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10 Sep

How Purse First Is Breaking Up The Boys Club

How Purse First Is Breaking Up The Boys Club

In the summertime of 2020, Sesali Bowen was working on her memoir Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist. As she reflected on her experiences growing up in what she calls “the bad b-tch era,” she realized that while queer and feminine rappers were having a moment in Hip-Hop, there have been no podcasts to capture it. So Bowen went in regards to the business of making one. She reached out to Pierre Phipps, one half of the rap duo Freaky Boiz, to assist her co-host and the show, Purse First, launched that following January. 

The phrase comes from a Black colloquialism which Bowen believes originated from street-based, sex work culture. The total phrase, “Purse first, ass last” speaks to the notion that the cash should come before any of the fun stuff. 

“I made a decision to go together with that because the name of the show because I feel that’s the general vibe of female rap right away. It’s money first.” Bowen says.

How Purse First Is Breaking Up The Boys Club Of Hip-Hop Commentary

It’s also a commentary on the ways through which the work of queer and feminine artists has been diminished in additional traditional Hip-Hop spaces. 

“When female and queer artists go on a few of these other podcasts or radio shows, a whole lot of times the one thing that the hosts need to consult with them about is sex and sexuality,” Bowen says. “We’re very intentional about not doing that. Although me and Pierre talk a lot sh-t, are funny and we’ve a superb time–what’s very clear is that we take the artistry, the careers and the business of those women seriously. Purse First is to disrupt the boy’s club of Hip-Hop commentary basically.”

As queer artists like Lil Nas X and Saucy Santana are shifting the parameters of Hip-Hop, there are still certain sects of the Black community who’ve been reluctant to embrace the movement. Most recently Lil Nas X made headlines after he spoke about not being nominated for a BET Award this past summer, though his album Montero received a Grammy nomination for album of the yr. Bowen says homophobia is a residual effect of anti-Blackness. 

“The identical thing that makes a BET the last ones to leap on the bandwagon with a Lil Nas X or a [Saucy] Santana is similar rhetoric that may tell Black men to tug their pants up. Or Black girls to stop being ratchet,” Bowen says. “That reliance on respectability politics is amazingly problematic.”

How Purse First Is Breaking Up The Boys Club Of Hip-Hop Commentary

Still within the midst of all the opposition, Bowen is inspired and encouraged by what queer artists have been in a position to accomplish. 

“What’s amazing though is that queer people have really innovated and been in a position to make the most of the platforms which are available to them to not only just exist and live but to also make art and good art, to contribute more meaningful conversations and make impact on culture,” Bowen says. 

Up to now two seasons of Purse First, Bowen and Phipps haven’t only been in a position to carve out a lane for themselves, they’ve honed an authentic voice. 

“I feel that combined with my specific experience with entertainment journalism, Pierre and I together have a singular perspective,” Bowen explains. “Considered one of the things that I’m really happy with is that we’re not afraid to be honest.”

For Bowen and Phipps being honest means offering constructive criticism and never feeling pressure to love every artist they discuss. It also means not “canceling” an artist each time they do something Sesali or Pierre deem unsavory. This dynamic comes up often of their discussions about Nicki Minaj. 

“Pierre is a brilliant Barb. And I’m a really disgruntled Nicki fan,” Bowen says. “I’m very critical of a few of the decisions Nicki has made, how she responds to certain situations. But ultimately, I’ll still say it with my chest that Nicki is one in all the toughest rappers to exist, period. And is one hundred pc the Queen of Rap.”

Ultimately, Bowen says she and Pierre desire to be critical while still supporting and wanting to see these artists win because “that’s the grace that’s given to those n-ggas.”

Within the upcoming third season of the show, Bowen is seeking to expand on the show’s foundation. 

“I’m really excited to look forward and backward by way of female rap,” Bowen says. “I’m excited to form of tell a few of the stories of female rappers or iconic female verses that meant rather a lot to us.”

She has one specific woman in mind. Lola Damone who wrote the verse “50 B-itches Deep.” It was one in all the primary songs Bowen remembers printing the lyrics to. 

“I needed to learn them immediately,” Bowen recalls. “That verse has stayed with me eternally. I feel it’s one in all the best examples of female-male collaboration. So I actually need to do more oral histories. We’re not all the time just chasing the news of what the ladies are doing now. We’re also talking a few broader, fuller culture so it really can feel like that is for female Hip-Hop heads.”

Bowen also lists Saucy Santana as one in all her dream guests. He’s come up as a favourite of past guests and Bowen wants him within the room. She hopes that as Purse First grows, women and queer artists will come to understand it as a secure space.

“[Artists] can go speak about their music with people who find themselves going to maintain it real with them, respect them, know what they’re talking about and are passionate. We wish to let or not it’s known that we exist and are here.”

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