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The Women of Colorado Hip-Hop

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Mic Check 1,2: The Colorado Hip-Hop Scene is Made by its Women

By: Haley Birt, University of Denver Journalism Intern

When thinking about the Colorado music scene, it’s common to refer to the labels of folk, country, and rock; however, Colorado is a little-known hotbed for hip-hop artists. In honor of Colorado History Month, we’re looking at two women who have been rewriting the definition of what it means to be a hip-hop artist.

From the soulful melodies of singer/rapper/songwriter Aja Black to the lyrical gymnastics of Lily Fangz, these artists are weaving powerful social commentary into ear-catching beats that keep heads nodding and minds turning.

Colorado Springs-based artist Aja Black put herself on the map over a decade ago when she and her husband, Big Samir, founded their group The ReMINDers. Black’s strong vocals and creative lyricism are consistently impressive. Her flow between rapping and singing plays into her remarkable ability to capture the fullness and complexity of life. In just a few stanzas, she can sing about everything from skyping her kids backstage to racism in America.

The group’s most recent release, 10k, is one more testament to Black’s talent. Within the first 30 seconds, Black is serving up her lyrical dexterity in the form of both rap and song. Her ability to convert emotions into music has been key in helping propel the group onto stages alongside musical legends Nas Lauryn Hill, and Snoop Dogg, to name just a few.

Black sings, raps, and composes with a passion and authenticity that transcend the airwaves. She brings what is traditionally invisible in hip-hop music — being an artist, emcee, mother of three, and wife — into the forefront of her work. It is her musical prowess that allows her to effortlessly marry and make visible all of these important and diverse life roles. From this, she and Samir have built the foundation for the signature sounds and rhymes of The ReMINDers.

Much like Aja Black, Denver-based Lileana Krenza, better known by her stage name Lily Fangz, stretches her talent far beyond the bars she spits on stage. If her loyal fanbase is not proof enough of her skill, her resume contains such feats as opening for Nas and SchoolboyQ at Red Rocks, hosting CHOMPcast and speaking at TEDx.

Fangz made a name for herself when she released her song “Lay It Down,” which reflected on the fatal drug use of a close friend. From that moment forward, Fangz continued to captivate audiences with her vulnerable and thought-provoking compositions. Alongside her lyrical skill, Fangz shows exquisite talent in blending her poetic prowess into her sonic beats.

In her February release, “RAW V.5,” Fangz exemplifies her adaptive competency. RAW V.5 is part of a larger project that Fangz describes as “experiments in courage.” She approaches this project with a refreshing vulnerability, weaving captivating stories into acoustically driven beats, spotlighting the thematic rawness of the project. She even goes so far as to abandon the beat at times and fall entirely into spoken word. It is Fangz’s openness to stylistic evolution paired with inventive poetics that leave anyone who listens breathless, reeling, and wanting more.

The authentic and grounded music of Fangz and Black creates a strong basis for their success. Their music offers a powerful coupling of authenticity and musical ingenuity; these women are the living examples of what it means to refuse to be silenced. Their work, and the work of many other women in hip-hop, is confident, bold and impactful.

During Women’s History Month, we honor their bravery, as well as that of the women who came before them and the women who will come. May they refuse to be silenced and empower others to do the same.