Queen of the Dot: Rebecca Dawn gears up for her KOTD debut [Interview]
Calgary, AB – Calgarian MC, Rebecca Dawn, makes her KOTD debut tonight during the freestyle battle tournament in Calgary at Ten Nightclub, as part of the King of the Dot Champions Tour show. Dawn is known for her feisty solo rhymes, as well as her role as an MC in the local ContraVerse crew. After making her mark on the scene at the Freestylimpics in March 2013, Rebecca Dawn is ready to take her chops to the next level– that is, freestyling it up with the KOTD guys. HipHopCanada caught up with Dawn to chat about her role as a female battler, her favourite KOTD performers, and more. Check out our exclusive interview after the jump.
Rebecca Dawn: Q&A
Interview conducted by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada
HipHopCanada: So have you ever actually participated in KOTD before?
Rebecca Dawn: I have never battled in the KOTD league before. But I have been out to support [fellow] ContraVerse crew member, Twizzie, as he has battled his way up the ranks over the past couple years. So I understand the culture. I have battled in Battle Tactics, Beat Street West and the Freestylimpics— which is freestyle battle to a beat. That’s what I’ll be doing tonight at KOTD.
HipHopCanada: What do you anticipate it being like, from a female standpoint?
Rebecca Dawn: On one hand, it’s a very misogynistic sport in the heat of the battle because the guys say the most disgusting things to you. But the flip side of that coin is they show a lot of love and support off-stage. If you have the right attitude, then you know that anything goes in a battle and the art of war is ugly. So you can embrace that and have a lot of fun. After the battle, it’s one big community of people who just want to flex their skills and party. It’s all good.
HipHopCanada: Word. So what got you interested in Calgary’s battle scene?
Rebecca Dawn: Battle is an essential part of MC culture, and I have immense respect for the roots of hip-hop. When I moved to Canada from Mexico in 2010 one of the first things I did was connect with some local MCs and start training for a battle. I had my own hip-hop crew in Campeche, Mexico. So I wanted to hit the ground running in Calgary. That’s actually how ContraVerse formed: out of training with Twizzie and Rubix for Battle Tactics Ate. We had such good chemistry in freestyle practice, we just decided to start doing shows together. I’d say Rubix has taught me more about the art of freestyle than anyone I know. He’s sick.
HipHopCanada: What does being a femcee mean to you?
Rebecca Dawn: Being a femcee means being active and capable in many areas. Everything I do is on fire with the drive to succeed—no one can tell me I can’t do it. Living like a femcee means independence and empowerment, together with [a] sense of community and collaboration. You could compare the “femcee” to the “Earth Mother” or “Goddess” archetype where you can be a force of destruction, but also a force of creation. To me, it’s really important to work with youth and to volunteer in the community and give back with our music. So I work with three different organizations in YYC – Global Fest Urban Arts programs, Calgary Young Offender’s Centre “Bouce Back” program and Freed Artist Society. That’s bringing the art form full circle because we share it with the next generation. And to me, that’s hip-hop. Other female rappers in the city may not agree with what I say. They’ll have their own definition. That’s cool. If you like my style, let’s work together. If you think I’m wack, let’s battle. Either way, hip-hop wins every time.
HipHopCanada: What are some roadblocks you’ve faced as a female in the hip-hop scene, and how have you overcome them?
Rebecca Dawn: I haven’t noticed any roadblocks – I guess if they were there I just demolished them with my momentum. I would say the scene in YYC is very supportive of female rappers. You feel the vibe from the crowd when you get on stage – you’re something special and unique [that] they haven’t seen before. So they are curious and they want to see you succeed. Well, maybe they’re skeptical at the start. But if you bring a solid skill set, it’s not hard to win them over. I was able to link with the Girls on Decks crew when I first got to Calgary, which is Canada’s longest-running all-girl DJ collective. They have a roster of femcees, including myself and Politique Queen. We’ve done some crazy shows together, and raised money for women’s charities along the way. If you’re a new female rapper and you’re thinking of trying it – just go for it.
HipHopCanada: Who are you looking forward to going up against tonight?
Rebecca Dawn: My debut as a battle rapper was Battle Tactics Ate in 2011. And I shocked everyone by making it to the final round on my first shot, only to get crushed by veteran Matt Daley (who took the title). That was a big lesson, because he had superior stamina and crowd control at that time. I learned a lot from battling him. So it was a good experience, even though I lost. I have been working on my skills and hoping for a rematch.
HipHopCanada: Do you have a favourite or most memorable KOTD battle?
Rebecca Dawn: Some of the guys who impress me most, live, are Chedda Cheese, Matt Daley, EdWORDS, Wizeguy and New’L. They have different styles but they’ve all stood out to me during my time in Calgary. Plus Daley crossed over and battled at Freestylimpics. Which was awesome. Obviously Twizzie is my favourite. That’s why I crew with him. I think his Flip Top battles are dope because it’s inspiring to see someone from YYC get out internationally and make an impact. Plus, his delivery style is so entertaining and fresh. I would say all Twizzie’s battles are my favourite.
HipHopCanada: Which local performances are you looking forward to seeing?
Rebecca Dawn: I’m a huge Eazy G fan so I’m really stoked about his beatbox battle. He also performed at Freestylimpics. So that makes us family.
HipHopCanada: You’ve recently teamed up your ContraVerse crew with the guys of Jazzlib Collective for the Elevated Etiquette Open Mic night at Cafe Koi. Can you tell us a bit about it?
Rebecca Dawn: Elevated Etiquette was conceived as a supportive space for new artists to connect and build up their skills in a judgment-free environment. It’s a training ground for the Freestylimpics, which is an annual competition that ContraVerse and the Jazzlibs host every March. Freestylimpics is different from KOTD because it’s freestyle to beats dropped by a live DJ. Some people think that “freestyle” and “battle” are the same thing, so they are afraid to try freestyling for the first time. Because they think they’ll get dissed. Elevated Etiquette is a place for us to show cypher culture to new artists and invite them to join in. It’s perfectly okay to make mistakes on the open mic. It’s part of growing. You need a safe place to do that. We also have a featured performer for every edition of Elevated Etiquette, who is someone more established in the scene. So it’s also a place to learn and get inspired. We throw down at Cafe Koi on the last Friday of every month at 8 p.m.
HipHopCanada: Any last words for the HipHopCanada readers and your fellow KOTD battlers?
Rebecca Dawn: Thanks [to] Sketch Menace for the opportunity. Much respect to all the competitors—just much gratitude. And let’s turn this party out.
Photography and article by Sarah Sussman for HipHopCanada