How Lauryn Hill prepared Butta P for her journey to ‘The Coronation’
Butta P almost quit rapping before her solo debut project, The Coronation, dropped this summer.
Over the years, stress has come with being a female in male-dominated hip hop. Since 2007, she has released five albums with Rhema Soul, a South Florida-based rap group which she forms with JuanLove and her husband, K-Nuff. But in 2012, stress peaked when someone speculated to Butta P that she was the reason why no one had invited the three-time, Billboard-charting trio on tour with them.
“That totally broke my heart,” she said. “I was like, ‘Are you serious?’ I’m in a group with my husband. Why would me being [a woman] affect the success of my group?”
Nearly a decade earlier, an hour-and-a-half conversation with her favorite artist helped prepare a young, unknown Butta P to face opposition. She has since been that voice for others.
“A lot of these artists who are at the top, they don’t want to help anybody. They think, ‘It’s me vs. everybody. I don’t want anybody to know my secrets,’” Marty of Social Club said. “Your position doesn’t matter to [Butta P]. You could be the smallest guy who’s probably not going to do music to the biggest. She’s always willing to serve. She’s helped us without ever asking for anything.”
‘Do you want some ginger tea?’
Pre-Rhema Soul in the early 2000s, Butta P regularly worked with a producer from Circle House Studios, one of the city’s top studios where Missy Elliott, Trick Daddy and more have recorded. Butta P met numerous celebrities there. But not all of the conversations that she started star stuck ended with her aspiring to be like that artist.
“Some people I met, I would think, ‘Wow, they’re so amazing!’ before then, and when you meet them, they’re just empty vessels,” Butta P, then a young Christian, said. “For me, that part was the learning process. ‘Okay, God. How do I maneuver in this thing? How do I be refreshed in you and still be in this industry?’”
An eight-time Grammy Award-winner with one of the greatest albums in music history helped with this learning process.
When hip-hop legend Lauryn Hill came to record in Miami, a studio manager told Butta P not to talk to her: “She’s very private.” So when Hill walked into the kitchen where Butta P had been sitting alone waiting for her producer, she rose from her seat to leave.
Hill stopped her, though.
“Nah, you can have a seat. You’re cool,” Butta P remembers Hill saying. “I’m just going to make some tea.”
Hill offered to make her a cup. The introduction turned into a conversation about life, faith and music that lasted over an hour. Near the end, Hill had some advice for her.
“If God puts something on your heart, you need to follow what it is that God told you to do,” Butta P remembers her saying. “Don’t ever let anyone else define who you are.”
“It was nothing that I hadn’t heard before,” Butta P said, “but something just clicked that day… That was what completely shifted my whole life. ‘Okay, I already know I’m going to be in a different lane. I’m just going to have to learn how to maneuver in this.’”
In a different lane, and leading
“You don’t belong here,” summed up Butta P’s first experience with Christian hip hop, she said.
Butta P felt like females were less included in the subgenre, and the guess about Rhema Soul’s lack of tour invites only piled on the discouragement. She credited KJ-52 for spending a day with the group to offer words of wisdom, but for the most part, a young Rhema Soul received little outside help.
Out of necessity, the group taught itself the music business. Butta P learned public relations, marketing and social media skills. And, rather than retire, Butta P became what she wished Rhema Soul had for others.
Two of the first artists who Rhema Soul took under its wings were Gabriel Azucena and Martin Santiago. Butta P met Azucena, a 14-year-old producer, at her church. He later brought with him Santiago, who would become an aspiring rapper.
When Rhema Soul started to disciple Azucena, the group didn’t know he would become the Billboard-topping producer today known as Gawvi. When Butta P let Santiago record a mixtape at her home for free, she didn’t know he would become a leader of one of the strongest movements in Christian hip hop, Marty of Social Club.
“They put me on when I was a nobody,” Marty said.
— Gawvi (@GAWVI) February 6, 2015
Rhema Soul organically grew into a mentor for numerous artists in South Florida over the years. In addition, Butta P has been intentional about shepherding younger female artists. Marty said when he recently visited producer D-Flow’s home, Butta P was there on a conference call with several up-and-comers.
“We’ve talked on the phone a few times for a few hours just about how to book shows and what I need to do to build my traveling as an artist to get myself out there,” HillaryJane said. “She used to do the booking for Rhema Soul, so she was giving me all the tips and tricks for the come up.”
“She’s encouraged me to continue, despite adversity,” Angie Rose said, “and shared the struggles she’s faced being a female in Christian hip hop in an effort to encourage me and remind me that it is possible to make a difference in a male-dominated genre and do it with excellence.”
Butta P’s résumé and contribution to Christian hip hop over the previous decade created anticipation for her debut project. The subgenre’s lack of female prominence, which she had combated, increased that anticipation.
“We need a female perspective,” said Thi’sl, who spearheaded the all-female album Gurl Code in 2013. “Everything can’t be a dude perspective … That’s why she’s important. Butta P, being that she’s a vet and she’s seasoned as an artist, she has the support of a lot of big artists.”
Support led to pressure, though, as Butta P wrote The Coronation in 2014.
“Everywhere I went, people were like, ‘When’s your album coming out?’ I really just started taking on so much pressure that I got so discouraged with the project,” she said. “I allowed fear to come in and almost cripple me last year: ‘I don’t think I’m going to be able to do this. This is just too much for me.’”
Butta P had discovered that creating as a solo artist came much different than writing with a group.
“With Rhema Soul, you’ve got three individuals who are coming together. You’ve got three different perspectives — three different types of styles,” she said. “That was different from me going into the solo thing: ‘How do I pull that one side out and make it into a whole?’”
In the studio with Marty and D-Flow last fall, Butta P admitted she felt discouraged and unable to finish a project by herself. The same session, though, D-Flow sent her an instrumental, and she wrote the song that became “No Love” in 15 minutes. After months of writer’s block, she finished the rest of the EP with a renewed confidence.
Butta P released the D-Flow-produced Coronation on June 30, and few Christian hip-hop projects this year have garnered as much support. Marty said he found it fitting, considering how supportive she has been to others.
Nearly a dozen years ago, Butta P not only took a cup of ginger tea from Lauryn Hill, but she also certainly took Hill’s advice.
Download The Coronation for free on Rapzilla.com.