J.Rebelz on female MCs finding their own voice instead of playing second fiddle to men
J.Rebelz is steadily making a name for herself in the local hip-hop scene. Known otherwise as Jaqueline Rodriguez, J.Rebelz came to Denver from El Paso more than a decade ago and says Nas is the one who sparked her passion for rhyming. We recently caught up with the MC, who just dropped a video for her new single "Seen So Many Places" and is in the process of putting together her second album, An Underdog's Manifesto, a followup to The Rebellion.
Westword: Where did the name J.Rebelz come from?
J.Rebelz (aka Jaqueline Rodriguez): I had actually made pretty much the whole album before I had the name. I was just brainstorming with a few people, and that's what we came up with.
Where are you from?
El Paso, Texas, but I've been in Denver since I was eleven, since about 2001.
How did you start rapping?
It just kind of came out of nowhere. I had always been a hip-hop fan, and I met some dude who is a local rapper. Dude is a fucking clown, by the way, but I wanted to start a hip-hop blog, and I was working on freestyles as a hobby. I told him I rapped, so he asked to hear something, and I got a really good reaction from him, and that's how it happened.
How long ago was that?
Last year. I feel like lightning struck, because now it's my only passion.
Who was your biggest influence as a kid musically?
I can honestly say Nas inspired me to pick up a pen and start writing. I can't even choose a favorite song, but I loved God's Son. Mostly East Coast. I am a huge Papoose fan, Lauryn Hill.
Did you listen to his [Papoose's] album yet?
You're sleeping [laughs]. How do become more of an East Coast fan in El Paso, instead of West Coast or Southern rap?
In El Paso right now, they don't even know who Kendrick Lamar is, so I don't know [laughs]. I had an uncle -- all my family is very hard-core Mexican, but my uncle was more West Coast. He had the Biggie CD, the first one, at that time, and I just gravitated toward that.
Switching gears, how do you maintain a strong feminine presence without falling subject to misogynistic overtones or selling yourself based on sexuality?
I'm really true to myself. I talk about my life. I'm not trying to sell something that I'm not. I've never used sex for anything, so why would I use it with music? I am me, take it or leave it. People ask me to do songs like that, and I know what direction they want, I just don't do the song. Period.
Why do you think people have that perception for female MCs?
Because that's the mindset in the mainstream; it's what's popular. But I really believe there are female MCs that are dope, but they're underground. People just gravitate to what's popular -- that's how it is. I think female MCs are forced to be one dimension at this point in hip-hop, but there are a lot of good female MCs coming out.
What projects do you have coming out?
I'm working on my second album -- The Rebellion being the first. An Underdog's Manifesto is the title. I'm very excited about it. I have progressed light-years from the first CD. SP Double is producing the whole thing. He is on one song, but I might have a couple more features on it -- I'm not sure yet. I also have a video out right now, "Seen So Many Places," shot by Chase Thompson from Side 3 Studios.
What is your message to the kids?
As an MC, it's easy to play second fiddle to a man and be a token female, but women really need their own voice. I feel like lots of female rappers speak to men, but they are not speaking to women. I think you should do things on your terms, have your own voice. Its engrained in us, forever, for women to be competitive against each other. A lot of it is women feeding into it and leaving ourselves in that position.
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