The new series, Sisterhood of Hip Hop premieres on Oxygen tonight that follows the lives of 5 up-and-coming female hip hop stars and their rise to success. What does it mean to female in the world of hip hop, to work with legends like Timbaland and Pharrell, and to see yourself cry on TV? Nyemiah Supreme, Siya and Bia broke it down for us.
OKMagazine.com: In the comedy world, an especially annoying question that always seems to be asked is, Are women funny? What is that question in the hip hop world, the question or statement you’re sick of hearing?
Nyemiah Supreme: For me, it’s that aren’t women smart or competent enough to really be writing rhymes or telling their stories. If we come from the hood or come from different places, sometimes people feel like our stories aren’t valid because we’re women or we can’t talk about the things we see in our neighborhood, whether it’s violence or anything. It’s like we can’t be smart enough to do our own career by ourselves.
Siya: I don’t really get a lot of those questions, the questions are usually about my sexuality, of course. With most women I think it’s like, did you sleep with everybody to get to where you are? And it sucks.
Bia: The questions that I get are usually around comparing me or comparing us to someone else. I feel like when you’re a woman, it’s natural for them to compare you with someone else. It’s the only way to familiarize you with something that they know. I feel like we do a great job with not getting sucked into the, oh you guys aren’t supposed to be friends. You’re not supposed to like each other. I feel like those questions are very relevant. I get them all the time.
OKMagazine.com: This show is so much a celebration of women in hip hop, you’re friends and you’re supporting each other. Is that the way it is in the community or is there a beauty pageant, catty mentality?
Bia: We’re all pageant girls! At the end of the day, we all go on stage and are like, this is my show! But no, we’re totally not catty. We actually really get along.
Nyemiah: When it’s behind the scenes, we’re joking and laughing and things like that. We all have our own parts of the show where it’s about each other or about yourself. You don’t have to fight for that time. You’re going to get that already. That’s why you’re here—to show what you have to offer. But I think it’s cool to see us not like, side-eying someone else because they have success. If she gets an opportunity, that means I can get the same opportunity. I feel like us embracing each other is natural. You don’t have to kill each other to win.
Siya: It’s dope that we’re achieving it together. This is something we can talk about years later. On the show, what you see is what you get. It’s authentic. We’re all good friends.
OKMagazine.com: How will we see your career paths cross on the show?
Nyemiah: I think maybe advice wise. Voicing to someone who is doing the same thing as what you want to do, with careers and how you feel. It’s good to have someone who can be like, I’m doing the same thing. I’m going through the same thing. I’m glad I’m not crazy by myself. We have that connection.
Siya: Or cocktails. We’ve had some great cocktails together!
Nyemiah: The cocktail conversations are a little different.
Bia: Those ones get a little crazy.
OKMagazine.com: Those are the ones I want to hear! What do you think is the #1 thing women still have to overcome in hip hop?
Nyemiah: I think it’s us having as many women that there are guys. In hip hop, you see all these guys, you see Jay Z and Young Jeezy and all these people hanging out and congregating at video shoots and just chilling. It’s like the totally opposite for women. It’s overcoming that mental view that you’re not allowed to stand next to each other. And not allowed to have fun or go out and party together and hang out in the same section. It’s so accepted for guys.
Siya: For me, I think it’s the whole ‘sex sells’ thing. That’s a phase that really needs to get kicked out the window. Putting women up as sex toys. I don’t think it’s good for hip hop or for women. It’s degrading and it’s just not cool.
Bia: I kind of agree with that, but even more along the lines of originality as women. They want you to be overly sexy or not sexy enough. There are tons of people who fall in that middle line who have no one to relate to. What happens to those regular girls that are coming up and they’re like, what about me? I’m not like either of those. The ones who don’t want to pose naked, who don’t want to put on wigs and lipstick or who don’t do certain things that are not in our realm.
OKMagazine.com: We see you guys get emotional on the show. How does it feel to cry on camera, to be really vulnerable and emotional?
Bia: It’s the worst. Straight up.
