Tairrie B, who returns to rap following a two-decade detour into rock with a new rap album, has been called a pioneer for paving the way for the current generation white female rappers like Iggy Azalea, who was born the year that Tairrie B burst onto the national rap scene. That was 1990 when she was signed by Eazy-E who released her debut solo album The Power Of A Woman on his Ruthless Records imprint Comptown Records, which had major distribution through MCA. Her early 90's debut album's contributors included such heavy hitters as Eazy-E (of course), Schoolly D, Everlast, The D.O.C., and Dr. Dre, each of whom had small cameos. Originally, Eazy suggested a last track (traditionally a posse cut) called "I Ain't Yo Bitch" and having Ice Cube or The D.O.C. pen with Dre producing. How that would have gone down was that the guys in N.W.A would each have a verse calling the female artist a "bitch" with the song's target shooting back a closing retort. Reportedly, Tairrie B did not approve the song concept or the idea of Dr. Dre having the final word in the studio. That led to behind the scenes conflicts that, in turn, led to her writing her own last song that she titled "Ruthless Bitch." In the updated, self-empowering track, she took the word "bitch" and flipped the script by defining it as "B.I.T.C.H" meaning "Being In Total Control of Herself." Her goal was to replace the negative stigma associated with the word and turn the tables. Not surprisingly, not all were happy with her changes. One unhappy party was Dr. Dre, who she would run into at an after party for the Grammy's at which he reportedly physically assaulted her. She would go on to re-record the track changing the verse about Dre to include the line: "World class you got no class, So when they said let you produce me, I said I'll pass. As for the Grammy's, I'll put that on the shelf...It takes a punk motherfucker to play himself, Your best shot was weak, I didn't need stitches...Get this straight, I ain't one of your bitches! You cartoon gangsta, I'm calling your bluff...Hitting a woman, that makes you real tough!"
Unlikely as it might seem for a white female to hold her own and fit in with Compton's notorious gangsta rap pioneer Eazy-E's Ruthless family, Tairrie B did fit in. And she did by simply being who she was and not fronting but rapping. While many of her contemporary female rappers tended to only adapt a street fashion, she rocked street ware as well as dressing up in her take on classic styles. And as for the color of her skin at a time when being a white female rapper was not a common thing, Tairrie never embraced it as she embraced hip-hop but would usually point out that she is actually Italian.
"Yo! Compton. Am I white enough for you?" she asked jokingly, on the Schooly D-produced track "Anything You Want." She then raps on the QD3-produced "Murder She Wrote," "I'm white so believe the hype," and slaps label boss Eazy E across the face in the video as she kidnaps and threatens to kill him. For those who automatically jumped to the assumption that she must be sleeping with Eazy-E to get signed to his prestigious label, she shut down that theory from jump, recording a track with Eazy that confronts the topic. Eazy prompts her to "show em who's Ruthless." She tells him "Yo! Eazy, everybody thinks I'm rockin' you and that's why I got a record deal," and Eazy-E replies, "Hell naw she wouldn't even give me the p*****." Pproducer Schoolly D chimes in "Word!" just to drive the point home.
Just months after her debut album was released, Tairrie was pulled from MCA Records by Eazy due to politics and promotion issues with the label. Unhindered, she returned to the recording studio to begin production on her follow-up second album with West Coast producers Julio G, Tony G, The Baka Boys, Rhythm D, and Meech Wells, as well as recording a track back East with Cheryl (Salt) James of Salt 'N' Pepa. Initially intended for release in 1992, her second album Single White Female was not released because, the artist claimed, she did not submit it to a label but shelved it, instead forming the new rap metal band Manhole. In more recent times, the artist has posted Single White Female for free online.
