I recently caught up with Symphony and Roxzi of the Baltimore hip-hop group the Get ‘Em Mamis. GEM will have video premier party April 5th at the 5 Seasons for their single “When You See Us” from the Beyond Hamsterdam album.
Aural States- Where are you from in Baltimore?
Roxzi- I’m pretty much from all of Baltimore. You know those people that have certain areas of the city that they primary represent, or come from? I’m just from everywhere. We moved every two years.
Symphony- I’m from Westport. I don’t live up there right now, but that’s where I grew up.
AS- Roxzi, what were some places that you lived in Baltimore?
Roxzi- Well I lived in Park Heights, Yale Heights, Forest Park, Woodlawn, Randallstown, Reisterstown…I’ve lived in West Port, Cherry Hill, Lafayette Terrace, East Baltimore around Moravia. I’m telling you I could go on for days, but that pretty much most of them.
AS- What were the reasons for moving so often?
Roxzi- My mom, I don’t know what it was, but she just liked to change areas. We never really had a specific place that we grew up in, because we would move every year or two. Then the older that I got I would just go live with an aunt, not for any other reason than me just wanting to get away.
My mom, she just moved all the time. I don’t know what it was. I guess she was just trying to keep us safe from being…I don’t know. I think she was just trying to protect us so we didn’t get caught up in certain things.
I can’t believe it myself. Like, when I think about it I can’t believe I lived all those places. But I did.
AS- How did the Get ‘Em Mamis form? I know it came out of your previous group the Plague, but how did that come about?
Roxzi- Pretty much it was a group decision over, how can I say this…
Symphony- …Creative differences, as far as The Plague was concerned. Roxzi and I were more of the same mindset, you know, had the same ideas as far as the future that we saw for the group and what we wanted to happen. So we just kind of separated.
Roxzi- Both sides, Symph and I, and L, the other girl in the group, thought it was mutually beneficial to part ways. But we are still friends, we still talk to her, and we just shot a video with her. We are still friends; it’s just that we thought that this would be best route for us to go.
AS- How did The Plague initially form?
Roxzi- It was kind of crazy. It started out with us all as best friends. It wasn’t like Making the Band. Nobody had to make us. It was just one of those things that kind of happened.
Symph and I were best friends, and I was friends with L. So we all use to hang out and party all the time, and it just kind of came up that we all did music. Like I rapped and Symph rapped, but we didn’t know L rapped. We heard her rap for the first time and we were like “Oh lets bring her in.” So that’s pretty much how it started. We started out as friends who realized we all do music. At first it wasn’t a group, but more of a crew.
Symphony- We wanted to do the opposite of what you see now with a crew of guys with the one token female. So we were a crew of girls with the one token make, which was Rev.
Roxzi- Which is my brother, Rev.
Symphony- And again creative differences, you know. He separated from the crew and we became a…
Roxzi- When he left that’s when the crew turned into a group. Rev left and it was us three and he became a group. But we decided we were never going to have no other guy than him in the crew. So he was always going to be there. But he recently passed away. He was murder last year. Rest in Peace to Rev. Actually, it wasn’t last year, it was ’06. So we won’t be replacing him, he can’t be replaced. He’s irreplaceable like Beyonce.
AS- How did you first start working with Darkroom Productions?
Symphony- They actually reached out to us when they initially started the Hamsterdam project. They just showed us so much love. We kind of dug our feet on the situation and ended up not recording to a Darkroom beat. They just took the song that we had and still put it on the CD, which kind of destroyed their concept. But they still showed us that much love and appreciation…
Roxzi- Not necessarily destroyed the concept, but it was crazy that they decided to still use our song. That’s how much love I think Darkroom had for us. It was like “Ok, you guys aren’t on one of our tracks, but we like you and are going to still put you on the CD.”
AS- What song was this?
Roxzi- It was “Rep Your Set”. It was crazy, because it was this crazy Superman beat. It was a sample of the Superman music. So if you can imagine that with some type of crazy, sick hip-hop bass, or something like that. That was pretty much what that song was. It was really big at the time. We were booked for mostly any show out at that time period, and that was one of our hottest songs at that time.
