Editor Imy Brighty-Potts got the chance to chat to up and coming female rapper RetroPxssy, AKA Eleanor, with the release of her latest single. They talked about everything from female sexuality, to the challenges of the music scene for women.
When did you realise that you wanted to go into music and that hip hop and rap was the area for you?
I’ve been writing for a really long time. Weird poems on the notes of my phone. Things came into focus last year when I met a collective of artists who I started to collaborate with. I’ve always loved rap music and a lot of the boys I work with make hip hop beats so it kind of happened organically.
Do you think it’s harder for women to break into the black and hip hop scene in the UK? I think that’s two separate questions. I can only speak from my experience. I’m a white woman making music in the rap scene. I think you have to be very careful about the idea of ‘breaking into’ something in this context. Rap is so often appropriated and commodified by white people, it is a perpetuation of colonial violence, stealing, the idea of taking something and dominating it, making it yours. I think music can be a really good point of sharing and cultural exchange, there’s a lot of diversity in the group of people I work with. But as a white person in the scene you need to be aware and critical of your position. It means talking to people but also a lot of reading about history and reading a lot of bell hooks, analysing how you take up space.
My experience of being a woman in the music scene generally?Yeah that shit is hard. You get taken less seriously. I work with men a lot, a lot of the time I’ll be the only girl in the room. The people I work with are sick but I notice in conversations with new people I will get ignored or spoken over. When it comes to being on stage, they have to look at you. But if you’re not being overtly ‘sexy’ they don’t know what to make of you. It’s weird. Sometimes I get super depressed by it. Sometimes I like playing with it, playing with expectations and roles. I’ll walk around in baggy pants with my skateboard and my hood up and people can’t see my face properly, they think I’m a man. I can tell because they give me more space in the street. But being a girl is lit. I’m always trying to work with more women. We deserve to shine as much as anyone.
Your songs are quite graphic and open about female sexuality. Do you think that’s something important to talk about in female music?
I feel that women are often defined so restrictively, especially in our expression of sexuality. ‘Getting Better’ (my debut EP) explores a lot of the darkness in sexuality and relationships, rejection and abuse of power and body. But it also feels joy. There are songs which are about love but also being overlooked by other people as a woman. Songs about love and identity. I don’t want to be overshadowed by love. I’m so uplifted by it, but I need to keep my own sense of identity. I feel like that’s something we are deprived of so often. An ability to be complex, to be both. We need to be able to maintain space for ourselves and nurture our identity but without that having to compromise the love we feel or are perceived to feel towards others, especially men.
You’re a student, right? What’re you currently studying and how do you find juggling your music with your educational career? I study Design. It’s a super open course so that’s good. But yeah, it an be super hard to balance everything. Still trying to work that one out…
Who would you say are your biggest female rap inspirations? Female artists…Sevdaliza is one of my biggest inspirations artistically. I always try to look at people who do things in their own way and haven’t been limited by the idea of having to do something in a certain time frame. I feel like there’s so much pressure to rush things, get everything done by a certain time. Sevdaliza played basketball at national level and got a masters degree I think it makes your stuff super interesting. Her live performance is so intimate, it hurts a bit. In that kind of good cathartic way.
What have you got in store for the next year of your music career? Ultimately, I just want to keep building momentum, keep writing, having fun. I have some shows lined up already – one in London on 26th February. I want to travel and play festivals! Glastonbury hmu!
Check out RetroPxssy’s music on Spotify here.