It took a few years but Tairrie B finally got out of her contract with Eazy-E in 1995 - just weeks before his death. By then she had long changed her musical direction, a career switch that she credits Ice-T for. "I have actually been screaming in metal bands for the past 20 years," she laughed last month upon the release of the first single and video ("Beware The Crone") off the forthcoming album, Vintage Curses, which will be released as a free full-length download in August. Vintage Curses may be Tairrie B's first hip-hop album in two decades, but it is by no means the first release in that time. As a rock artist she has been very active and has spent the last 15 years in the group My Ruin along with her husband/guitarist Mick Murphy recording tracks like "Ready For Blood" off the band's 2008 album Throat Full Of Heart. Her return to rap appeared to begin in 2010 when she, as a fun diversion under the name Death Work Professionals with her husband and Josh Lynch, recorded a cover of the Ice Cube/Dr. Dre track "Natural Born Killaz."
She says that this year was the year she deliberately chose to return to rap. It's partly because she celebrated a milestone birthday, and the fact that the rap return album is also an exercise in getting her writing creative juices flowing and help her with content for the autobiographical book that she has just started writing that will re-examine her early years with Eazy-E and Ruthless. The book will mention, but only briefly, her "fifteen minutes" with the female dance group Bardeux with whom, as a short-lived member, she released the 12" dance single "Three-Time Lover" in 1987. Tairrie B described her forthcoming return to rap album as a sample-heavy recording that takes it back to her hip-hop roots with a classic old school West Coast influence. In advance of this new album, and that forthcoming autobiographical book, Tairrie B talked with the Amoeblog about her career in the interview that follows below.
Amoeblog: What qualities (if any) do you see heavy metal and rap music sharing?
Tairrie B: Rebellion and a musical lifestyle. Much like hip hop, heavy metal is a counter culture that not everyone can relate to. There is a certain consciousness, frustration and emotion surrounding both genres and for the authentic artists in each, a certain catharsis. Metal purists are much like hip-hop loyalists in terms of elitism when it comes to their music. I found this out early on in my career when I chose to change my path. Coming from the hip-hop world, I was not openly accepted at first. I think many people were skeptical and rightly so. I had to work hard, pay my dues and develop myself as a vocalist. I cut my teeth in metal and over the years I grew as a performer and lyricist. I’m sure there will be people on both sides who will question my intentions behind recording a new rap album and wanting to re-open that door as well. At the end of the day music is the great connector and you have to do what you feel you need to do as an artist to nourish your soul and keep it sacred. Inspiration comes from within and you should feel free to follow your muse wherever it takes you. Passion is something both genres have in common from the fans who listen to the artists who create.
Amoeblog: After being purely a rock/metal artist for so many years but now returning to rap/hip-hop to record an album, how does the writing and recording process compare between the two?
Tairrie B: With My Ruin, my husband/guitarist Mick Murphy creates the music and produces our albums. Most of the time we will discuss the arrangement and he will demo the songs for me to write my lyrics around. Sometimes I demo my vocals and live with them a while and other times I just go in and lay the take and that’s that. We’ve made nine My Ruin albums and work really well together in the studio. In writing Vintage Curses, I wrote to the music and without. Some songs began as poems with my constructing the verses alone without music and we built the tracks around the lyrics from various ideas I had. Others were written after we created the music first. It was really about what felt natural and allowed me to flow. I had a definite vision for the album and wanted it to have heavy beats with a classic Golden Era feel and sensibility to it which is something you really don’t hear much of in music today. Mick and I co-produced the majority of the songs and I asked two longtime friends and producers (Josh Lynch and Joel Stooksbury) who we had worked with on the last three My Ruin albums to create a couple tracks with us as well. The guys were all very open to my ideas and understood what I was going for musically which was great. Mick played live drums on all but one song and also added some live guitar & bass which brought an underlying heaviness to the album. I used a lot of samples because I wanted it to have that old school vibe which is what I grew up on and where my love of hip hop originated. I was raised on seventies classic rock and soul so I also wanted to incorporate a bit of that into my music. I took my time creating the album and was very thoughtful about every nuance. Including vocal samples. I wanted to make something timeless that I could look back on in ten years and feel proud of without any regrets. The main difference between the two genres in terms of the recording process is that my rap album is more reflective of me as a solo artist and producer because the musical ideas are mainly coming from me, where with My Ruin they come from Mick.
Tairrie B "Beware The Crone" (2015)
Amoeblog: Of all the songs on Vintage Curses which one is the meaningful personally to you and why?
