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“Oh, snap, it’s the real-life rap Halle Berry…” And lo, with 16 bars rapped over an instrumental spun by underground hip-hop gate-keeper DJ Premier, a new star was born at the BET Hip-Hop Honors earlier this week. Well, maybe—at the very least, the performer in question saw her profile increase considerably after stepping up and spitting the standout rhyme in a freestyle cipher alongside Houston’s Lecrae, singer/rapper Estelle, and a guy from France. (Hence the clip being dubbed “International Flow.”)
Those lyrics came from the Brooklyn-based Nitty Scott MC, who has spent the formative period of her career doing what all other upcoming rappers are meant to do: releasing free songs and mixtapes, hoping that online buzz somehow sky-rockets, and (if we’re being honest) praying for a lucky break. If early online reaction is anything to go by, Scott received her break the other night.
Obvious point out of the way: Being the first female up to bat in the cipher certainly didn’t harm Scott’s chances of standing out—this is despite her Twitter account running with the slogan that she “dislikes a vagina with a mic.” Her voice is supple and warming; it’s easy to be charmed by it, whether she’s fluidly overrunning lines like she does halfway through her cipher verse, or regurgitating references to Sadaam Hussein dropping bombs like it’s some magical mystical year back in the ’90s. (Rap retroism might have been an unofficial undercurrent of the evening, with Shady Records acts Eminem, Yelawolf and Slaughtahouse dropping rhymes over the East Flatbush Project’s oh-so-backpackerish “Tried By 12.”)
Scott has an appeal similar to Ladybug Mecca from the Digable Planets, who spent part of the ’90s causing hip-hop hearts to swoon. “Auntie Maria’s Crib”—from her mixtape Doobies x Popsicle Sticks, out next month—solidifies this persona as she kicks a rhyme about how you’ll “Catch me with the b-boys, rebels and the punks/ Rum punch, sucker drunk, throwing nunchucks/ Cherry cola pedicure/ Rockin’ doobies to the store/ Eating MCs so I be’s what I munch.” Then the verse ends with Scott hoping she’ll find a dollar to scoop up a can of Arizona Iced Tea. It’s instantly likable, and relatable to boot.
Now, Scott will be crossing her fingers that her BET video spot quickly swarms across the Internet. This goal of spreading virally is a modern phenomenon, but there’s something thoroughly old-fashioned about Scott’s sudden profile boost. Her 16-bar verse in a rap cipher is reminiscent of the days when simply coining a great guest verse on someone else’s song could be enough to kick into play the mechanisms behind a successful solo career. Nas, after all, forged a rep from two live-wire spots on MC Serch’s “Back To The Gill Again” (a.k.a. the one where he’s “waving automatic guns at nuns”) and Main Source’s “Live At The Barbecue” (b.k.a. the one where he’s snuffing out Jesus); Biggie’s wonderfully economical salvo on Supercat’s “Dolly My Baby” remix still makes more of an impression than most rappers’ entire debut albums. The Internet and its insatiable thirst for new content defines the era Scott is attempting to come up in, but after her fortuitous night she could also successfully prove that claiming one timely and quotable 16 can still be more fruitful than dropping mixtape tracks in the hundreds.
Nitty Scott MC plays Southpaw on October 18 and 20, and the Music Hall of Williamsburg on October 22.