RAPSODY & LEIKELI47 BRING NEW MEANING TO “OPRAH”
September 11, 2019
Now that reparations have become a viral topic of conversation — not just taking place inside communities which are due them, but in mainstream publications and offered as a centerpiece issue by political candidates — people have revealed how the-powers-that-be feel about the topic: They believe reparations are a choice and something to debate — not something due to a people, that will be acquired whether it is granted them or not.
Rapsody’s entire new album, Eve, is a vision of divine Black womanhood — but nothing on it stuck to my ribs quite like her stick-em-up anthem, “Oprah,” which also features Leikeli47. There, the two rappers talking shit not at a no-good boyfriend or a woman they’re sexier than, but to the power dynamics that have socialized the Black community into a scarcity mindsets, the psychological result of the internal, systemic terrorist attack that’s now lasted 400 years. Towards the end of the track and the accompanying video is a spoken-word segment lip-synced by Black women, with phrases like “Don’t mean to disturb your peace, just needed a little piece of what you got“ that explode like dynamite. This is especially true when you hear them not as personal epiphanies, but an articulation of a Black paradigm shift.
“It’s not uncommon to borrow a dollar.” On the song’s chorus, Rapsody recontextualizes Black guilt borne out of ideas of exceptionalism and individualism that call for us to be the best, do it all, and do it with no help. Whereas the imperialist white supremacist-capitalist patriarchy is in insumortable amounts of debt to many nations in order to keep this, now cartoonishly ridiculous, empire afloat. Yet, we’re the ones shamed and mythologized as welfare queens and lazy coons. And Rapsody, in the span of a pre-chorus, turns that shame into a groove that brings a melodic softness to the hard-hitting bars.
The video is the perfect manifestations of the idea that reparations are a thing that should always exist in the Black imagination — not dictated by media and candidates, but in our spoken desires because Black future is dependent on it. It makes sense that one of the architects of the afrofuturist vision we call Ghetto Fabulous which is the visual representation of wealth manifested by stolen people on a stolen land, Misa Hylton, serves as its creative director. She has been conjuring visions of a Black royal future despite a dismal present for decades now.
The visuals argue ideas that can only be decided intra-communally, between reform and abolition. But some things feel clear: Harriett Tubman being honored isn’t for the state to decide, it is for us to decide. Feeding our children and community, pictured as an homage to The Black Panthers’ Free Food Program, is for us to decide. The pragmatic goal of prison reform — that I hope, maybe naively, will end in prison abolition — is for us to strategize towards, not request from the state. If this moment of extreme fascist domination is to be remembered for anything, it is that the ways of being that are pro-Black shouldn’t rely on a white house that’s either red or blue, but in a determination that is always Black.
It excites me deeply that there are young Black people hearing this and letting it shape them, affirming them. It makes sense that Lekeili47 is on the track, with a flow that is part ballroom chant, part Da’ Brat, and all her own instinctively divine femme fatale way of being, that’s captured my imagination since I first saw her masked face in the palm of my hand, on my cellphone.
It was the ultimate manifestation to be walking around during the last AFROPUNK festival under the haze of marijuana smoking and drinking, and feel the softest material bump into me. It was Leikeli47 wearing all purple was apologizing and I was starstruck. Once I confirmed it was her, she thanked me for my support and told my friends she was going on in 30 minutes and to follow her. We did.
On that stage, she brought out Rapsody, and I got to see the synergy of this anthem blossom live. Leikeli47 divulged how Rapsody reached horizontally and back to ensure this collaboration and the abundance yet to come will be shared. I understood at that moment I was witnessing to Black women that were their own sovereign, Black institutions — and “Oprah” is their star-spangled banner.