Tairrie B: This is not an easy question for any artist to answer because each song has its own personal story behind it and a life of its own. I prefer to think of my new album as a whole because it represents the journey back to my roots, which in itself is very meaningful to me. Having said this, there is one track which reflects the main sentiment behind creating the album and that is “Spirit Queen”. It was written as homage to the Triple Goddess and her sacred feminine aspects in threefold. Within this track, I translated the 3 stages of my career as a musical transformation from my early days in hip hop through my years spent in rock, to my return to hip hop. It is a look back on the past bringing it full circle to present day within three verses, while waxing poetic and taking on the personas of Maiden, Mother, and Crone.
Amoeblog: Specifically what would you like to accomplish with the release of this new album?
Tairrie B: I have already accomplished it. I wanted to give myself a special birthday present to represent a milestone in my life and I’ve done that. This album was a long time coming and I did it for the love of the art. It’s basically a prelude to my upcoming book and hopefully it will get people excited to want to read it.
Tairrie B "Murder She Wrote" (1990)
Amoeblog: When you connected with Eazy-E it was at a time when he and N.W.A had so much power and influence, and it was a very exciting time for West Coast rap which was taking over. How was it all for you as a young woman in the music biz?
Tairrie B: It was exciting, fun and frightening to some degree. It was many things depending on the situation but mostly, it was a learning experience. Yes, N.W.A had a lot of power at that time. They were also going through a great deal of inner turmoil which I believe stemmed from their manager Jerry Heller, who I was not greatly fond of myself back then. Eazy was the first person who truly believed in and backed me. He signed me, but along with that, he also cosigned me which was a pretty crazy thing for him to do, all things considered. I think he was ahead of his time and in many ways, so was I. I view the music industry very differently today than I did when I was new to the business. I am no longer wide eyed and naÃ¯ve about what goes on behind the scenes. Back in the early 90’s, I had to kick down a few walls in both the hip-hop and rock worlds in order to make my mark. These days I’m just doing my own thing, in my own way and if people dig it, cool. If not, fuck ‘em. I don’t have time for the haters and I’ve got nothing to prove to anyone!
Tairrie B "Ruthless Bitch" (1990)
Tairrie B "Swingin' Wit "T"" (1990)
Amoeblog: When you got out of rap in favor of rock - were you tired of rap music or tired of just the rap music industry?
Tairrie B: I think I was just burnt on all the bullshit behind the scenes. I feel the same way about metal at the moment and that’s another reason I am taking a break from touring with my band. Back then, it was a constant struggle dealing with former N.W.A manager Jerry Heller, for myself and my management. He helped run Ruthless Records and I believe I was the only artist on the label, he did not manage. This led to a lot of conflicts. There were things that happened to me which really changed my perspective on certain people I was associated with in the industry and my love for the beauty of the music was being overshadowed by the ugliness of the business. It’s a dirty world and it hasn’t changed much except for the fact that artists are becoming more aware, independent and learning to do it for themselves which I respect. Things began to get to a breaking point for me while I was in the studio mixing my second album Single White Female. I just wasn’t happy. I went to see my then boyfriend’s band play a show at Foundations Forum in LA and happened to catch Ice-T’s performance with his newly formed metal band which I had no idea about until that night. I've always admired his talents as a rapper and prolific lyricist but it was seeing him perform and control the crowd with Body Count in 1992 that had a real life changing effect on me. I was about to turn in my newly recorded album to Ruthless Records but when I woke up the next day I remember feeling as though I had a revelatory experience and decided to change my path musically to incorporate a live band. Everyone thought I was nuts, including my boyfriend but I felt the calling. This didn't sit well with Jerry Heller, or Eazy who had a different vision for my career but once I had made up my mind, there was no turning back. It happened very fast and I founded my first band Manhole soon after. Had I turned in my album as planned, I may have had a bigger career as a rapper and possibly been the first white female to break worldwide but who knows where that would have left me in the end? I believe everything happens for a reason and I made the right choice at the time.
Tairrie B & Eazy-E with production by Schoolly D (1990)
Amoeblog: What was the biggest misconception that the general public had of Eazy-E as an artist and/or a person? And how were your dealings with him over time?
