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Ahead of huge concert, Rhymesayers pledges to take on more female acts

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Just a few days before its massive 20th Anniversary Concert at Target Center, Minneapolis hip-hop label Rhymesayers Entertainment has responded frankly to criticism from one of its former artists about the lack of female acts on the bill.

Psalm One, the first and only female solo rapper to have been signed to the label in its history, gave an interview to CityPages last week in which she aired several grievances she had with the label, through which she released an album in 2006.

As well as taking issue with how it handled her career, Psalm One – real name Cristalle Bowen – chastised Rhymesayers for its underrepresentation of women both on its label and at Friday's concert, concluding: "It'd nice to have a few vaginas on stage."

On Tuesday, Rhymesayers CEO Brent "Siddiq" Sayers responded to Psalm One's broadside through a post on the label's Facebook page.

He is adamant that his label had done everything in its power to help the rapper's career, but the response from audiences and subsequent album wasn't as big as they'd hoped.

He also noted that several female performers would be involved in Friday's concert, saying that the acts picked for the highly-anticipated show were selected based on the positive personal relationships they've had with them over the past two decades.

But, he does go onto concede that women are underrepresented at a label that Forbes Magazine argues has released "the best and most important underground rap of the era," as well as in the wider hip-hop and rap genres.

"As president of Rhymesayers, I didn’t fail Psalm One. If I’ve failed anyone, I failed my daughter, my nieces, all of the women we work with and our women fans who deserve to see themselves consistently represented in our life’s work. It’s not easy to swim against the current and be the exception in a male dominated culture. It takes an intentional commitment and a consistency that I haven’t prioritized enough. I accept the challenge and welcome the reminder to make it more of a priority going forward. My people and I can do better.

He goes on to promise to "shift my approach" toward taking women on at his label, and notes that they have increased the number of female acts at its Soundset Festival in recent years.

"Looking at the lack of women artists on our label, it’s clear that I have to recognize it as a priority and shift my approach." he said. "If these voices aren’t found through these relationships I commit to going out and finding them."

"In the coming weeks, I’ll be reaching out to artists, leaders and community members to explore how Rhymesayers can better serve our community. I look forward to building something healthy with genuine people."

There are still some upper level tickets available for Rhymesayers 20, which can be purchased here.

You can also read more about 20 years of Rhymesayers in this lengthy interview its founders gave to Forbes, and this week's City Pages cover story.

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