It's Reigning Women

2004 - Moira McCormick, Special to the Tribune ~ CHICAGO TRIBUNE

Sobering conversation

Conscious hip-hop with an edge is the specialty of Absyte (Camille Jones), an intense, laser-eyed beauty with a biology-psychology degree and a 2003 New York battle-rap victory, against 16 men, under her belt. She recalls a sobering conversation with local hip-hop producer Xtreme:

"He very eloquently told me it's a risk [for a record label] to try breaking a female hip-hop artist without having her trail behind a group of guys -- like Lil' Kim behind Biggie [Smalls] and Eve behind DMX," Absyte says. "My feminist reaction was, `This is b.s.,' but realistically, it's probably true."

Still, Absyte's pushing her debut mix CD, "Absolute Swagga," on her own, performing around town and aiming to encounter a record exec with a more enlightened outlook.

"There is some truth to the idea that a successful female rapper has to be either part of a male crew, or be eye candy," says Bryan Leach, vice president of urban A&R at TVT Records, home of chart-toppers Lil Jon & the Eastside Boyz. "Although the `eye candy' factor can apply to males too -- Ja Rule, for example, took off his shirt and promoted sexuality.

"Still, there is a double standard," he acknowledges. "A perception that guys won't buy records from a female MC who can rhyme but isn't all that attractive."