City Paper is not for tourists
When rapper Madam Madon recorded her latest album, The Chronicles of Willamena Jackson, the studio she worked in was outfitted with everything she needed. None of the regular accouterments—weed, groupies, cognac—was present, but tucked away in a corner was a crib filled with toys for her now 18-month-old son.
“We called him the ‘King of the Studio,’ ” Madon, 23, says of her son. “If he didn’t sleep, we didn’t record.”
The Chronicles of Willamena Jackson, released last year, came at the end of a long, rough period for the River Terrace resident—who, after having a baby in 2004, sought to balance the hectic late nights of an MC with motherhood.
The daughter of two musicians—her father is a member of the Sun Ra Arkestra, and her mother once played bass in a band called Infinite—Madon knew that pursuing musical endeavors while trying to raise a family would be difficult. “With my father, he was all music—everything else to the wind,” she says. “My mother’s my hero. She was mean on the bass and keyboards—fly, but grounded. She had to be, with six children.” As a result, Madon briefly considered putting an end to her rap career. But a meeting with her future manager, Faheem Smith, helped convince her that she could do both.
“A lot of guys contact me saying, ‘You should let me be your manager,’ ” Madon says. “You know, men think we need them.” Faheem’s blunt advice, however, convinced her that he was genuinely interested in nurturing her as an artist. “I’d just had my baby, so I still had all the baby weight,” Madon remembers. “I took my pudgy self over to meet him and he says, ‘Your sound is aiight—needs some work. And you need to lose some weight.’ ” Madon agreed to Faheem’s terms, signed to his Black Opx Entertainment, and began recording and performing again in late 2004, baby in tow.
“At UNIFEST, my son was there,” Madon says. “I was bouncing him and then, ‘Madam Madon!’ I passed him to Faheem and went [onstage].”
Although Madon hasn’t stopped rapping since the birth of her son, the experience of becoming a mother does influence her lyrics. Her rhymes have always balanced politics with a street sensibility, but there are certain topics she doesn’t touch.
“When I write lyrics, it’s as if a eunuch wrote it,” she says. “I don’t talk about my jeans, my ass, my pussy. You’re not gonna hear me sweat things that females think are great. A lot of female artists glorify what shouldn’t be glorified. I’m not gonna tell girls to buy diamonds and a thousand-dollar bag when their kids are ashy.”
Up next, Madon will star in an independent film, Diary of a Thug, along with her hype woman, Cash. The two will play female assassins; shooting starts this spring, and Madon will contribute a song to the soundtrack. She’s also working on a “female Best of Both Worlds” project with singer Devin Messina—and, of course, continuing to perform and record, all while raising her family.
“I want to have so much shit out there that fans are like, ‘You got pre-baby Madon or post-baby Madon?’ ” she says. “And they’ll argue, ‘I like that post-baby Madon better—she was a little heavier, her voice was husky.’ That’s what I want to hear in the streets.”