We chatted to the exceptionally talented Gigi LaMayne about her experiences as a woman within the South African hip hop industry, her musical inspiration and her hope for other women within the culture.
Q: What first led to your passion for music?
A: I've always had a passion for music. I honestly believe that music is an opiate for people just as Karl Marx would have stated on religion. I'm from a very musical background. I got to listen to so many genres growing up including reggae and even jazz. I liked how music made me feel so why not? Why not nurture the greatest gift of all - to speak to people and evoke a certain feeling within their hearts.
Q: How did you fall in love with hip hop?
A: My sister always wanted to be on Jam Alley. I saw her recording her verse from a simple radio into a cassette which she listened to all the time. I remember seeing a video of Da Brat rapping as the best of the boys. She looked so Powerful- like she had something to say. My big brother was a huge fan of Big Pun, Tupac, Bone Thugz and Harmony. It was all part of our daily listening routine. The words and beats made me want contribute but at that time, I didn't know how.
Q: What are some of your first memories as a hip hop artist in the South African industry?
A: Being the youngest female at 14 to be on the Back to the City stage. That was game changing for not only me, but other girls like me. I also remember competing in cyphers. Those were some of the strongest. I really did get the ultimate training as an artist.
Q: What are the challenges you've faced as a woman within hip hop?
A: Being taken seriously overall - it seems like a tedious narrative but it is true. I never wanted to be a template. I wanted to be whoever I wanted to be- me. The idea that a woman has to form a particular persona, either super sexy or super boyish, is tedious for me. We are more than our looks. We are creatives. We are leaders. A rare breed though!
Q: Which women in hip hop, both musically and behind the scenes, are you inspired by?
A: My mother of course. She has been a product of society and through her helping the less privileged; she turns her fate around every day. I look to various women - Lauryn Hill for her pen, Brenda for her zest and talent, Nicki Minaj for her strides and the late Maya Angelou for her magnificent emotive contribution to literature as well as the lives of young black women.
Q: When and what can we expect from your next project? Who are you working with, what is the creative direction behind it and what does it mean to you?
A: The next project will be my best work yet. I'm working with both established and up and coming artists. It will be a work of art which I guarantee will be as musical as it is lyrical. I've grown tremendously as an artist and the direction is simple. I have to represent where I'm from.
Q: What are your thoughts on the state of SA hip hop currently?
A: The future is definitely female! Yes, in Hip hop too!
Q: Please share more on your role in the #HipHopHerstory campaign and why it was important for you to be a part of it?
A: I will be showcasing my talents on the 8th of September as a musician who hopes to inspire many others on the day. I would like to believe that I am one of many hip hop pioneers for the female artists within the South African hip hop context. This will be a show to rival most shows - period!
Q: What legacy would you like to leave behind as an artist?
A: I simply want to make history for the township and for those who feel ostracized by such a dualistic country in terms of its economy. I want young girls from the hood to feel that they are worthy of their dreams and that they are never too far to reach.
Q: What is your hope for future generations of women hip hop artists?
A: Unity and Summits of their accomplishments!
Q: Which up-and-coming women artists are you excited about locally?
A: Tyrant. What a gem. Super amazing with the pen. I get goose bumps every single time I listen.
Q: What can we expect from Gigi over the next year?
A: Strides and leaps so long, you'll have to hand her the crown - and the throne!