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Though rap’s obsession with the next new thing would lead you to believe that she’s fresh to the scene, Philadelphia DJ-turned-rapper Bahamadia has been honing her skills for a little over a decade, primarily on Philly’s still-thriving underground rap scene. A recent buzz resulted from her delivering scene-stealing verses on poem-songs from Guru (“Respect the Architect”) and the Roots (a remix of “Proceed”). A sense of maturity rings throughout Kollage, Bahamadia’s debut. Equally eschewing
b-girl gangsterisms and fly-girl sassiness, Bahamadia instead opts for a hushed, measured flow that is detached but wryly observant. In the average rapper’s hands a tune like “Wordplay” would become just another shameless exercise in braggadocio. Instead, Bahamadia coyly describes her exploits as impersonal actions, not heroic feats (“Flow non-prehistoric…flip scripts like acrobatics…
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flex facts like hydraulics”), thwarting the genre’s reliance on “I”’s, “Me”’s, and “My”’s. On radio-friendly tracks produced by N.O. Joe, Kollage does get manipulative, but those who just say NO to Joe’s superfluous sweets should still relish the beats that the remaining producers—DJ Premier, Da Beatminerz, Ski, Guru, the Roots—craft around Bahamadia’s verbal insights. On “Total Wreck,” she gives props to pioneering female rapper MC Lyte by uncharacteristically appropriating her predecessor’s vigor and words (“bust and check it, watch how I wreck it”), adding spice to her usual monotone delivery. Bahamadia resumes her signature icy form on “Innovation,” giving thrust to verbal fragments such as “new versions of verses over kids head like halos” with the spooky assuredness of an executioner. “True Honey Buns (Dat Freak Sh*t),” Kollage’s lone pulpit poem-song, is also its most memorable track. “Buns” is a half-preachy warning on the downfalls of being a gold-diggin’ sista, on which the rapper refreshingly emphasizes the parasitic lifestyle’s impact on other women (“your actions bounce on all these chicks in here like a reflector”). Its refrain also provides an apt description of Bahamadia’s first effort—“it ain’t what you do, it’s how you do it.”—Bobby Hill