Tairrie B: My personal dealings with Eazy were good for the most part. We argued about a few things here and there but it was always worked out. We had a business relationship and a mutual respect. I didn’t know him on a really intimate level. I knew him as my boss and the head of my label. I’m not sure what the biggest misconceptions might be about Eazy. He was who he was and he was always cool to me which I appreciated. I have a few interesting stories and never before seen photos which I plan to share in my book.
Amoeblog: No doubt your future book will touch upon that story out there that Dr. Dre physically attacked you. But in the meantime can you confirm first that is a true story and, if so, what really went down?
Tairrie B: Yes, this is true. It happened at an after party for the Grammy Awards in 1990. Eazy was not present. Over the years I have been asked about this incident on many occasions. I've touched on my early days in hip-hop within various interviews for rock magazines but never really shared too much because I knew I would be writing a book someday and wanted to save my story. The Internet is filled with a lot of misinformation about my personal history which has spawned various rumors in regards to my career. One particular rumor was actually started by Jerry Heller with his 'recollection' of this now infamous incident which he claims to have witnessed take place with someone else in his book Ruthless - A Memoir but his version of the story is factually untrue. The incident was public and witnessed by many people including my manager and DJ at the time who were both with me. Jerry Heller was not at the event. He actually found out what went down the next day from us. Rather than telling the truth about the attack in his book, for whatever reason, he made up some a crazy story about myself and another female artist signed to the label named Michel’le that never happened. No idea why. It’s time to finally set the record straight about this assault as well as many other events surrounding that period of my life.
Tairrie B Vintage Curses teaser (2015)
Amoeblog: Do you think your book, when published, will be perceived as a celebrity tell-all tale or more of a music industry insider's autobiography?
Tairrie B: First and foremost I hope it will be perceived as an interesting read. I have wanted to write a book for a while but it’s a huge undertaking and truthfully I wasn’t ready until now. I want it to be a memoir about my experiences in the hip-hop world which I think are very unique being that I was the first white female rapper, and signed to Eazy-E’s label. I also want to include many photos and memorabilia which I have kept from back in the day as well as diary pages, poetry, art and lyrics. Hip-hop was my first true love and through the years I've stayed in tune with the culture and a fan of the music even while having my feet firmly planted in the underground world of rock. As I began to revisit my past through suitcases filled with photos and various writings, I began to realize that in order for me to embark on this book, I would need to take a break from screaming in my metal band and really immerse myself on another level in order to do it justice. This is where the idea to record Vintage Curses was conceived. I've been recording and playing heavy [metal] music for over 20 years and in that time many journalists and fans of my band who are also into hip hop often ask me if I would ever be open to making another rap album. Although I have thought about it a lot, I never felt the timing was right until now because I've always been so busy with my band. Before our last headline tour in the UK with My Ruin (August 2014), I decided it was time to take a break from touring and focus on making my new album and my first book which I am in the early stages of writing. Not only did the process help to invoke many memories for me as an author but it has also re-birthed me as an artist. I feel a new sense of self and much more confident with my rapping these days because I've experienced so much since I released my first album. I feel like I've come full circle and I’m really excited about sharing my new album with the world.
Death Work Professionals "Natural Born Killaz" (2010)
Amoeblog: How was it being a female rapper in a male dominated world back when you started out? And from what you see nowadays with the (still minority) female hip-hop artists are things better or worse in terms of how women are treated in the hip-hop/rap industry?
