MUSIC | Desdamona gives Philadelphia’s RhapsodE a well-deserved boost

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Desdamona has won a well-deserved following, in the Twin Cities and beyond, despite the fact that as a white woman working in a genre dominated by African-Americans she’s had to fly in the face of, as it were, reverse discrimination. She’s a purebred firebrand who forged her own way and, as a headliner, readily shares the spotlight with black supporting acts. She also helps bring to public attention talented black artists who can use the exposure.

Go to myspace.com/desdamona and you will see advertised there, right along with her discs The Ledge, The Source, and Inkling, a CD by RhapsodE, a wonderful piece of work titled Spoke Inward. Based in Philadelphia, RhapsodE hit the B Girl Be Summit in 2006 and, presumably, that’s how she and Desdamona met. Whatever the case, Spoke Inward‘s listing on that MySpace page, which constantly gets thousands of hits, goes a long way toward bringing the gifted RhapsodE to the attention of Twin Cities fans. Oh. RhapsodE, by the way, is black.

RhapsodE’s tour de force is tighter than tension. “National Bank,” written with Gabrielle T. Guma, leads with a serious statement about women’s sexual autonomy. Check this lyric. “We been out here, givin’ love on credit/ men out there been forever indebted.” Hello. Homeboys who can’t step up need to step off as self-respecting ladies “balance the books.” A beautiful thing about this cut is that it’s the voice of women sticking for themselves with no room for trifling men to toss around accusations of emasculation (a knee-jerk ploy that comes close second to playing the race card). A real tight line goes, “What are we to think of your stock in us, when you still hold shares in Playboy?” Ow.

All set to a truly funked up groove. “Damn (Part 1)” nails it so nice and nasty it should be illegal. Get next to imaginative verse that puts a painting to shame, while it pulls one’s coat to culture and history. RhapsodE hits it from the hip, waxing salty about reality “From DuBouis to bell hooks/ speak wisdom like passion drips from pages/ of elders.” Get around that.

Every performance on the disc is backed by killer musicianship. It’s quality. The kind of album that makes you wish there was a lyric sheet with it. RhapsodE’s Spoke Inward displays an amazing ability with rhythmic language and sultry, sardonic execution.