By Caitlin Donohue. Top image by Lauren Crew
You have this thing that happens at a Queens D Light show, or really on any stage blessed with a member of East Bay hip-hop crew Them Hellas. One of the crew will be up there performing their new single — say, Queens on “Everything Special” or emcee Duckwrth with “Fukushima” — and then boom, five more heads are onstage, running the audience through an essential dance step, or going in on choruses, key words. Real cute crew love type of antics.
So collective-oriented are they, in fact, that it can be difficult to get the talented, charismatic Queens D Light, a.k.a. Charmaine Davis to hype her own self without deflecting at least some of the shine to her boys. In an interview with AHDM4U she calls the crew’s output “some of the most alluring and evocative music of our generation.”
And she has other words of praise for artists outside her collective. “Sa Roc is one of the best lyricist of our times, but is super underrated. Action Bronson is doing fly things right now, I like his low-fi sound. Also, Kool AD, he’s really smart and witty. His political undertones are very intricate and are easily overlooked by some. And Jaystone of course; no one is really doing song/story structure like he is now.”
We like her though. You, Queens, you! Honestly, we would have picked her as our AHDM4U Emerging Artist Issue Oakland representative based on the strength of her nipple-revealing OUTFIT at Oakland Pride alone … but how diminishing to overlook her smooth lyricism and compelling onstage presence (with or without the rest of Them Hellas.)
Reasons why Queens reigns:
– Her love of place: “The Bay has been a powerful force shaping my understanding of hip-hop music,” she says. “From the swagger in Bay slang to the independent hustle, no one place has influenced me more. The pimpish undertones stood out the most when I was young. I liked watching my mom pop her collar and speak fast to folks. At a family event we were for sure doing the “Get lo” to all of my Los Angeles families amazement. LOL. The Bay is a special place.”
– Her use of personal fashion to elevate, not distract from her art — and further her community: “My style is a reflection of my visual literacy and the things that have moved me in past. I wear my girl NoNo‘s collection. She makes these fly circle skirts that make my day. Also, I shop a lot with Heryesterday Vintage clothing. I find they have an eye for patterns — I usually get dolled up by Mercedes Torrey who is part owner of the store. In terms of jewelry, my girl Obialo Somadina hooks up with her Ineyego line.
– And finally, she’s future: The candidate for an MFA in film is looking, like her inspiration Yasiin Bey, to move fluidly from hip-hop to the video screen. “I love film,” she says. “Acting, directing and writing for this medium are things I do as much as the opportunities come available. Just recently I’ve gotten more into installation art ; incorporating TV’s , alters and projections. All my passions are connected and so I unapologetically express my art knowing that.”
Photo by Fatima Ghatala