The Hip-Hop celebrations have been in abundance all year long but August was particularly busy. As different cities hosted concerts and events to celebrate Hip-Hop’s 50th anniversary, D’USSE held a series of day parties across three different cities that specifically honored the women in the culture. The cognac brand, founded by Jay-Z, hosts an annual party in the summer but because of the milestone, they brought on Lakeyah, BIA, Lola Brooke, and Rapsody to host the celebrations.
Lakeyah, specifically, has been one artist who has continuously shown and proved with each of her releases. Although initially a poet, she proved to be a formidable rapper and singer through her recent releases. She’s yet to hit that massive mainstream stride that artists hope for but at the end of the day, she’s about two things: delivering quality music and putting on for the ladies. The former is something that Lakeyah reminisces of fondly when it comes to music from the early 2000s, especially since it didn’t feel like the antics and sales figures overshadowed the quality of music itself.
“Honestly, it is about the quality of the music. If we’re thinking back to like the 90s and early 2000s… I really didn’t pay attention to what people were doing at that point. Shit, I ain’t know nothing. All I know is that the music was good and that we were really enjoying it,” Lakeyah told HotNewHipHop.
Between the D’usse Day Party in Chicago and the release of a number of singles this summer, including “Want Em Hood” and “In Da Club,” Lakeyah’s kept busy. We caught up with her to discuss everything from her thoughts the new class of women in rap, sampling, and the advice Nicki Minaj gave her.
This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.
Lakeyah’s Proud To Be Part Of This Class Of Femcees
ATLANTA, GA – DECEMBER 9: Rapper Lakeyah performs onstage during “Lil Baby & Friends Birthday Celebration Concert” at State Farm Arena on December 9, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Prince Williams/Wireimage)
We’re in the midst of hip-hop 50 celebrations and you recently graced the stage for D’USSE Day Party that specifically celebrates the women in hip-hop. How do feel about your impact on the culture thus far?
Lakeyah: It really is. I love to be a part of, not only celebrating 50 years of hip hop but to be a part of this new wave of so many female rappers and we’re being celebrated. And yeah, I’ve been doing it for some years, but it still feels so surreal. Like I’m part of this big industry that’s so male-dominated. And I was like, all these girls that these labels want, and I’m just glad to be a part of every day.
It was a day party, right?
Lakeyah: Yeah, I did.
How do you feel about day parties vs. night outs?
I’m glad you asked that. I did my day party in Chicago, which I thought was dope that they put me in the Midwest because I’m from the Midwest. It was a lot of people who knew me. They were excited to see me. So I had a very good time. Everything was D’usse infused. From you know, the popsicles — I don’t even know if the chicken sandwich had D’usse in it because I was drunk. I was so drunk by the time I left. But, I love day parties, though. I’m a party girl in general, I don’t care what time we party, for real. I really don’t mind it.
The only reason I asked you that is because I interviewed you a few years back and you were mentioning how the City Girls took you out once you signed to QC.
I remember that night, that was super lit. They took me out, like trying to welcome me in and I definitely felt welcomed after that. We got really drunk together, I saw them perform. And I was like, this is about to be my lifestyle. So I loved it.
Was there anything that inspired you or even influenced you from that night? Or were there any pointers that you took away?
From that night, I was just super excited to be a part of the industry because I’m like, I can make money from just being a party girl; people coming to see me and watch me perform, and to be a part of the label at that point. Because, you know, it felt like family. And some pointers I took away from it… Honestly, they let me perform that night, I remember. And I remember like, when I left, P was like, ‘Don’t hold your phone or your purse in your hand no more,’ and I got cussed out for everything that I did wrong. And like, the day after that I was like, ‘Okay, I gotta practice when I go out on stage.’ So I took a lot of pointers from that night, for sure. I learned a lot of stuff.
LOS ANGELES, CALIFORNIA – JUNE 24: Lakeyah attends House of BET – Day 3 at Goya Studios on June 24, 2023 in Los Angeles, California. (Photo by Bennett Raglin/Getty Images for BET)
You recently locked in with Gloss Up, Lola Brooke, Flo Milli, and Latto. I wanted to know, out of all of the women you’ve collaborated with, who do you think challenges you the most lyrically in the booth?