Tairrie B: It was tough. It definitely wasn’t easy and I’m sure it still isn’t for many women. There is a similar misogyny in both the metal and hip hop worlds which has sadly not changed much over the years. The entertainment industry has always been very hard on woman from ageism to sexism to body image but on the flip side of that, there are those women who, rather than empower themselves and other women with strong images and messages in their music, they prefer to perpetuate the narcissistic, over sexualized pop culture stereotypes that dominate the media in both hip-hop and metal. I have addressed this topic on a few My Ruin albums and I address it on my new album with the song “Ad Nauseam”. I am just sick of seeing everyone’s ass and I can’t be the only one who feels this way. Most music videos today are so raunchy, they are borderline porn and at some point there has to be a backlash because it’s getting a bit ridiculous. Just last night I was watching a live performance by a female rapper and in one breathe she is telling the crowd to stay in school, get an education and really coming off intelligent, then in the next she is down on the floor, on all fours simulating having sex with a male dancer in 5 different positions and rapping about her ass. I find it sad that women with so much talent and such a huge platform feel the need to reduce themselves to nothing more than sex objects. This has become the norm and what all the young girls have to look at as role models. It’s a shame because women have so much more to offer than this one dimensional image.
Manhole "Put Your Head Out" (1995)
Amoeblog: What made you choose "Beware The Crone" as the first video / single from the new album?
Tairrie B: I wanted to come out strong and this particular track felt very visceral. I turned 50 in January and rather than hiding it, I am embracing it. It was on my birthday that I made the announcement I had recorded a new rap album. Unfortunately, age is often an issue within the entertainment industry. More so for women than men but age is meaningless, it has nothing to do with ability and I have never felt my art came with an expiration date. Yes, I have been here before, but it would be silly to pretend I am the same young, blonde girl I was back in the early 90’s. I look and feel completely different. While some will remember my name, there are many who won’t and they may be discovering my music for the first time. I can only hope people on both sides will listen to my new album with an open mind rather than a pre-conceived notion of what they think I should sound like based on my age or dare I say skin color. Both of which, in my opinion, are irrelevant when it comes to making music. On one hand, calling myself the 'Crone' was done with a wink and a bit of tongue-in-cheek, on the other, I suppose I’m making a statement. Ageism is as real as sexism and racism. The dictionary definition of 'Crone' is an old woman. In some stories, she is seen as disagreeable, malicious, or sinister in manner, often with supernatural associations. A hag archetype. In others she is mystical and symbolizes the last aspect of the Triple Goddess. She represents a rite of passage into an era of wisdom, strength, freedom and personal power. This is how I define it. She is associated with the waning or the dark of the new moon and her color is black. Having spent the past 20 years in underground metal, I can relate. I directed my video and I’m really proud of how it turned out. It has been a while since I recorded a hip hop album, let alone a video with me rapping. Like, the songs themselves, I didn’t want to mimic what so many other women in music seem to be doing at the moment. I’m not a fan of bright colorful imagery or over-the-top sexuality. I wanted there to be a self-empowering, yet dark and magickal quality to the visuals. There is also a lyric video for the song and a new video teaser for the full album about to come out.
My Ruin "Ready For Blood" (from Throat Full Of Heart, 2008)
Amoeblog: Besides Vintage Curses, are there any other projects you are currently involved in?
Tairrie B: Yes, I am a guest artist on the new Teenage Time Killers (TTK) album Greatest Hits Volume 1, which comes out July 31st on Rise Records. It's killer and an honor to be a part of the project! Besides My Ruin, my husband Mick, who is also in The Birds of Satan and Heavy Seventies, co-produced and wrote many of the tracks which he also plays guitar on. It’s a supergroup featuring 20 songs by punk, rock, and metal luminaries such as Jello Biafra (Dead Kennedys) Randy Blythe (Lamb of God), Neil Fallon (Clutch), Dave Grohl (Foo Fighters), Pete Stahl and Greg Anderson (Goatsnake) Aaron Beam (Red Fang), Clifford Dinsmore (Bl’ast!), Nick Oliveri (Bl’ast/ QOTSA), Matt Skiba (Alkaline Trio), Phil Rind (Sacred Reich), Corey Taylor (Slipknot /Stone Sour) Tommy Victor (Prong/ Danzig) Lee Ving (Fear) and Reed Mullin (Corrosion of Conformity) just to name a few. There is also an LA show for TTK being planned for September with many of the artists involved in the album.
Download the new single “Beware The Crone” for free along with her previously unreleased second
album Single White Female via her Bandcamp page where the full album will be posted for free
(also on Soundcloud) mid August. Follow Tairrie online at House Of Capricorn, BigCartel, on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.