AS- When you are working on a new song does the beat come first, or the lyrics first, or does it change every time?
Symphony- It changes.
Roxzi- Me, I really like to listen to the beat, because I kind of study the beat. I don’t want to sound crazy or nothing, but when I listen to a beat, I hear words. Say if I’m listening to the hook, that’s usually how I create the hooks for a lot of songs that we do.
So I listen to a song 25, 30, 40, how ever many times it takes until I hear exactly what the beat is giving me. That’s pretty much how I write, but it can go both ways. Sometimes we may be writing with a beat. Sometimes we may just be riding in a car and write, or just outside free styling, and it will become a song.
Symphony- There is no standard. There is no formula.
Roxzi- The formula would be no formula. That’s the best way to put it.
AS- Was it harder to gain credibility as an all female group?
Symphony- Yes. Yes, because female are generally looked at as the understudies in the hip-hop community. The guys pretty much dominated. The time that we came out there weren’t many other female groups.
Roxzi- Actually when we came out there was nobody out in Baltimore, groups or solo acts.
Symphony- Right, there weren’t any other females out. So I think that helped because people were more open to hear us, because we were filling a void. But we still had to prove ourselves because we were young and we were females.
AS- When you wrote songs were you conscience of the need to prove yourselves?
Roxzi- No, not really when writing. It was crazy; it kind of helped us. I think it made us better that people just kind of looked down on us, because it just made us stronger.
We’d go to shows and we’d come and we’d look like we were singers. Like I don’t look like I rap. Nowhere I go would people say that I look like I rap. Like we’d come in dressed up in heels, well not Symphony. She’s the rock star, and she wouldn’t wear heels. People would be like “Oh you’re going to sing?”
It would be an all hip-hop show and they would ask us if we were going to sing. I’d be like “Yea we are going to sing.” We’d tell everyone we sang, and then when we got onstage the look on people’s faces was priceless. We had this energy on stage that was crazy. People would just have this look like “Oh my god, they aren’t singers.” We still tell people we sing sometimes, even though we can’t sing at all.
Symphony- I tell them I tap dance.
AS- When did you both first start rapping?
Roxzi- I first started rapping, when I really started to pursue it, when I was about 11.
Symphony- And I knew I wanted to do it since I was 7. 7-11.
Roxzi- Oh I never thought about that. That is so cool. That is interesting.
AS- So was The Plague the first group you were in, or had you been in other groups?
Symphony- We were doing our thing individually before we were actually in a group.
Roxzi- There was a lot before, but not necessarily a group.
Symphony- Well actually you were in a group.
Roxzi- It wasn’t a group, it was just a label.
Symphony- No, your group.
Roxzi- I had a group?
Symphony- Yea. R. D. M.
Roxzi- Oh yea! I don’t want to talk about that group. It was a little middle school groups, like “Oh I wanna rap.” The other two people, well no, one other person in the group could rap. The group was Rev, myself, and another girl that couldn’t rap at all. No one has ever heard this before and I cannot believe Symphony put me on the spot like this. And I’m not going to tell you what it stands for because it’s so embarrassing. It’s kind of the initials for something, but you don’t have to mention this if you don’t want to.
AS- How would you describe your sound?
Symphony- We’re like hip-rock.
Roxzi- We’re like everything. If you mix ever genre of music together, that’s us.
Symphony- I mean we’re complimented by the Darkroom beats. They use a wide range of instruments. Like things you would never even think about putting into a beat. From there we just go whatever way the beat goes. Sometimes we need them to create something for us. Like say I got this crazy idea for a song, and I need some flutes and bells, and they’ll use it.
AS- How is it working with Darkroom?
Roxzi- It’s really nice working with somebody that you actually like. The relationship that we have built with Darkroom…it kind of built the foundation for greatness, you know what I mean? Because we’ve been working for so long, and been through so much together…I mean they have really helped us. It’s been excellent with Darkroom.
Symphony- They give us complete creative control. They basically are with whatever we want to do.
