Stassi Pryce | photo by Stassi Pryce | courtesy of artist
Rapper Stassi Pryce on using dancehall influences to catch the beat on her debut EP Say My Name Right
During an interview on the Drink Champs podcast, hip hop veteran Busta Rhymes talked about how his West Indian culture doesn’t often get credited for its contribution to hip hop. “Nobody thinks to go to the West Indian culture, to acknowledge how the birth of this culture was conceived,” he said, and he might have a point.
The Godfather of Hip hop culture is DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican DJ who created the two most significant elements of hip-hop, DJing and rapping, by isolating the instrumental version of a record that highlighted the drumbeat. The concept of young Black and Puerto Rican kids rapping over instrumentals became known as a freestyle, which you could also argue that it’s an African American version of what dancehall artists call a riddim.
Both hip-hop and dancehall artists use wordplay, storytelling, and their styles to move the crowd. Words allow them to draw pictures, but their delivery is what gives those pictures color. Sometimes how you say things leaves a bigger impact than what you said. Take dancehall, for instance, the delivery and cadence of artists of the music genre are what leaves an impact on the listeners even if they’re not fluent in Jamaican slang known as patois. This concept is what drew Philly pop singer Stassi Pryce to the genre three years ago. The opportunity to be as creative as she wanted to be in how she said what she writes is what made the pop-reggae singer evolve into a dancehall rapper.
Many people in the Philadelphia area who knew about Stassi Pryce, myself included, first heard her as a pop-reggae singer on songs like “Mirror Mirror” and “Roll Up.” She had no clue that she was going to be a rapper. It wasn’t until she received encouragement from long-time collaborator and singer / producer Shawn Butler — as well as positive feedback from her So Far Gone Challenge — that made Stassi stick with rapping, which consequently led her to new limitless ways of expressing herself. What she discovered was that there was more freedom to be creative in how she said things than there was being a singer.
Pryce had a variety of ways of talking her shit, which for the Jamaican singer included adding patios to her verses. Her consistency with dropping her Stassi Minute Mixes has shown that she can give a sweet 16 with the best of them. However, what makes her a dope rapper is her style, the tempo of her verses dances very well on any beat that she gets on. Her braggadocious lyrics, whether in patios or ebonics, makes the Philly MC sound like a combination of dancehall artist Spice and hip hop veteran Foxy Brown with the variety of cadences of hip hop artist Nicki Minaj.
While Pryce has gotten a lot of attention from and love for displaying her skills on her Stassi Minute Mixes, she also heard comments about if her skills as a wordsmith were only limited to freestyles. That kind of talk not only fueled her aggression but also the creation of her debut EP Say My Name Right.
Say My Name Right was released on September 30th, and according to Pryce it was a message to those who thought that her talent wouldn’t last long. This would explain why she comes out swinging like a fighter with a chip on her shoulder with lines like “Only fucking with niggas on a mission / Only fuck with bitches who got a vision / Pardon my language I made a decision / I’m a speak my mind I don’t need your permission,” on the first song “Another Level.”
You can hear her talk heavy on “Diamonds” with statements like “I don’t need veggies to look like a ting / I fuck with carrots when it’s on my ring.” While displaying that she can spit with the best of them throughout the EP, Pryce also showed that she has the potential to make a song for the clubs as a rapper. For example, “Come Close” sounds like Foxy Brown’s timeless hit “Get Me Home” but replace Blackstreet with Chris Butler, who sounds like PartyNextDoor on the track. According to Pryce, Shawn had to convince her to do a laid-back club record the same way Puff Daddy had to convince the late The Notorious B.I.G. to do “Juicy” on Ready to Die. Just like Biggie, it’s a good thing Pryce listened to her producer, because it showed that she has the potential to go far as a hip hop artist.
After three years of watching Stassi Pryce grow as a music artist, last week I finally got the chance to talk to about a variety of subjects like her debut EP Say My Name Right, how dancehall music influenced her transition from singing to rapping, and how the music genre from her country doesn’t get the credit it deserves.
The Key: You’re a pop-reggae artist, singer, and rapper. Who are some artists of these genres do you think played a big influence on Stassi Pryce’s music?
