It’s mid-afternoon in suburban Chicago, IL. The Fourth of July weekend is still going strong as families and couples swarm the newly-built MB Financial Park at Rosemont, just minutes from O’Hare International Airport. As drinks pour out from the popular bar district and airplanes hang low in the skies above, 22-year old Angel Davanport sits inconspicuously in the beer-garden of a German Ale house.
You wouldn’t know it by looking at her, but she’s in the middle of a career-defining turning point, and Tech N9ne is right there in her corner.
A relatively unknown aspiring artist from the Southside of Chicago, Angel was quickly thrust into the spotlight this past spring when a chance meeting with Tech N9ne led to a long-running co-sign that now has fans everywhere wondering: Who is Angel Davanport?
“It started at the House of Blues. I had honestly never been to a concert before,” she recalls, grinning with excitement. “My first experience with Tech N9ne was – Mike Saunders, who is my business partner, he introduced me to him and I shook his hand and then he smelled so good that I started blushing (laughs). I was like,’Oh my God, I can’t even take it!’
I got to go up in the green room with Grasher and everyone and that’s when they were like, ‘Okay, sing!’ So I sang the hook to the song ‘Fameus’. I sang that for Tech and everyone was kind of like ‘Okay…okay you can sing…whatever.’ Then Tech started telling me about some of the songs – because I think in his head he was like, ‘Okay, this girl can sing. Cool!’ He showed me this joint that him and Eminem were supposed to be working on and later on I got the opportunity to rap for him, and from there he was like, ‘Oh shit!’ He didn’t expect ANY of it and I didn’t expect him to love me as much as he did right away.”
Love her he did. Not long after meeting with the rapper/singer, Tech would go on Twitter and break Angel’s music to all 300K of his followers:
http://t.co/51jjbjgCLw I’m tryin to work with this muh fucka yaw!
— Tech N9ne (@TechN9ne) May 6, 2013
“So I just got a Twitter last year and probably had 300 followers before I met Tech N9ne. I kid you not, as soon as he tweeted out my link the first day I got like 80 followers. I was like ‘What is going on?’ The first thing he tweeted out was ‘Fameus’. It was after that freestyle video because he was like ‘I need you to do that same shit you did for me, but on a video.’ So we did that and I sent it and it got like 1,500 views overnight. I was like ‘Whoa! Slow down guys, you don’t even know who I am!’ He tweeted ‘Fameus’ and that got like 2,000 listens. I was like ‘Wow!’ Then from my site, it got like 300 downloads.
Crazy though. I felt like I didn’t deserve to encroach on other people’s turf. Then I met Tech and he was like ‘What the fuck are YOU doing, not putting things out?’ So Mike and I came up with the two songs every Tuesday. That came out and people just loved it. So, it’s been crazy – crazy, nerve-wracking, a little stressful, and harder work than I’ve had to do before and I like that because I’m busy and I would rather be hectic and working towards something than be like ‘Oh, I’m chillin,’ and not doing shit. I love it. I love the Technicians and I’m glad that they love me.”
Truth be told, Angel makes it hard not to love her. If her talent doesn’t catch you right away, her booming personality most certainly will. “I love rapping about sex, ” she exclaims as other patrons turn around from their tables. Her smile only grows larger when she realizes the reaction she’s gotten. “No, I do though. That’s a real answer. I do like rapping about sex because that’s a big part of everyone’s life. It’s a big part of my life, it’s a big part of your life, I’m sure. I just think it’s how you do it.”
Residing on the Southside of the city, Angel’s environment could paint the picture of a grittier lifestyle than that of the suburbanites that surround her this afternoon. The reality is, she probably has a lot more in common with them than anyone would realize. At one point she expresses her love for country star Toby Keith, pointing at his popular bar located just across the way. “I didn’t grow up on hip hop, I grew up on the Beastie Boys and Bon Jovi and Bruce Springsteen,” she recalls of her musical upbringing. “Those were all the people that I listened to. I mean obviously some hip hop, some R&B, but I never listened to rap growing up.”
Drawn to the arts, Angel took an interest in writing poetry and singing from a very young age. Relegated to the back of singing groups, her voice would always break out from the pack, making her the inescapable center of attention. Later as a slam poet, her fascination with words and their effect on people would lead her to hip hop. “I have a homie named Solar, he’s a rapper, he’s been trying to break into his own. Two years ago he was like ‘What are you doing here all the time? Why are you always just sitting around listening?’ I was like, ‘I think I want to be a rapper!’ (Laughs) He said, ‘No dude, no…but maybe.’ So I started writing my own little rhymes and then one day I said, ‘Let me write these writtens for this cypher’ and I started spitting writtens in freestyle cyphers and people used to think it was hot. I’d be like, ‘Those are freestyles!’ Then I started freestyling for real.”
That ambition to freestyle sharpened Angel’s words as she soon found herself looking to prove she was every bit of an emcee as any male counterpart. Notorious for being a rough town for a rap artist to break into, Chicago wasn’t immediately receptive to Angel’s come-up. “If you don’t know somebody that knows somebody who knows somebody else, then you’re probably going to have a tough time”, she says. “For a long time I felt like I wasn’t really moving. I am very hard on myself. I’m a very hard critic – I’m my worst critic. I judge myself harshly and for a while I was just like, ‘I’m putting out music. No one is liking it.’