Siya: I went back to my projects yesterday and I did not hear the end of it from one of my guy friends who I grew up with. ‘Yo, that scene where you were crying? For real?’ I’m like yo man, come on! I’m a woman and I have feelings. I wasn’t crying because I was sad. I was crying because I was pissed.
Nyemiah: I got the total opposite. Guys have come up to me like, ‘I saw you were crying and I almost cried too.’ I think a lot of people who know me, I’m not a public crier or public angry person, so when people see me, they’re like, I don’t really know who you are. I’ve had a few guys who almost teared up during that scene. I think I knew going into that scene, this might be a tear-jerker for me. When you watch it, you’ll see I’m going through some emotional releases but after I did it, I felt good. I felt human. Because I’m scared to cry in front of people, I feel like that makes me look weak. It made me feel like people weren’t looking down on me. They were like, I wish I could do that too. And there’s a stigma for guys crying too. They’re the worst at acting like they don’t cry and they’re usually the main ones crying.
Bia: They’re the reasons why we feel bad for crying! It’s normal. I know you do it!
Nyemiah: When a guy cries you’re like, what’s wrong with him? He’s emotional!
Siya: They pulled it out of us though. They put us in situations, where they knew.
Bia: It was really personal for us. The whole experience. We brought our families into it, we brought our relationships into it, we brought our friends into it. Whenever you have a melting pot of different people and things that are close to them, it’s going to hit home.
OKMagazine.com: What is the ultimate goal for you? Is it sales, is it a specific collaboration, is it a Grammy?
Siya: Being a household name. Being heard for me, that’s it. I don’t care about nothing else. I want to be able to say I did it, I broke down doors, I brown down barriers, and now everybody knows my name.
Nyemiah: I have this dream where I’m on a huge stage and it’s a stadium packed out and there’s lights and everyone’s holding up their cell phone light and screaming. It’s not my ending point but my highlight point of, I’m finally in that dream that I see myself going towards. So it’s really just a moment. And of course having those hit records and people loving you for your music and loving you for who you are, that as a whole.
Bia: People have been tweeting me like, ‘Oh my god I love your grandfather! He’s so sweet, he’s so cute’ and I’m like ok. (laughs) I mean he doesn’t rap, he plays the harmonica. But I honestly for so long wanted my family to see me do something positive. I dropped out of college and I wasn’t going to school but I was trying to lie about it like, yeah I’m still going to school. They would be like, ‘Bianca what are you doing, what are you going to do with your life,’ so now they actually see me doing something positive. I brought the cameras and they were like, ‘Damn, ok no college but we see what you’re doing.’ Just to be able to show them that and show my little sister that you can do anything, it doesn’t matter what anybody tells you is jut the ultimate. I won already.
Siya: The day before yesterday was the first time I’ve ever heard my aunt say she was proud of me. And that means a lot. She was like, ‘You worked so hard to achieve your dreams, you actually did it. I’m so proud of you.’
Nyemiah: I ran into her aunt one day! She was like, ‘Nyemiah, that’s really you?’ And she was like, ‘I’m Siya’s aunt!’
Bia: That is so funny!
Nyemiah: I was randomly walking down from my friend’s house in Queens, I was like this is crazy!
Siya: My aunt’s about that life. I could totally see her doing that.
OKMagazine.com: You’ve each seemed to have a “moment” where you had just a couple minutes to prove yourself. Do you think back on that, does that motivate you, and how much does that contribute to who you are today as an artist, and your confidence and drive?
Bia: Every day. That same drive that we had at that very moment is the same drive that’s going to carry us through our careers so if we don’t keep that, it’s like you’re gonna be another Trinidad James. Quote me on that! I don’t wanna just have that one moment I wanna keep having those moments over and over until I can’t have no more moments.
Nyemiah: That moment was like working with Timbaland. I met him for the first time and I just had to go and start writing. It was uncomfortable.
Bia: Tim did that to you too? That was my Pharrell moment!