Stassi Pryce: Oh that’s a great question! Well, there’s a bunch. I would say that a lot of my influence comes from my culture. I’m Jamaican so growing up I was listening to Sean Paul, who was a very big one for me, Beenie Man, Rihanna, Spice and Bounty Killer. As far as rap goes, Nicki Minaj is my main influence in rap as well as Foxy Brown. It kind of jumps all over the place, whatever feels good to me is what I gravitate to.
TK: In your interview on All of the Above you said you want your music to be an escape from hard times. What song or songs do you find yourself listening to for that type of escape?
SP: This is going to shock you, but my favorite song of all time is actually [by] a group called Empire of the Sun and it’s called “Walking on a Dream,” and it’s literally the opposite of my genre. It’s more alternative R&B. Anytime I hear that song, I’m not on Earth anymore, it transmutes me someplace else. No matter what type of mood I’m in, that song I can count on to make me feel like everything is okay. That feeling makes me want to create music that can give that same feeling to other people.
TK: I was first introduced to you in 2017 as a reggae singer who was into pop, then over the past three years you did a complete 360 and became a dancehall artist who could rap her ass off. What caused this change of direction in your music?
SP: I started off as a singer and I love singing, but I think I’m a better rapper than I am a singer — that’s first and foremost. Second, performing rap gives me a different feeling than singing. It’s something about the rhythm and the cadences and how I get to switch it up. You never know what I’m going to do, I’ll have a flow and switch it up after I get tired of using it. I’m easily bored, so the fact that I get to switch up the cadences and add my patios in there when I want, it’s so much fun that you never know where I’m going to go with it. That’s what I think enticed me with the rapping, it was just never predictable for me. There’s not a lot of spontaneity in my normal life so when I’m rapping I get to be as spontaneous as I want.
TK: Was the So Far Gone challenge your first attempt at rapping?
SP: Oh yes! My friends were telling me to do it because they knew that I used to write in high school, but I was just playing around back then. So I did it just for shits and giggles but I didn’t expect people to take it to heart and really love it. That challenge really motivated me to start the minute mixes that I’ve been doing.
TK: Your consistency with the Stassi Pryce Minute Mixes gained a lot of attention because it showed how you improved as an MC. You saw improvement with your wordplay, delivery, and you became more aggressive and confident. You can hear that aggression throughout Say My Name Right. What was your state of mind while recording your debut EP?
SP: I was actually speaking about this today to a friend about how I would hear people say “Ok, we get it, you can rap over hot beats but can you do something on original tracks? Can you do something that’s completely yours but just as fire as your minute mixes?” I was like “Challenge accepted!” The entire time I was recording Say My Name Right, that was in the back of my head just fueling me to go hard. I was thinking like “Ok y’all want to talk shit and think that this consistent work is just a fluke?” Knowing people are questioning if I’m really good or not and the EP is to let them know “Yes, I’m really that good!” That was really pushing, especially during times where I felt like I can’t do this anymore. That’s really where the aggression came from. All the haters and naysayers that doubted me, I was like “Cool I got something for your ass.”
TK: One of my favorite songs off Say My Name Right is “Come Over” featuring Shawn Butler, whom you’ve worked in the past with on your song “Roll Up.” What is it about Shawn Butler that makes collaborating with him work so well?
SP: Aw thank you! That was actually the last song that I recorded. While I was recording I could see how I’ve grown from the first song that I did to the ending. Because “Come Over” was so different from the other songs that I had, because I was trying to go hard, I was like questioning if it fits. Shawn was telling me that he knew that the song was it and that it was going to be the one. You know we all have our doubts when we’re creating and he was kept telling me that this song was going to be it and when it came out “Come Over” turned out to be the favorite song for a lot of people.
Musically, Shawn and I’s frequencies align so well and I’m always able to freely come up with magic when I work with him. Not to say that I don’t have good experiences with other producers, but there’s just something about having that vibe with my lyrics and his instrumentals that creates magic. And to me, if it’s not broke don’t fix it. I know that he’s helped me in my development in becoming this rap artist. He’s been around with me trying to figure it out where I’m like “No I’m not a rapper,” to “Yes I am a rapper, listen to what I got to say,” and I just feel like Shawn has a lot to do with this growth from being a pop singer to rap artist.
TK: I think what stands out the most to me on Say My Name Right is your delivery. Your flow has the rhythm of a good dancer so as a reggae/dancehall artist. How much of an influence do you think those two genres have on your delivery?
