M.C. GeGee: The Story of Christian Hip-Hop’s 1st Signed Female Rapper
Last week, Rapzilla introduced many of you Danny D-Boy Rodriguez who is commonly called the first martyr of Christian hip-hop. D-Boy’s legacy after his death in 1990 has shaped the CHH community in many ways without most people even knowing it. His sister Genie Lopez spoke all about her beloved brother’s life and now it’s time to speak on hers. From 1990 through 1997 she was known by the name M.C. GeGee. She wasn’t the first female Christian rapper, but she was the first with a platform. She helped ignite the torch but due to many circumstances couldn’t carry it the whole distance.
“I stumbled into the torch,” said Lopez. “At the time there were a lot of independent artists. Not many Christian labels were taking a chance on artists not considered main stream. Signing Danny was a leap. Signing me was jumping without a parachute. I wasn’t the first female Christian rapper but Frontline said they were the first label to sign a female rapper. I am well aware there were other women out there rapping that were much better than me.”
Genie explained that she hung out with Danny all the time. She wanted to be part of whatever he was doing. When he was in the studio, she’d tag along. She played the drums so Danny would look to her to make the beats while he wrote rhymes.
“Some record executives came through to check the status of where Danny was and they pointed to me and said, ‘We need a girl to do this’. I looked at Danny and said, ‘I write poetry, I’m not a rapper’. He said, ‘Genie, you’ve got beats, you’re a poet, all you have to do is put them together with some attitude’. And I’m like, ‘OK’.”
The plan was to tour together. He told her “Don’t worry Genie, I’ll coach you every step of the way, you’ll be fine’.”
D-Boy started to train GeGee in writing raps by putting the A, B, C’s on a page and going letter by letter rhyming. They had moved from NY to PA to then Dallas when she was in Junior High School. She was losing her East Coast accent.
“He’s like, ‘Don’t lose it!’ He’s giving me words to practice, ‘dawg, not dog’, ‘wAR-ta not water’. He told me to keep the East Coast accent. Our favorite rappers were east coast. Back then if you weren’t east coast you weren’t considered as hard,” she said.
GeGee’s first album, I’m For Real, dropped in 1990 on Frontline Records. Her first foray into music was under Danny’s influence.
While there wasn’t social media to judge her music, most of her issues involved the church.
“I had issues with churches and pastors not wanting a female on stage or asking things like ‘What’s she going to wear?’ It has to be a skirt of such and such length. One place said they weren’t going to have me in their main sanctuary, ‘We’re not going to have a woman on the main stage, we’ll have you outside or in the youth sanctuary’,” she revealed. “There were countless times pastors would apologize to me after a show.”
On other occasions, they even went as far as saying they were going to pay her the rate Danny would get, but when he passed away they would give her half because “You’re not your brother.”
“There really wasn’t anyone out there doing it before me for them to pull from like, ‘Remember when we had that girl?’ I wasn’t trying to be a trailblazer but that’s where I landed. There had to be a first and God decided I could handle it. Even if people didn’t have an appreciation for the quality, it doesn’t take away from the fact that there had never been a female rapper in my shoes or before me in that capacity. I helped break ground without even wanting to.”
She continued, “Then he died and I still had another album to do. I just sat in the studio staring at the speakerphone waiting for him to call to help me write because we used to write that way.”
“Grief is just bizarre. I never knew anything like it. It really can play with your mind and I swore the longer I stared at the speakerphone, it would make him call me. I’m going to see that button light up and that’s gonna be my brother,” Lopez shared. “You should have seen the poor engineer’s faces. I was frozen. So many nights and days saying, ‘If I push this thought hard enough, it’ll change this reality’. I pushed my brain to the brink of insanity because we were so close and to not be there with him when he had surgery and was pronounced dead and put in the morgue as John Doe, I could not live with myself for that.”
Genie says she took any reports, any autopsy notes, and would pour over them night and day. “Night and day, night and day just sweating, trying to push myself into a different reality.”
“I thought, either my brain and mind will break or I can change this. And nothing was happening really,” she said. “One year turned into the next, into the next, into the next…time was passing and I was stuck on October 6th, 1990. I stayed there for years.”
That second album was something she leaned on to keep her out of Dallas. It was really starting to seep through just how unhealthy the situation was becoming for her. Genie became reclusive, wanted to be alone, and yet still did concerts.
“I’m pushing myself because to be on an airplane to California was way easier than being home where it was dark and I had to watch my parents lose their will to live. My mom didn’t want to get up every day.”
In 1991, the second M.C. GeGee album would drop, …And the Mission Continues. The record had none of Danny’s influence, and Genie didn’t feel it was as convincing as the first record. She was finished with rap.
“He was like Eminem is about writing – his journals were nonstop. I never professed for that to be the case for me. When something at its root is not your passion it’s going to fade away. I realized over time the thing I was passionate about was telling people about Christ,” Lopez explained. “I still could speak the truth about him and people came to know the Lord at some of these concerts. Still, I spoke about what he had done in our lives and so if that was helping others, I was passionate about that. Often times I would have them stop the track because I really didn’t want to rap, I wanted to talk. I would tell stories in between and I had always written poetry so I knew how to put that together.”
Genie felt, regardless of D-Boy’s death her time as a rapper would have run its course. “Danny’s absolute passion” was rap, not hers. She said spoken word wasn’t really much of a thing back then.
“Danny had said I’d have to do the ‘rap thing’ for a little while and then get on with doing poetry,” said Lopez. “Right, Danny, people are just going to want me to stand there and read a poem.”
On top of all this turmoil going on within Genie emotionally, she was suffering mentally as well. A year and a half before Danny died, she was in a head-on collision with a drunk driver.
