I have always loved Bahamadia. From the first time I heard "UKnowHowWeDo" (the video above), I was hooked. She has such a great way of weaving intelligent lyrics with Gangstarr beats (on debut album Kollage), using her voice as an instrument like a hip-hop Ella Fitzgerald. Every time I hear Bahamadia, it always takes me a couple of listens before I can actually get her lyrics- she says them so quickly that you get wrapped up in the musicality of them rather than the message. And what a shame that is because this woman has a lot to say.
Her songs are always mellow, she never aims to be a club hit and that's probably why she's not a mainstream hit. She also uses her intelligence instead of sex which must confuse record labels, who have always had a difficult time marketing intelligent hip-hop. I think she likes it that way, her tone can be monotonous at times arguably but, if you listen to the delivery which is what being an emcee is all about, you can't deny that she has talent. Her voice always finds the cracks between the beats and fills them in the smoothest, most organic way possible as if her voice was born there.
Her songs make it difficult for DJs to bump in clubs because they're mostly jazzy instrumentals, in true Gangstarr fashion but, unlike Gangstarr who tends to make up for the mellow jazz instrumentals by using a more energetic emcee style, Bahamadia's tone usually falls right in line with it. Give her a couple listens to catch onto her intelligence, once you do- you'll be blown away that you've never heard her, unless you're an underground hip-hop fiend like myself!
My vote for one of her most prolific songs is "Commonwealth (Cheap Chicks)" on her 2001 BB Queen album. The video below features MC Lyte and Countess Vaughn. She speaks about the round-the-way girls, "low budget connoisseurs who get they shopping on in Wal-Mart and dollar stores", who makes it through even though they're broke. Can't we all relate to that nowadays?
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Born Antonia Reed, Bahamadia started as a DJ and later became an emcee under the influence of Gangstarr. She released her debut Kollage album in 1996 with production done by Gangstarr (Guru and DJ Premier, aka Primo).
Her most popular track, "Uknowhowwedo" (in the YouTube video) off Kollage reached #15 on Hot Hip-Hop and R&B tracks and #17 on the dance charts. "I Confess", also off Kollage, reached #11 on Hot Rap Singles.
Her other albums BB Queen in 2001 and Good Rap Music in 2006 found a huge popularity in the underground hip-hop scene. She has recorded numerous bootlegs released in Japan where she has a huge following.
Bahamadia has a high underground popularity and is a respected collaborator with such artists as The Roots, Talib Kweli, Sisters of the Underground, Jedi Mind Tricks, Planet Asia, Erykah Badu, Angie Stone and Jill Scott.