Nyemiah: It was so uncomfortable. Like, damn I hope I don’t fuck this up, but that fire under me made me write those great lyrics I wrote. So any situation I go into, it’s not like, hope I don’t mess up, but I gotta kill this so I can come back. I gotta kill it so I can still be in the rap game. Because they’ll drop you like it’s nothing so you gotta keep killing it every time you show up.
Bia: But we fuel each other because I knew of them before the show, but did I go and check on their music? No. Did I think I had any competition? No, because that’s how artists are, you have to be like that. But when you actually are on the forefront with them and you see how much work they put in and how good the quality of their stuff really is, it will make you check yourself. You’ll come back and be like wow. Alright. I thought I was the best. She’s pretty good, let me go back to my drawing board and I’m gonna come right back.
Nyemiah: Competition pushes you to go further, to where it’s not a bad thing, but something that fuels you, like let me go back in the gym and get this muscle stronger.
Bia: It’s like we’re playing a game of 21 but we’re all on the same team.
Siya: We’re all focused and determined.
Bia: That was a good analogy right?
Siya: Summed up my life!
OKMagazine.com: You all have super famous mentors, but what’s something fun that you’ve learned about them from working with them?
Bia: We have an inside joke. When you submit your tour rider, you tell them everything you need. On Pharrell’s rider, one of the engineers put a photo of (astronomer) Carl Sagan so every single Pharrell show we ever go to, they have the weirdest photos! It will be like a picture of Carl Sagan framed and everybody thinks it’s something Pharrell really wants but it was just an inside joke. It’s so funny, now we collect them, like, oh that’s a nice Carl Sagan! (laughs)
Siya: Tank is a comedian. I feel like he was a comedian in his past life. He’s hilarious. Every time we’re in the studio, instead of getting work done we’re just cracking up and there’s always liquor involved so it’s even worse. He’s just super talented. Before I even met him I knew he was talented, I knew the man could sing, but his voice in person is just from the gods. He’s just such a dope writer.
Nyemiah: With Timbaland, when you go into those situations with people that are so high in the game you think they’re so serious and robotic. And you go in and they’re like, shoes off, on the couch. He still works and he’s still beatboxing and making all sorts of weird sounds but it’s such a chill, family environment there. At first I was scared, are they going to accept me and let me in, but it becomes such a comfortable place to create and be creative. So when I go in with him, there’s no more pressure of, I can’t say the wrong thing. It’s just, take your shoes off, sit back and relax and get your mind in the creative zone.
OKMagazine.com: What do you feel the most proud of so far?
Nyemiah: It’s always cool to me to see my parents’ reaction. They’re like my biggest fans, kind of obsessed with everything I’m doing. My father will be texting me my lyrics, my mother everyday she comes home from work singing my songs and she’s like, you’re spitting fire! But I think their appreciation and them being proud of me. I think for them sometimes it’s surreal, like I didn’t know I was gonna have a kid that’s on TV, for them to be happy about it, that they made a cool kid.
Bia: That’s so dope Nyemiah.
Siya: My grandma doesn’t know what hip hop is. She’s like ‘Are you doing that hippity hoppity hip shit?’ But she’s proud of me. She would never know my rhymes. Grandma will never be in the front row talking about, ‘That’s my grandbaby!’
Bia: My grandma thinks all rap is singing. ‘Bianca you still do the singing? You still make the singing with Pharrell? Does he still wear the shorts and the hat?’ That’s the same thing I get everyday I go to my grandmas house, it never changed.
OKMagazine.com: Do you feel pressure to sing?
Nyemiah: There’s no pressure, it’s something I like to do. I always wanted to be a singer but I didn’t have confidence in my voice. But the more I work on rapping my voice gets stronger. But I like the title of rapper vs. singer because that’s what I initially did.
Bia: I want the title as both. I be singing the heck out of everything!
Siya: I’m gonna Missy (Elliot) my way through this game!
Bia: Siya can sing.
Siya: I be Drake-in’! But I be Drake-in’ since I was 12.
The Sisterhood of Hip Hop airs tonight on Oxygen at 9 p.m. ET.
Who is your favorite female rapper? What do you think women have yet to overcome in hip hop? Tell us in the comments below or on Twitter @OKMagazine.