“Now I’m sitting at his funeral with a brain injury,” Lopez admitted. “It was still healing, I was a mess.”
She continued, “Eventually, I had to get through it all so I just learned how to walk with a limp like Jacob. I have both legs but I don’t walk the same.”
“So who am I now?” Lopez asked. “That’s been a long long journey to find out. There are bits I get every year. The reason it was the depth it was is that I had Danny where God should have been. I pictured idols as golden calves like in the Old Testament. I realized I had given him a big part of my heart and soul that I never surrendered to God. When your sanity and peace is in a human that’s mortal, what’s going to happen when they die? You die. I’m planted on solid ground now.”
Genie said you have to come to the point of accepting it and that’s when you can start living again.
“I thought I couldn’t start living until it got better or went away. The first phase was not rooted in reality it was, ‘I’m just going to go back in time and change it’. That didn’t work. The next phase was, ‘I’m just not going to feel this’ and whatever that took, alcohol, sleep, avoidance, or whatever. That didn’t work. The third was absolutely releasing it to God because I truly tried everything in my own power,” she said. “I would have tough conversations with God out at Danny’s gravesite asking ‘How do you expect me to go on? What kind of world do I have without Danny in it?’”
Lopez said that it seemed like a pattern of hers was to hold herself hostage mentally for a while before she believed God to hand something over.
“It’s really a struggle to not want to trust on my own strength. When your world slides from under you in many ways, from ending up in Texas from up North overnight, to the car accident, to then my brother’s murder and not having a healthy model in my dad…trusting God is not always easy,” she revealed. “I don’t start there, but I get there. I’m getting better at it.”
Around four years ago, Genie was finally able to get back to poetry. It was a struggle in the beginning as she wrote them down knowing they’re from God, but would still throw them in the trash. Also, one of the side effects of the crash was memory loss. She had a tough time memorizing lines, and from watching spoken word artists on YouTube – got discouraged because she knew she couldn’t do that.
“I don’t see one of them flipping through papers or anything,” she stated. “Literally memorizing four lines is hard. ‘If I can’t be like that or look like that, this is dumb’.”
One day, the bug just hit her right. She knew this was a poem that needed to be heard by people. She told her husband to find a place for her to share it.
“I did it in a suburb of Dallas on a Tuesday night. We agreed it would probably be dead, which deep down I wanted. Ends up It was packed that night,” she recalled. “I was at the bottom of the entire line up. The guy was like, ‘What’s your name?’ He then announces her by saying, ‘Yeah, some girl, GeGee, Genie something, I don’t know, well come on up’. And there I was.”
She continued, “Danny and I liked Easter eggs. We like to plant things that people don’t expect. Something you’d have to listen closely to catch. My whole Easter egg in that was that I was purposely exaggerating how I was holding on to the papers and even dropping papers and all of that looking out of sorts. My point was, ‘See, you’ve been probably in the back of your mind judging me while I’m up here, thinking, ‘What is she doing?’ Not being able to memorize kept me from this, but tonight I’m at least standing here following my dreams, how about you?’”
*After some digging I may have found the poem*
In that place, they snap to applaud you, but in addition to that, there’s a red velvet rope leading to the stage and people line up to give you hugs to say thank you. She said typically there were only three or four when people got off.
“I couldn’t see because the light was in my eyes the entire time I was up there. Then the guy from the stage comes to hug me and says, ‘I’m sorry I didn’t know your name but there’s a long line of people who want to hug you’ That line went out the door. It was tall, short, black, brown, white, and that’s when I was like, ‘OK God’.”
Unfortunately, Genie says she lost that poem. Also, there are not many photos of her as M.C. GeGee either. She never made a music video, and joked that she rapped during the time of “horse and buggy.” She wasn’t captured on anyone’s smartphone or camera. Unfortunately, if there were any photos of her and even her brother performing, those were lost in a move. However, Genie did have an excerpt from a poem titled, “Who We Are.”
“Sometimes I find myself in a quandary when approaching the subject of grief and Christianity. Some assumed I wore a big fat ‘C’ on my chest as if to say I could hide behind the cross, so I tucked my loss in shame. Holding back tears for fear I’d be rejected for not celebrating his arrival into heaven. I’m just flesh and bones friends. A faith-filled believer but a mortal praying for eternal perspective. I don’t ask for your understanding; I just ask mine be respected. One day you might need to meet my eyes or a stranger that gets it.
Look for the scars, the blatant markers of who we are. Those who forged ahead, sometimes in half but in faith. There’s an innate desire within us for more is not a waste. From ashes to ashes and dust He made me. Raised me. Remade me. Took a whole riddled soul, whispered ‘LIVE!’ He saved me.
Are the bad days erased and pain gone forever? I bare scars but I’m whole. You’ll know by the eyes of others who’ve had the fire of grief graze their souls. Remember the goodbyes are not forever. Until we see them again may we grieve unjudged and together.”
(See another one of Genie’s poems here.)
in 2018, Genie M.C. GeGee Lopez is still out there for the kingdom. She recites her poems and speaks to all sorts of people about grief and God’s healing power. She continues to champion the legacy of her brother D-Boy and is a mother to three children, and now also a grandmother. She’ll never admit it, but her story is just as important as her brother’s. Where he left off, she continued to push forward despite anguishing pain. While her mind said “no,” her heart for touching God’s people said, “Yes.”
Without M.C. GeGee being that first woman on a label and going through the wringer within the church, who knows how the next woman in line would have been received. As she stated, there had to be a first. So on behalf of Christian Hip-Hop, thank you Genie for being faithful to the call.
In the final installment of this article series, we’ll break down the legacy left by D-Boy. There are many who have come thanks to his work in music and in the streets.