Billie Jean, a native to the Denver rap scene, has earned her respect by being as real as she can be as an MC. She spits harder than pavement and asserts her opinion in the most concise manner. For Billie Jean, it's all about perception. Coming up in the rap scene, there was no room for her ride the coattails of her brother, Jahni Denver, who is also a prominent rapper.
Coming from a position of balance, Billie Jean believes it is all too easy to be marginalized, as a rapper with no sexuality, or as a rapper with too much sexuality. This lady MC, however, pays none of it any mind and says the answer is to create an existence that both defies the status quo and lays claim to a new era of the female MC.
Westword: What is your perspective on misogyny in hip-hop?
Billie Jean: Coming from my perspective, I'm a lyricist and an MC. In the true art form of hip-hop, I really don't feel like misogyny exists. When it comes to the whole MC-versus-rapper phenomenon, in the entertainment industry, there is a pressure to appeal to the masses. A lot of these female rappers are entertainers. They might be able to come up and spit a few raps, but there's a lot of coonery and buffoonery.
Sex sells; it really truly does. I don't personally feel pressure for me to be sexualized, because I do it for the art form. I feel like if that's what you do and that's your angle, you look at yourself in the mirror and people have an image of you based on your perception. I don't gotta do that, because, in my opinion, I'm keeping it real.
My music comes from a different place. People will tell you who they are. Believe them. In the entertainment industry, if you wanna appeal to that, then there's a market for that. I don't think that's all hip-hop, but if that's you, then that's what you're gonna do.
So you're saying it's perception, rather than any truth to the whole image?
It's all about perception. If you think about it, it's kinda fucked up, because as far as male MCs or male rappers go, they might be talking about this bitch, that bitch, and they feel like they're gonna do the player role and do what's cool, so a female in that same lane might feel like they're liberating themselves by doing those same things.
People look at it and they might pre-judge them faster than they would a man as super-sexualized. It would be too easy to go there for me, but the moment you say "pussy, ass, dick," their ears perk up with that. A lot of females play on their sexuality in order to boost their image, not because they have to, but because that's what they wanna do.
Is that all there is, or is there a solution?
I don't think it's all we've got, but there's definitely a market for that. The songs that are marketed for radio are wack, anyway. I rarely like anybody's single, and I feel like it's the industry. But as far as the indie and the underground, there's not the same pressure. I wouldn't even say pressure; it's the standard. When you look at Bahamadia or Lauryn Hill or Queen Latifah, there is more of a respect factor when someone says something that inspires thought.
For an entertainer who's talking about ass and titties and tricking out all these niggas, it's something we listen to, but there's no substance. For women, it's an either-or type of situation, and it's hard to cross back. If I embrace my sexuality on a track or talk about my lower self on a track, it's harder to be seen.
Men make that standard. You want your wife to be this righteous woman, but the chick you're fucking is that ho. So don't act like you have to be one or the other. But the reality is that men want both, but it's hard to be both and maintain your identity and your respect. Women are multi-faceted; there's no way we can be one way.
Be all things. Be yourself. It comes from the best place when you don't try to have a gimmick. If it truly comes from you and what you wanna spit, you don't have to spit. It's when you try to appeal to one specific audience or appeal to someone physically instead of lyrically, that's when you mess up. Even if you don't speak about those things, it's not like it doesn't exist. There shouldn't be that double standard. We're sexual beings.
Click through for a Q&A with Kalyn Heffernan of Wheelchair Sports Camp