There’s a lot of female ‘femcees,’ as the guys like to call us. I still think it’s kind of hard because you’re expected to do a lot. You’re expected to do just as much as the guys, but better, so if I came out being myself and being pretty, that’s not enough, of course. But if I just rap, like something slow, they would be like, ‘Okay, she’s doing the same thing as all these other guys are doing.’ For example, I know that right now on my Soundcloud you’re going to get each mood from me. Maybe not every single one of my moods, but you’re getting a lot of how I’m feeling when I’m writing those songs. I just got this beat from Martin $ky. It’s probably, in my opinion, one of the rawest beats I’ve heard – it literally makes me cry.”
Self-admittedly an emcee for only two years, Angel’s determination defines her. Following her meeting with Tech N9ne in Chicago, Angel and company headed to the middle of the map, Kansas City, MO, for a weekend visit with Strange Music. Coinciding with Tech N9ne’s homecoming show at the Midland Theatre in downtown KC, Angel also spent time at the Strange Music compound and was treated to a firsthand look at the inner-workings of the independent juggernaut. The trip left her with a lasting impression.
“Kansas City is going to be like my second home and I know it already,” she says with sincerity. “The reason I say that is because I had never been to Kansas City prior to meeting Tech N9ne. Being able to kind of be in his world when I went down there was, I would say, for one – it was an honor and it was a mind blowing experience because I got to see the work that goes into creating Tech N9ne and creating a tour or a video shoot or social media. I got to meet all the video guys, I got to meet Ryan, he was raw. I got to hang out with CES Cru and freestyle with them. I got to sit with Rittz and Brotha Lynch. Those are lifetime experiences that nobody else that I know has, so Kansas City is always going to be a place in my heart because that’s where technically it started. That’s where I’m getting the push from. I gotta make some new sisters down there too!”
In the weeks that followed, Tech N9ne would continue to tweet Angel’s music to his fans, going so far as to express his interest in making her the first female artist on Strange Music:
— Tech N9ne (@TechN9ne) June 8, 2013
“It was basically everything that I’ve been hoping that he was thinking, he basically said it. For me, it made my heart double-time, it made my pulse speed up,” she says in excitement. ” I was like ‘This is now a real option. This is a real option for me. Something that I’ve wanted for so long and have been working towards so hard is within reach.’ It’s with someone that I idolize for one and who I consider to be one of the best in the game.
There is not any other label in the industry that is putting out content that is as heavy as theirs and and doing it skillfully. That’s what I want to be a part of. I want to be able to put out good content that will connect with people, but do it in a way that people are like ‘Damn, you did it that way?’ Because I know when I hear some beats I’m thinking, ‘I would’ve approached it a whole different way,’ but everyone’s not going to do that. Strange is going to do that. You’re never going to know what to expect.”
Angel’s crash landing in Strangeland has already had a profound impact on her approach to music. In a landscape filled with forgettable content, she hopes to make a difference. “From being around Strange, what I’ve noticed is they give a lot of themselves to their fans and they give it to them as people, not just as their fans. Not like, ‘Okay, you’re buying a record from me to increase my net profit.’ It’s like, ‘This is who I am and you’re relating to me in some way.’
So, what’s the one song featuring Krizz Kaliko? I’m trying to think of the name of it”, she says, visibly stumped. “‘Dysfunctional’, that’s a touchy song! I’m sure that was a hard song for him to write, but I’m sure other people feel the exact same way. So why not just tell people about experiences that I’ve had for myself? I’ve gone through a lot of shit. I used to self-mutilate myself because that’s just the way I got everything out. Other people do that, everywhere. That’s a fear I have that my sister might do, or my brother might do. I want to share that with people. That’s shit that we go through but it doesn’t mean that it’s okay. We have to grow from it and learn from it and become different people. If I did the same shit to myself that I did when I was 16, 17 years old, I wouldn’t of grown. I helped people get through things. I do want to save the world, but someone told me once ‘You gotta save your neighborhood first, and your home, and your block before you can save the world. You gotta save yourself.'”
The end result of Angel Davanport’s surprise performance for Tech N9ne at the House of Blues is a coveted spot on his upcoming album, Something Else, as the Chicago spitter teams with the Kansas City King and The Game for the rugged “Priorities”.
The album, which is slated for a July 30th release, also features Kendrick Lamar, B.o.B, Wiz Khalifa, Cee Lo Green, Serj Tankian, and many more.
And although her appearance on Something Else has Angel more than thrilled to show the world her talent, it’s a hopeful place at the Snake and Bat table that ultimately keeps her focused. “I’m going to tell you where I want to go, I want to go to Strange. That’s what I WANT to do”, she says smiling at her business partner. “That’s, in my honest opinion, because – I don’t want to label myself as a ‘conscious rapper’, but I love being able to talk about whatever I want and people still fuck with that. If I decide I WANT to be a fucking cannibal like Brotha Lynch Hung, then I can and no one is going to be like, ‘You can’t rap about that shit.’ Whereas if I wanted to go to like a major then it would be like, ‘Ehhh…well you can’t really rap about eating women or eating men…that’s not okay.’
I think it’s the comfort for me. I want to do music obviously for a long time, the next ten to fifteen years I want to be in the game for sure. I want to have a company. I want to own corporations. I want to be like the female Jay-Z in a sense. So…you just gotta do what’s right for you right? I want to do what’s right for me and what’s right for Strange (laughs).
Just kidding though, I do want to fuck with Strange though, because I love them niggas.”
-Interview by Victor Sandoval, Strange Music Inc.
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