or being extra tough, is a lot. Every other line is “I’ll put a bullet in your brain” or “Your brain is noodles on the porch” and somebody is really listening to that, somebody who may not have a father or a mother but they look at this rapper as their inspiration and they hang on their every word. Words are powerful and you really have to realize what you are saying. I just came to that realization within the last year. I felt like, “I am not these kids parents. I am not responsible. It’s the parent’s responsibility.” It is the parent’s responsibility also but like I said, the audience is getting younger and hip-hop is everywhere.
Styles: The audience has changed too though. Nowadays more are in to the partying and the finger snapping. Are you concerned about how your music is going to come across to today’s audience?
Rage: No. I don’t care because I have my own fan base. I would of course love to sell a million records but if I don’t sell a million, I just want my music to be heard and appreciated. I want to go down in history as one of the best female rappers ever. If I have to sell a million records to do that, then I might not make that goal but if it’s just based on my lyrical content and my abilities then I will be in the Hip-Hop Hall of Fame, I believe.
Styles: Do you have an opinion on the music that you are hearing today?
Rage: At first, I wouldn’t say that I was hating…well…. Maybe I was hating (laughs). I am a lyricist so everything I do is lyrical and when I first heard “Laffy Taffy,” I was insulted. I was like, “Are you serious? Do you mean to tell me that I can’t get a deal but these dudes can? You mean to tell me that these guys are better than Rage?” Then I looked at it as entertainment. It’s not all about just lyrics. It’s about people feeling good and people dancing and having a good time. I had to check myself. I guess you can look at it as being a breath of fresh air from all of the “blow your brains out” stuff. Why blow someone’s brains out when you can snap your fingers? There is enough money for everybody. There is enough music for everybody. You can like D4L, you can like 50 Cent and you can like Rage. There is room for everybody.
Like I said at first it was an insult to me but then the reality of it was that it’s selling, people like it, it’s happy music and kids can listen to it. People are dancing and not fighting and what’s better than that?
Styles: Are you going to do any more acting? I recall seeing you on TV a few times and in movies. You were chasing Mike Epps around the car in Next Friday…
Rage: Yes, I was (laughs). Those roles were good but those were not the roles that I wanted to do. I really don’t want to be typecast as the bully-girl, tough girl, big girl image roles. Acting is what I wanted to do before rapping so I use rap as a stepping stone to get to acting. Acting is what I really take seriously. I would like to do more dramatic roles and show my range, cry and all of that, because I can do all of that. I am writing a movie, it may go straight to video, it’s called “Stuck.” I wrote it to create the perfect role for me, to show the range I have. It’s a cross between “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” and “Girl Interrupted.”
Styles: Wow… sounds like a deep movie.
Rage: I was looking at a lot of people that were putting out straight-to-DVD movies and I was like, “Come on! This is overkill.” Everybody is so hard that it’s not believable.
Styles: (laughs)… I kind of know which ones you are talking about.
Rage: I just felt like I could get $100,000 and do something that can show some substance and something different. I’ve been stuck on it too for the past 2 years. I’ve put it down because I’ve been stuck on it so hopefully my flow will come back – my creative flow will come back and I can finish it.
Styles: So how soon can we hear something from you? I am sure the audience is anxious to hear some new Rage.
Rage: I would love for you all to hear something from me. I am aiming and claiming at before the end of the year. I would like for my album to be out before the end of the year. If not my album, at least a single or a feature.
Styles: You had dropped a mixtape about a year or so ago. Do you plan on doing any more of those?
Rage: I don’t do mixtapes like other artists do mixtapes but I may do one more just to pacify the audience. That’s why I did the last one, to keep my name out there and also because people were like, “I knew Rage was tight then but what is she like now?” So that’s why I did the mixtape – to let you hear what I am doing now. I am basically the same if not better now.
Styles: Do you still talk to the good Doctor?
Rage: I saw Dre about 2 months ago. I don’t know what he was working on. I didn’t ask him anything about Detox. I went up there with Bishop Lamont. I didn’t say anything about that because I want him to want me to be on Detox. I don’t want him to feel obligated if I ask him. I want him to ask me if I got something for this track right here, like he used to. I just sat there and hugged him and told him that it was good to see him again. We reminisced for a little while and that was it.
Styles: Personally, I think you guys have some unfinished business….
Rage: I do too. He’s another producer that I would love to have on my album. Not just producing but doing a song with him.
Styles: Any last thoughts or words for the audience out there? Got anything to get off of your chest?
Rage: I don’t have anything to get off of my chest. I just want the fans to know that Rage is still here, she’s still viable and she’s still a force to be reckoned with. I am sorry that I kept y’all waiting so long but due to the circumstances, this is the best thing that I could do. I will make it worth your while and “Verbal Abuse” will be coming soon.