Bearing Strange Fruit.
In 1937, under the pseudonym of Lewis Allan, Jewish-American singer and poet, Abel Meeropol, published a poem titled “Bitter Fruit” that would change the world. Two years later that same poem was recorded by the legendary Billie Holliday and would catapult her to stardom as the song “Strange Fruit” with its eerie and raw sound. The song would become an anthem for the Civil Rights movement that would echo even until the present day. Originally written as an anti-lynching piece, it has evolved into both a plea and reminder that anti-Black violence still occurs today, mirroring atrocities of decades long past, but an ever present issue still remaining.
My introduction to this song/poem wasn’t Billie’s original song, but the 1965 cover done by Nina Simone on her album “Pastel Blues”. Her version is often the more sampled, which brings us to the main focus of this month’s column. In her 2019 album, rapper Eve samples this version of “Strange Fruit” in the first track, which also happens to be titled “Nina”.
This month’s Femme Pick is:
Eve by Rapsody.
On May 25th of 2020, the murder of George Floyd Jr. was the match that ignited the flame that would become the latest incarnation of the Black Lives Matter movement. During this time, I did my best to support my friends and others by lending my voice and my patronage where I could. I like to think I helped make some sort of difference, but at the same time I realized I seemed to always take my privilege for granted. Sure, I’d known gender prejudice, but never anything having to do with the color of my skin. I didn’t even know it was something that my friends and others went through until my early teen years.
Fast forward to September, and I began to notice my record collection was very, for lack of a more eloquent term, white. I was taken aback, because I didn’t realize that I seemed to have a subconscious bias towards music by artists that generally were white. Sure I had music by artists of different ethnicities, but the balance seemed to lean more to one side. I decided to remedy this and proceeded to buy albums by artists such as Lauryn Hill, Beyoncé, Rihanna, Lizzo, Brittany Howard, Common, Queen Latifah, Whitney Houston, and Rapsody. The latter was unfamiliar to me, but Rolling Stone magazine had described her latest album as, “a masterpiece of Hip-Hop Feminism”, and that was all it took for me to drop the needle.
The first thing I noticed about “Eve” was that each track was named after a number of influential black women, including Nina Simone, Aaliyah, Michelle Obama, Afeni Shakur, Maya Angelou, Whoopi Goldberg, and the Egyptian pharaoh, Hatshepsut. In my opinion, ever single song on this album is pure lyrical mastery and deserves more attention than it has thus far. “Eve” made me weep, made me uncomfortable, made me feel deep emotions, and most importantly it made me think. Rapsody has this “femcee-ing” style that reminds me of when I first fell in love with writing, poetry, and spoken-word. She conveys so much emotion and wields so much power in just the first song of the album and it only builds from there.
Here's to the honey in you
To the bittersweet in me
I will shed this blood so romantically, so viciously quiet
Here's to a moment of silence
I've poured and poured my soul again, here's to epiphanies
There was never a we
There was you all and there was me
In this war, likely to succeed
Unlike me to surrender
Trying and dying to breathe poetry to rise in the light of day
To subconsciously exist cautiously ascending towards freedom
Praying for a breather
Do you see my pain?
Do I seem like prey?
Empathy be the reason you're still standing
We are not the same
I've lived more lives than you, I have less pride than you
I'm extraterrestrial, I was created different
I've been here many times before and I've never been defeated, and still
I will never be defeated
This album has become an almost daily listen for me and the decision to feature it as my Femme Pick for the month of February and for Black History Month was pretty much a no-brainer for me. I wanted to share this album in hopes that it affects someone the way it has touched and altered me. Rapsody is an eloquent and raw lyrical queen who deserves her place on the throne next to the pioneering black women in music, and I am shocked and saddened that it seems that at the moment she is a “if you know, you know” artist.
“Eve” has definitely earned my respect and my love and I am eager to see what else Rapsody has in store for us in future albums. If you are a fan of OG “femcees” such as Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah, Rah Digga, Missy Elliott, and Foxy Brown, then you should look into Rapsody, as I think you would immensely enjoy her music and overall vibe.
My favorite songs on the album “Eve” include:
Read more about her here:
Want to listen? Here are some links!
Enjoyed this album showcase?
Check out the full archives of our album showcase series, Vinyl Femmes & RPMs, by Erin O’Dell, here:
Want to listen to ALL the Femme Picks? Check out the official playlist here: