Relentless Seaside native Ms Versatile assembles a powerhouse hip-hop lineup on Cannery Row.
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
The lack of female rappers in the game has never discouraged Natalie Stringer, aka Ms Versatile. Raising two children while finishing a degree in business management hasn’t deterred the Seaside native from continuing to pursue her music career either. In fact, those factors have only made her work harder, and become more motivated to advocate for female rappers in the process.
Recently, Versatile finished her first album, Versatile Stylez Entertainment Vol. 1: The Beginning, which will be celebrated on Friday at the Blue Fin with a CD release party featuring performances by Ms Versatile and nine additional acts including The Skip Brown Band, Nutty, Yung-Heck and Nemesis.
On the album, which Versatile describes as a compilation, she brought aboard an onslaught of local hip-hop talent. She also has a new motto attached to her Versatile Stylez Entertainment label: Central Coast Rider Muzic.
For more than 20 years, the devoted emcee has spent hours writing rhymes, inventing hooks and trying to develop a niche for herself. Despite that, she still had to fight for the opportunity to put together her own album.
“There’s a lot of female rappers that are in closets,” Versatile says. “They’re not really trying to push the issue hard like I am. There are two other female rappers in Seaside but they’ll step in and then step out; I just keep going.”
She adds that another reason for the lack of a female presence in the rap world is that men just aren’t too willing to teach the women how to produce their own music. But Versatile demanded an education in the art of beat manufacturing – from the father of her children – a couple of years back.
“For the past 15 years, I’d ask my guy friends and guy producers around here if they could teach me how to make beats but they never wanted to show me,” she says. “They just wanted to feature my voice in some way on their songs.”
These days, Versatile calls the shots. She’s no longer a featured artist; she’s the lead name on the song credits and thrives on the tedious nature of the work. She spends every spare minute of the day – when she’s not at school or taking care of her daughters – mixing, sampling and creating beats; she says she rarely sleeps more than four hours a night.
“I have to balance everything and have a routine,” Versatile says. “I have to set goals and I have to follow through.”
On jams like “Rainy Days,” she melds old school minimal East Coast beats with a West Coast laid-back ghetto sound a la E-40 and Too Short. And like her biggest inspirations, MC Lyte and Salt-n-Peppa, the fiery spirit drops a range of soulful singing samples into her spitfire rapping.
After Stringer graduates in December she feels she’ll have even more tools, on the business side of the music world, to help her wade through a male-dominated industry. She hopes to inspire more Central Coast women to join her.
“There’s so many other females I want to bring on,” Versatile says. “I’m the only female in our area, that I’ve known, that put out a rap and R&B CD. This is a stepping stone.”
Every album she cuts from now on will showcase Central Coast artists, whether they’re from Marina, Salinas, Seaside or Monterey.
“This is my project and this is what I want to do,” Versatile says. “Volume 1 is only the beginning.”