Kent Grad Student Creates Hip-Hop Music From Her Poetry
Written by Sylvia Lorson on December 13, 2019
Photo credit: instagram.com
When someone asks about the women of hip-hop, many people may think of those that paved the way like Queen Latifa, Missy Elliott, Lil Kim or MC Lyte.
Some people may think of present day, popular women in the genre like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B or Doja Cat.
All of these women worked hard and faced many challenges to get to where they are today especially since hip-hop is a male-dominated genre of music.
In an article by Entertainment Weekly, MC Lyte is quoted saying, “I think it destroys [hip-hop] culture to not have the perspective of a woman. It’s like our story is not necessary, our point of view isn’t mandatory.”
One up and coming female hip-hop artist that is ready to have her story listened to is Zion “Zee” McThomas, a first year music theory graduate student at Kent State University.
Poetry and Hip-Hop
McThomas, a Mississippi native, began writing poetry around the age of 13. She used poetry as a creative outlet to deal with her parents divorcing.
“I was telling [my cousin April] everything,” McThomas said. “Like, ‘it’s getting crazy. I don’t know what to do.’ And [my cousin told me], ‘just write it all down.’ And so I just starting writing and I couldn’t stop.”
Since then, McThomas has been putting her pain and struggles to paper, using poetry as a way to deal with all of it.
Poetry helped her with her father’s passing in October of 2014, the struggle of coming to terms with her sexuality and her generalized anxiety.
“I like to say I am a sad poet,” McThomas said. “When I write about the stuff that I’ve gone through, it makes it easier to deal with and cope with.”
he started to turn her poetry into music in July of 2018.
McThomas had just graduated from Alcorn State University with a music teaching license when she went to a little underground hip-hop show that some of her previous students were performing in.
The group of her students that performed that night is called A.M. WyseLove. They inspired her to make her first song. Together, they did a cover of Big Krit’s song “The Light.”
A.M. WyseLove member Christian Killpatrick said that McThomas has the potential to make it big,
“There’s a crowd of people out there that’s praying for music like hers,” Killpatrick said.
After her first collaboration, McThomas made her first independent project, “Self Medication.” She received a wave of positive feedback, especially from her students.
“[What made me want to continue was] the sheer fact that I had people that believed in me,” McThomas said. “I was working full time as an assistant band director in a high school, and my [students] had found out…And so when I dropped my mixtape and had my students quoting me…It was so amazing. I was like, ‘This is what Kanye feels like!’”
Since then, McThomas has collaborated with several other aspiring hip-hop artists and has four released projects.
“I’m very passionate about my art when it comes to poetry writing and music, and I saw that passion in her,” said William Barrett, a freshman integrated social studies major.
Barrett collaborated with McThomas the day after they first met each other at an open mic event at Cleveland State University.
She has performed in 10 shows with her music and over 30 shows with her spoken-word poetry.
She has performed in Memphis, New Orleans, Atlanta, Detroit, Cleveland and throughout Mississippi. Her song “Try” has been played on some radio stations in Texas.
The largest crowd she performed in front of was as an opener to an original play in Meridian, Mississippi. There were 200 people that watched her perform her poetry that night.
The topics that McThomas raps about are wide-ranging and diverse. In addition to writing about her struggles of being a black lesbian woman, McThomas also writes about life in general.
“Everything from hangovers and intoxicated nights to love and heartbreak,” she said. “[From] Black Lives Matter issues, to family memories and to stuff that I’ve never even been through.”
Zhenel Rawlinson, a music major at Ohio State University, said that the content that McThomas was putting out was what interested her and made her want to collab with McThomas on their song “Clickbait”.
“She’s not like a lot of other people that are in the industry right now,” Rawlinson said. “She’s doing her own thing and moving to the beat of her own drum.”
Rawlinson respects that McThomas is confident in her identity and willing to share that with the world through her music.
“It’s one thing to have the music,” Rawlinson said. “But also, when she is in love with who she is, and her identity…I feel like that also goes hand in hand with the music, and that makes it so much better.”
McThomas has formed a creative team, Nomad Productions, comprised of other aspiring hip-hop and rap artists like Zhenel and Killpatrick.
She hopes to someday make it big in the music industry, spreading her story and messages of love and self-acceptance.
“Rapsody and Lauryn Hill are some of my biggest influences,” McThomas said. “I also look up to Oshun and Noname for inspiration. These women are true and honest with themselves. They make music that makes them happy, and their lyricism is beyond amazing.”
She added, “I just hope to be that for someone else one day.”