SP: Oh, wow ,thank you…and I am a good dancer! [laughs] I think it has ALL the influence. If you listen to Sean Paul’s “We Be Burnin” — “So when you see the S.P. floatin’ don’t provoke him/Cause the girls we be poking have to smoking ” — like, it’s all cadences. Every single person I’ve been drawn to as a musical artist is because of their cadence. That influence engraved in my brain where I feel so good I want to move to this, I want to spit to this, and sing along with this is how I want my music to be for others.
I feel like if I didn’t grow up listening to the dancehall artists that I listened to, I don’t think my level of aggression would be where it’s at now. I think that Jamaican artists and rappers are the most aggressive artist in the world and being Jamaican I feel like it’s naturally in my blood, in my computer, and on my iPhone. It’s all the music I listen to I would say that it has a huge influence in how I spit now. It really comes from the Jamaican and dancehall culture.
TK: Verzus has gained a lot of attention and praise for having music legacies go against each other for good sport, and one of the biggest if not biggest battles was Beenie Man vs Bounty Killer.
SP: Thank you so much for acknowledging that! I appreciate the fact that you said that because I agree!
TK: It definitely was one of the most talked-about, however it followed with controversy when Beenie and Bounty Killer were left off the Billboard cover story. Many people including Beenie spoke about how dancehall doesn’t get the credit it deserves. What are your thoughts on the credit dancehall gets or doesn’t get?
SP: Yeah, that was a hurt piece! I think that Beenie Man was absolutely right about the way that he felt. I felt that way too and I think Jamaica and other Caribbean cultures felt that way and it’s kind of how life goes. Kind of with Black culture, it’s gets stolen by other races and we never get the credit for it and I feel that way about dancehall. It’s all in the clubs and has a lot of influence on the music that’s out right now. If you listen to a lot of rap artists, and a lot of them aren’t Jamaican or have ties in Caribbean culture, but we hear Chris Brown and Drake throwing in patios in their music. You hear a lot of these artists who are not of Caribbean descent throw in that island vibe. A lot of my motivation when it comes to success is to be that authentic Jamaican American artist and shine a light on our culture and give it the respect it deserves
TK: How do you see things getting better for upcoming dancehall artists like yourself?
SP: I feel like we’re getting there, slowly but surely. I think even with the BET Hip Hop awards they had a separate cypher for Jamaican artists and I was like “This is dope for the culture!” They had Beenie Man, Shenseea, Koffee, Skip Marley, and Bounty Killer and to me, this is what we need. This is the recognition that we should have been had and I feel like that’s a step in the right direction.
As far as our mainstream goes here in America, I think American culture has the power to shine that light [not just] on musicians of Caribbean culture, but others like UK culture which has a very amazing rap scene over there. So when I see people like Swizz Beatz and Timbaland reach out Beenie Man and Bounty Killer to come on to do Verzus, that’s a step in the right direction. We just need more recognition as far as mainstream music goes and I feel that American culture and music have a lot do with bringing that to the forefront.
TK: I agree. I personally would’ve liked to Drake put Popcaan in the position to where both Beenie Man and Sean Paul were in their primes, especially when you consider Drake as the most popular music artist out currently. So when he dropped “Controlla” it was kind of disappointing to not hear Popcaan on it.
SP: Yeah a lot of people were giving the side-eye when that happened. Linking up with Drake was a good move because we knew they’re cool with one another. So I expected to see more from Popcaan just because he was with Drake’s crew but it just didn’t happen how I wanted it to happen. But that’s the responsibility thing that I was saying earlier — when you know that other cultures can be put on because of its talent, but you don’t do anything to help. To each its own, we can’t force anybody to do anything, but it would’ve been dope.
TK: Do you see yourself adding more reggae and dancehall in your next project?
SP:You know, that’s a great question. I’m not sure if my next project will be that way, but I do know that I’m going to do a project that’s a hundred percent dedicated to my culture. Completely dancehall vibes even if I’m spitting, it’ll just be in patios. I’m not sure if it’s going to be the next one but a project dedicated to my culture and my people is definitely on the horizon.
Listen to Stassi Pryce’s EP Say My Name Right below and keep up with her activity on Instagram.