‘Beats, rhymes, and topics to groove you / Words of wisdom, to just move you’
Still sounding fresher than a batch of snicker-doodles hot from your momma’s oven, the eighties female rap duo, the Cookie Crew, speak to me so much more than most female emcees about today. Sweet female voices delivering conscious raps with attitude over up-lifting beats and beautiful melodies, shouting out Americanisms with distinctively London diction, is one delicious recipe for dopeness.
Inspired by re-discovering meaningful jams such as “Secrets of Success”, “Born This Way”, and “Females (Get On Up)”, I interviewed one half of the Cookie Crew, Cookie Pryce, last Summer about being a female emcee, pure love of hip hop, changes in the music industry, and more…
Could you tell us a little bit about what it was like being a female emcee during your Cookie Crew days?
Back in the old days being a female emcee? It was one of the best experiences in my life. I mean there was always that thing where if you’re a female rapper: are you good? Are you better than the guys?? All that kind of nonsense. We went through that – people would always judge us and compare us to other male artists. But for us? It didn’t affect us. If anything it made us better and stronger, and no matter what we did we preferred to be on the bill when it was all guys anyway. We never felt that there was any major competition; we held our own. We actually loved the challenge.
Your lyrics are very conscious – songs like ‘Secrets of Success’ really speak to the listener.
With regards to our lyrics and our lyrical content, it mirrored what we were about. Back in those days we weren’t the average girly girls with short skirts and plunging necklines – it was all about wearing the flyest gear. Back then hip hop was actually a bit more radical, there was always a more conscious element to peoples rap. Of course there was also the party rap and the happy rap, but we were very concerned about how we carried ourselves as women, particularly as women in that industry being female rappers. It was effortless for us to write about conscious issues because it affected us, it was what surrounded us and was what we were aware of.
It wasn’t just because we liked rap music and that was it – we were aware of political issues, problems in the world and international issues. We wanted to make sure that we addressed those things, as we didn’t want the public or our fans to just think we were happy-go-lucky female rappers. We made an effort to sit down and write something that has meaning to it, not just a party rap with a funky verse and chorus – it was very important to us that we represented ourselves in the right light.
Do you think that it is important for artists and musicians to be responsible as role models?
Oh totally – because they are role models, they’re in the public eye. Especially for artists that have a huge fan base, I think that it is your duty as a spokesperson to address issues because your peers are going to be listening to you; you’re their guide. You do have artists who cross between doing the political and the nonsense stuff, but that’s music – you have to enjoy it. I’d imagine most artists in this world have some kind of conscious element to what they are about. It is important that if they have a voice and they have a platform they should speak, because the masses will listen to them.
You address issues of female image and sex in your songs – when you were bringing out your records did you ever feel a pressure to exploit your sex more?
Exploit our sexuality? [laughs] We didn’t have a sexuality to exploit! It wasn’t even on our agenda. Like I said, we classed ourselves as tomboys – when we would go anywhere we would wear our Lee jeans, our trainers, our big goose jackets – we weren’t about shoes and skirts. If we went to a jam or were in any kind of hip hop environment and we saw girls that were girls we would have had a few words between us to say about them back in the days… It was harmless talk, but we weren’t your average females and I think that’s partly why we were embraced by the male society, because we carried ourselves.
Blatantly we were girls, but we were there for hip hop, we weren’t about running down guys and finding a boyfriend and this that and the other. It was literally a love of hip hop that brought us all together. So exploiting our sexuality? At that point we didn’t have anything to exploit besides our talent, our music and our rap.
And you never had record labels trying to get you to change your image?
Not at all, we were accepted for what we were because back then that was the image. It was only in later years that U.S. female artists like Salt-n-Pepa penetrated the U.K. market wearing leotards, all in one cat-suits with a bit of flesh and whatever. That was cool, but it wasn’t until later years that it became very sexual with the Lil Kims and the Foxy Browns where they would talk about their sexuality and also visually you saw it. We never really had that in the U.K., the girls in the U.K. were very much about being a B-girl.
Who would you say are your musical inspirations? Are there any figures that inspired you to get involved in hip hop and music?
Gosh. We loved Stetsasonic, obviously loved Run DMC – one of our favourite groups of all time was the Kings of Pressure, we also loved Ultramagnetic MCs – it was music around that era that influenced us the most. KRS-One and LL Cool J, Masta Ace, Gang Starr – all those cats, everybody that came under that umbrella we were inspired by. We were also inspired by U.K. talent at that time – back then there were crews from all parts of London, so I think we were really inspired by each other. We felt that when you saw a U.K. artist perform you would always want to go up and be slightly better, or go home and make sure you wrote the freshest lyrics and came back correct. We had a scene that was kind of special back then, very special.
Of the hip hop climate at the moment are there any particular acts that you think are interesting?
I don’t have a CD on rotation in my car, and I don’t have a particular artist that I listen to heavily, not like how I used to in the days when we had cassette tapes and if you were a fan of an artist you listened to their music over and over again… But I still love hip hop naturally.
I find that a lot of people say that nowadays with digital music.
Gone are the days when I was a music fan where you would rush out and buy something. It’s not like the days of vinyl where you have to go to a shop or hang out with certain deejays and go through the records – things are too easily accessible now. It doesn’t seem that special anymore – I still love music to death, but I’ve come from an era where we weren’t so spoilt. We didn’t have easy access to music.
I remember if I ever got a tape it was such an investment.
Yeah, brilliant wasn’t it?
You’d spent all your pocket money, so you just had to listen to it enough and really get to like it.
Yeah, and now you can make a record and they just get it on iTunes… The exclusivity of product seems to have been watered down ever so slightly.
Do you still record at all?
No, we don’t record at all. I don’t have a burning desire either. If we were to do something, we know it would be something real good, for a cause and something we’d put a bit of effort into. You see artists nowadays – everybody has records out, everybody has twitter accounts, everybody has labels – but I don’t feel that urge that I need to compete with anything. I’ve done what I’ve done, I had my experience, I had my expertise – and I challenge it into another area. At the end of the day I have a skill, and that skill I need to hone to pay my bills…
Amen. And to come back to the Cookie Crew, could you tell me what the story behind the name is?
Oh my gosh – how did that start? There used to be a whole bunch of us, a clique of about twelve or thirteen friends who just used to hang out; we were like family. We had this thing when we were out and about where we started talking with these really stupid American accents, just being silly, as you are when you’re very young teenagers. One day someone asked us what we were called and we kept saying ‘The Warm Milk’, and we were initially called ‘The Warm Milk & Cookie Crew’, but over a period of time we shortened it to ‘The Cookie Crew’.
It was from us loving music and hip hop and being a bunch of girls out and about being silly – don’t the Americans say ‘warm milk and cookies’? That’s exactly what we became: ‘The Warm Milk and Cookie Crew’. Everybody thought that I was the warm milk because of my complexion and that Suzie was the Cookie because she has prominent freckles, like chocolate chip.
But that wasn’t deliberate?
No – wasn’t deliberate at all. But hey – they ran with it and we laughed.