Isis, MC Lyte, the late Ms. Melodie. Roxanne Shante, Shazzy, and Queen Latifah. Foxy Brown, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj. From nervy tomboys to the sexually audacious, women have constantly sought control in the male-dominated world of hip hop. And it’s out of this lineage that Ne’Richa has come. But don’t think she’s interested in being pigeonholed by the history of women in rap. “I’ve never been the type to be comfortable in a pair of heels, stilettos and all that,” she admits. “Till this day that just doesn’t fit me. I feel better in sneakers and sweats. [But] with females, sometimes it feels we have to flirt a little bit or show a little leg here, or just kind of moreso be like the damsel in distress. And I don’t do that.”
There’s a lot of things Ne’Richa “don’t do,” perhaps the smartest being not allowing anyone to take the reins of her career and musical vision. This independence has led the 25-year-old rapper to start a career as a disk jockey for Gannon University’s 90.5FM/WERG while still in high school, and start her own production company, LiteShado Productions, at 23.
Born and raised in Erie, Pennsylvania— a city most known for its diverse cultures and swarming college students— Ne’Richa (born Natalie Richmond) was incubated in a single parent household under the care of her mother, and ol’ skool soul hits. Vinyl from legends like Sam Cooke and Aretha Franklin spun around the house. Outside the apartment walls, though, was another tune: “I’m from the projects,” she says. “Grew up with the opposite of a silver spoon.” This opened the door for her to discover the soundtrack for the paradox she grew up in: rap. “Hip hop is that genre that really speaks to the disenfranchised,” Ne’Richa, who first fell in love with rap after hearing Tupac’s 1995 album Me Against the World, says. “And it speaks to those who feel like they never had a voice. That’s kind of where it hit me at.” So she picked up a pen and began to write. Relying on her own self-taught production skills, Ne’Richa dropped her first independent record L.F.C. (Late 4 Class) in 2011. The album received nothing short of fanfare in her hometown. Soon her buzz began to spread. Recently, the legendary BDP rapper KRS-One invited the flowy-haired lyricist onstage while performing at Pennsylvania’s [WHAT VENUE?]. After a bar, KRS took back the mic in shock. “Hey, I can see you on tour right now!” he exclaimed.
On her single “Hide & Seek” off L.F.C., Ne’Richa confidently toys with the listener’s ability to recognize her lyrical prowess: “Don’t act like you don’t see me / you do see me / so what, we gon’ play some hide and seek?” she softly jeers. “One thing I know, I’m just like one in a million / …I should say billion.” Of course, that’s putting it mildly. Ne’Richa’s subtle style feels like double-dutch over beats. Lyrically her poetic arrangements stand next to the shoulders of jazz scatters or spoken-word artists, more than your typical bar-style rappers. Her music creates a perfect storm of soft-pitched tones over trippy and sometimes middle-eastern inspired beats. On “Flights” Ne’Richa rhymes, “Came from nothing / going forward / many dreams / life is torrid.” Her “flights” are governed by what she calls her “wings”— the firm push that’s sure to land her where her ambition and hands-on approach is already taking her. “The independent movement is great for the fact that you have control over everything,” she reflects. And control is what Ne’Richa, just like many other females in her lineage of hip hop, have consistently sought and won. “Hip hop is about people saying things that made you feel like you knew where they were coming from,” she says. “I just want to be that for somebody else.”