For six years, Mississippi-born MC Genesis Be has stood out as an inimitable presence in the New York underground hip-hop scene. Arriving in 2007 when outsiders were still often faced with resistance, she’s stood her ground and carved out a niche as one of the most heard female voices in the New York indie-ground. In preparation for the release of her new album Genesequa, she’s dropped her latest single “Tampons and Tylenol.” We spoke to Genesis about the song as a feminist statement as well as her reservations as an artist.
What’s the story behind “Tampons and Tylenol?”
I had the concept a while ago. My friend and I were at the convenience store looking for tampons and I was upset that I couldn’t find tampons or Tylenol. Going back and forth, I thought they should just package them together. My friend began singing those words together. Fast forward a year [producer] Good Goose was finishing his mixtape and wanted to do a song with me on the fly. As he was putting a beat together, it just came to me to go “Tampons and Tylenol, Tampons and Tylenol.” It was just vibing out.
You’ve mentioned that “Tampons and Tylenol” is a declaration of women’s power. How do you feel that’s best heard in the song itself?
I think, when I’m talking about a young woman in the first verse and kind of objectifying her as a lot of rap songs do with her body and how she moves, I end the verse by talking about how she moves out of this image that I’ve set for her by going to class, having two jobs, being a boss and handling her business. It’s working past the physical of a woman and exploring the facets of who we are. I wanted to find a fun, catchy and maybe controversial way to pay attention to women’s power.
Being you’re from Mississippi originally, when you first moved to New York in 2007 to attend NYU’s Clive Davis School of Recorded Music and join the local hip-hop scene, did you feel any resistance?
It wasn’t a challenge at all because of the people around me. I was really blessed to be a part of the SinSin Freestyle Mondays underground raw New York hip-hop scene and was embraced with open arms. Because of that, I don’t feel like it was as much of a challenge as it could have been. They really embraced my Southernness, saw that I was lyrical, an MC, and put me on to things. It was fun, and I just had a blast making that transition.
Since then, you’ve moved back and forth between New York and Mississippi, have you seen much change in either scenes in that time?
Yeah, when I started rapping in Mississippi, there was a vibrant music scene. I was able to get exposure and some label deals on the table at a really young age. Right after Hurricane Katrina hit, everyone dispersed and stopped what they were doing. It really halted people’s lives creatively, professionally and personally. That was the biggest change. Any time after August 29th, 2005, the music scene on the Gulf Coast has been suffering since, and that’s when I knew I had to move. It’s hard for me to say on New York, but there’s so many subcultures, there’s always a niche for you to fit-in, make money off your music and build a fanbase.
Your earlier work was more overtly political, what sparked the shift into your more recent output covering your sensuality?
I think just coming into my own as a woman and dealing with personal experiences with relationships and my own sexuality, dealing with things like temptation and indulgences. These things are just the mindset of where I’m at right now and that’s how my new project Genesequa came about. I didn’t want to do anything too political or social unless it was dealing with sexual politics. My last four albums were extremely political and very up-front about how I felt about certain issues like teen pregnancy, the war, power dynamics. I needed something lighter to balance out myself as a person, woman and artist. I’m calming down just a little bit. I’m an activist who still wants to lash out lyrically, but at this time in my life, I’m calm.
Do you struggle at all with walking the line of how much you want to explore your own sexuality on record?
I have. I don’t anymore. I do feel like it’s always a personal thing when you write about your own sexuality, but the way I write has always been from multiple perspectives, not just my own. I can tell stories through someone else’s eyes and explain my way through another emotion that I may not be feeling at the time. As an artist, the best possible way that we can be is true. I feel the fans that have grown to know me and love me, it’s best to be as real as possible. I can’t say to do this and be this when I’m not being real myself. I feel I used to have an issue with that, but I think Genesequa is the transformation of me no longer dealing with that self-censorship.