Roxzi- They trust our creativity and we really appreciate that, because that is hard to find. A lot of times when working with other people they want things done their way. Not to say we can’t follow directions, but it’s good to work with people that allow you to express your creative ability. Then you get the artist, not something that somebody else is telling them they should be.
Symphony- Like a package, something created in a lab.
AS- It seems that Baltimore hip-hop is at a crucial point as far as getting national exposure. What needs to happen to ensure the Baltimore scene blows up for real, and not succumb to hype?
Roxzi- We all need to stick together. Like no matter who is doing the best, or who is not doing so good. We just need to stick together and help each other. If we just do that then we are bound for success, bound for greatness. You can’t stop something like this.
Symphony- You can’t stop a movement.
Roxzi- Especially when it’s this strong. So if we all stick together, no matter who makes it first…I hate to use the term “make it.” But whoever does make it first; we should all support that person. What I think is that the Beyond Hamsterdam project that was just released is the best way for Baltimore to come out. It made everyone come together and stick together. It wasn’t one person’s CD that got distributed nationally; it was the whole city put together. We didn’t have a choice but to stick together, because we are all on the same CD. That was genius to put everyone on one CD.
Symphony- And you know it’s a credible source. It not like it was just put together by just anybody. You have a good name on it, you know HBO. They’re out there pushing it. It’s not like it’s sold out of a trunk of a car. You can actually go in the stores and pick it up, and it’s worldwide.
AS- You’ve talked about trying to grow Baltimore hip-hop nationally, but in what way has the city influenced your music?
Roxzi- Baltimore, of course, has a huge influence on our music. You can’t rap about something you don’t know about, and this is pretty much what we know. We’ve lived here our whole lives.
Symphony- Probably about 55% is influenced by Baltimore, and the rest is influenced by where we want to be. Of course we’re not going to keep rapping about Baltimore this, Baltimore that. We want to branch out on to other things. Dare to dream, you know?
AS- Being so closely connected to The Wire, what happens when the show ends? Were does Baltimore’s reputation go from there?
Symphony- It’s up to the music. That’s why the CD is there. It gets you listening, and then you look forward to hearing more from this artist. And because you can’t get more of the show…we’re basically all that is left of The Wire.
Roxzi- We’ve already moved on. This isn’t it for us. Darkroom is releasing an album called Hamsterdam. It’s going to be nationally distributed. It’s Darkroom and Koch Records actually. We are already moving to the next step. This is just the beginning…trust me.
AS- And what is the new material for that album?
Roxzi- “Cold Summer” will be one of the singles released from the album. “Cold Summer” is…I don’t know if I can give it away.
Symphony- It’s a real feel-good song. It’s icy, we’ll leave it at that.
Roxzi- It’s looking cold for the Summer. That is our next project that we are working on. We are shooting a video for that.
AS- And that is separate from the video being released on April 5th?
Roxzi- Right, this is for new material. That video is for “When You See Us” which is on the Beyond Hamsterdam album.
Symphony- Again another example of taking it to the next level, putting visuals with the sounds so the people interested in The Wire, interested in the music, have something more to look forward to.
AS- Who directed that video?
Roxzi- We did. We pretty much came up with the concept for the whole video; we pretty much directed the whole video ourselves. We financed the video ourselves. When we tell you we pretty much did the whole vides-from directing, to financing, to creative…dancers. We found our own dancers. We were the designers, the make-up artist. We weren’t the cameramen. 1 Vision Entertainment, they shot the video and edited it.
AS- What were some of your influences?
Symphony- Beethoven. He’s awesome.
Roxzi- She likes classical music.
Symphony- It’s like orchestrated confusion. All those instruments put together to create this wonderful sound. And he was deaf when he wrote the greatest symphony that you will hear in your life.
Roxzi- We listen to classical music all the time. It’s weird. We’ll be riding in the car and just turn in on. It’s that channel right before 92Q, you know what I’m talking about?
AS- 91.5 WBJC.
Roxzi- Yea, we just listen to that for no reason.
I’d say my biggest influence is my best friend. Symphony has really helped me out. I think she is one of the best female rappers ever, and you can quote me on that. She has definitely helped me with just growth period. You just learn from the best. That’s all I can say.
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