Gifted Gab, Girl Rap (out now, self-released, 1giftofgab.bandcamp.com/album/girl-rap)
For all of Seattle hip-hop’s perceived positivity, the one thing this album really drives home is our city’s incredibly polarized, complex rap identity.
On her first full-length, Gifted Gab—aka 22-year-old Gabrielle Kadushin—is getting lots of support, including a nice push from her otherwise all-male rap crew, the Moor Gang, and praise from her female peers in the biz, like Miss Casey Carter and Thee Satisfaction. They’re right, of course: This girl can rap. The beats on this 11-track album are solid enough but pale next to the record’s best quality: the rapper’s quick rhymes and lyrical agility. Gab can spit and snarl a stream of words like the best, alternating tone and feeling as the subject demands. For her brassy confidence and braggadocio, she’s been compared to Queen Latifah, and it’s a good fit.
The irony here is that for an album called Girl Rap, Gab still plays a man’s game. Bitches abound, and with them the inherent misogyny and all the other trappings of gangsta rap: money, drugs, thuggish threats. The problem this poses, not just for Gab but for this particular genre of hip-hop, is compelling, because we’re living in a world in which the NFL is considering banning the use of the “n-word” (liberally used on the album) among its players; anti-bullying awareness is at an all-time high; and sensitivity campaigns denounce the use of frequent gangsta slurs like “gay” and “faggot” (not heard here, to the rapper’s credit). There is, however, a sense that Gab feels conflicted about where she should direct her skills in this medium.
On opener “Problems,” she’s just one of the Moor Gang guys, echoing the agenda of misogynistic bravado heard throughout the crew, rapping “We’re the goddamn Moors/Got a lot of whores.” Picasso himself is on the next track, rapping about how he “killed that bitch.” Gab changes her tune a little on “Pop It,” when she quasi-advocates for female sexual empowerment: “The bitch already sucking dick and fucking for nothing/Bitch is fucking trippin’/Stop it/Pop it for a profit.” While Gab can turn a rhyme on a dime, it’s worth paying attention to what is actually being said here. With every casual dis of her gender, she helps proliferate the Moor Gang’s rapey, thuggish worldview, one I’ll leave you to explore at your own risk. And as long as Gab’s preaching this kind of sermon, she’ll have to be OK with being the First Lady of the Moor Gang—not the president of her own club.