Sh*t, honestly, let me think… You know who I was most shocked by? Flo Milli. Because during that year, when I started dropping my little EPs, I really wanted to work with more women. I wanted to be more collaborative with my music because I work with a lot of men because I want to stand out. Like when I’m working with men, and I want people to know like, ‘Oh, she’s a real rapper.’
So when I listened to Flo Milli’s music it’s bar full, don’t get me wrong, but I feel like it’s very fun. You know you can really have fun you listen to Flo Milli but when I put her on that specific song, I didn’t know how she was gonna come and she really ate it up and it had me questioning if I should change my verse. I’m like, damn, she really went hard. She really was going at it with me and I respected that, for sure.
We’re seeing a lot of women in rap but as someone who always Who are your top 5 women rappers of all time?
Okay, this is good. Nicki Minaj, for sure. I’m gonna put Trina, I’m gonna put Lauryn Hill, for sure. Tink, I think she’s a rapper to me. She’s an all-around artist. Tink and Dreezy, for sure.
Is that in order?
The first three are in order.
Hip-hop is still the biggest genre but the numbers game became a large part of the discourse. It doesn’t seem like that concerns you too much but I wanted to find out your thoughts on the increased interest surrounding the sales and streaming figures.
I love that people are so intrigued with how much people are doing because it really shows who has a solid fan base and who’s getting supported and all that stuff. But honestly, I don’t think there needs to be this many A&Rs out right now, telling people what they did and what they could have done better. Honestly, it is about the quality of the music. If we’re thinking back to like the 90s and early 2000s, yeah, we — I don’t know. I really didn’t pay attention to what people were doing at that point. Shit, I ain’t know nothing. All I know is that the music was good and that we were really enjoying it. We were coming home after school to watch the music videos on 106 And Park and stuff. Like, we were really enjoying music. I really want to hear the art.
I just heard Nas say something like that, like, “I don’t want to hear any more trends.” And though, being honest, as an artist, you do sometimes have to be like, “Oh, that’s what they want to hear.” I got to be able to give that to them. But I think I want to get back to what he was speaking about and really just hearing the art and people just being genuine in their music. So that’s how I feel about it.
ATLANTA, GEORGIA – OCTOBER 19: Lakeyah Danaee Robinson performs at YouTube Shorts HBCU Homecoming Celebration on October 19, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia. (Photo by Derek White/Getty Images for YouTube)
Another discourse over the summer has been surrounding the lack of a #1 single or #1 album on the Billboard charts. Some people have stated that it’s a sign that hip-hop is dying and losing its grip etc. What do you make of that statement? And do you think that the numbers indicate anything about how hip-hop thrives?
I don’t know but I know Hip Hop isn’t dying, and I do believe it’s gonna be another number one situation. We have people dropping albums this fall. I believe, yeah, Nicki’s dropping an album this fall. Everybody is about to be in their album mode again. So I definitely think it’s gonna be another number one. And I don’t think numbers have anything to do with it. No, because we just got to get back to the quality of music, for sure. Because honestly, it’s not going to just take one person to change that. There are so many people doing the same thing. Everybody just has to beat themselves in this shit.
One thing I’ve appreciated about your recent releases is that you’ve been using some really incredible samples lately. Even though the sample-driven records have been hit or miss lately — at least, to me. But, the samples you’ve used have been like huge bangers during the 2000s whether from Gorilla Zoe or J-Kwon. Do you feel pressure when you use these records considering they hold a lot of weight in that era?
Definitely. I think first things first for me is that even if the sample is very obvious in the production, I just want to make sure I’m doing justice to the beat. Because I’m a rapper rapper, I just really want to rap. I don’t really want to make no hooks or anything. So I really want to make sure that I’m giving it what it was given to us. And that’s my favorite era of music, the early 2000s in general, whether it was hip hop or R&B. So that has a huge thing when I’m grabbing my samples.
I don’t think there’s anything wrong with samples but like you said, it’s been hit-and-miss. I feel like you really have to do justice to the songs and make sure you’re not ruining these songs. You know, because people will say that like ‘What was the point of you doing that?’ And I come from like doing KeyMixes and remixes of people’s songs when I was like sitting in the car just grinding. When I’m doing samples it’s like, this is really me, it’s my space, this is what I’m good at doing and it’s very easy to me. I like hearing people’s opinions though, I play for my close friends, my team, and my sister. My sister likes real hood music. We are from Milwaukee so if she gave me to pass on that, I feel like I did good [laughs].
How do Coach K and P feel about the samples you use?
Yeah, I’m not gonna lie, P specifically, loves it when I sample music. He loves that they sound so good, but on the business side of things, it’s like alright, now, let’s stop sampling. So I understand where people are coming from because it’s like, you really do as an artist have to create your original sound, which I’ve done with my Midwest style — “Big FlexHer,” “Female Goat.” But when I’m in my like, Southern bag and stuff, I really do like to sample those songs that came from the South like “Hood Figga,” and “Tipsy.” One of my songs “Poppin,” the sample was “Chickenhead.” So yeah, I like to balance it and he loves it.
Coach K is more — I’ma be honest, he loves my R&B stuff. And that’s why I love to balance it and I won’t ever leave that side of me because so many people love being different. You know, I’m versatile. I love that I can do everything.
Will there be a full R&B project from you in the future?
Hell yeah. I’ve been talking about it with my internal team. Like, what do we do next? Like, this is my favorite time of the year, when it’s about to get cold. Everybody n***as leaving them — no shade to them, I’m sorry. Everybody n***as is going through it. Like, relationships are going through it at this point. I can really be the voice for my girls. Obviously, the money gets better around this time. Homecoming scenes, and we’ve got Fashion Week and stuff. So this is my favorite time of the year and I love to put music out around this time of the year. Last year, I did some R&B stuff around this time of the year. Before that, “Too Much” came out and that’s one of my biggest songs today. And I’m definitely thinking about a full R&B project.
ATLANTA, GA – SEPTEMBER 30: Lakeyah attends BET Hip Hop Awards 2022 on September 30, 2022 in Atlanta, Georgia.(Photo by Prince Williams/ Filmmagic)
I know you finally got to meet Nicki Minaj and you mentioned that she dropped a lot of game on you. What was the best piece of advice she gave that you applied to your craft, whether on the creative or business side?
I would definitely say it was both of them because the piece that I took away was really — like I was just speaking of being yourself completely when it comes to your look, your sound, you know, what you stand for. You really have to be an artist that people can really gravitate towards just for being you. And you don’t want to blow up for faking it for years. You want to feel like ‘oh, people love me for me. And I can go outside and I don’t have to put on a costume.’ So I feel like that’s something that I took away from our conversation, for sure.
And you know I had to ask, has there been any conversation surrounding a collaboration in the future?
We manifesting it. No, no, we are manifesting it. The rest of our conversation is very private.
Fair enough. Milwaukee’s blown up as a hub for hip-hop. Why do you think more people are interested in Milwaukee now than before?
We really have our own culture. I’m gonna be honest, I don’t use the Milwaukee sound very often because I’m very versatile. I moved to Atlanta when I was 18. You know, I’ve been a part of the industry for three years, and I’ve been doing different things and trying different things. But Milwaukee has its own culture like they do their own thing. And especially in this generation, everything is about fun and I think that’s perfect from where I’m from, because we don’t take anything serious. I mean, like, it’s really funny. Like the dances that they create, and the type of music that they create. I love it and I think other people will too.
Final question but what is your prediction for the next 50 years of hip-hop?
I think that it’s going to be so many different sounds because hip-hop is very open to — it looks different now. So I think it’s gonna be so many different sounds. It’s gonna be way more women because the door is broken down now. It’s not going to be any gatekeepers anymore. And we just gonna keep getting stronger. And I definitely think like, there’s going to be a number one rap out from a woman. Yeah, very soon.