iLL Camille Discusses The Glass Ceiling of a Female Rapper
She’ll respond to a slew of monikers—Moment Making Millie, Millie the Mogul, Music Making Millie, Make It Happen Millie, or if you want to take a simpler approach, just Millie will suffice. (Seemingly, any alliterated pun is fair game.) However, there is one title which she refuses to claim— “Femcee.” The reason is uncomplicated: To the LA-based rapper, iLL Camille, that “F” in front is, well…a little redundant.
“Titties are very obvious. But I don’t think that needs to be the first thing you acknowledge. That doesn’t need to be my strong point. My strong points are the bars. You measure those against anybody—male or female. I’m an emcee, I just happen to have ovaries and shit like that.”
The refreshingly candid rapper matured to the sounds of some of Hip-Hop’s deities, including Lauryn Hill, Outkast, and Black Star. So, fittingly, when Camille decided to pick up a mic of her own, outpoured a wave of unquestionably honest lyrics and liberated streams of consciousness, clearly influenced by the informed voices of the artists that raised her.
Her raw authenticity has landed her collaborations with the likes of Kurupt, Snoop Dogg, Bobby Valentino, Damani Nkosi, Ty Dolla$ign, BJ the Chicago Kid, Iman Omari, and Robert Glasper. A casual studio gathering even led to a vocalist spot on Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying Of Thirst,” (catch her at about 6:40 here) and a guest appearance on Logic’s new album, Under Pressure.
Not a bad resume! Yet Camille says that though she constantly rubs elbows with these heavy hitters—both male and female—she’s still judged through a “she’s-good-for-a-female” lens.
“I feel like at a point, I’m already boxed in. I’ve reached my cap. There’s a glass ceiling there and you’re not going to put me in the likes of Kendrick Lamar or whoever your favorite is, because automatically you’re like I can only compare her to Lauryn Hill…or Nicki. That’s it. Category’s over.”
I couldn’t help but notice that she left out one very current female act from that category. Here’s what she had to say about Iggy:
“Well, the Hip-Hop purist in me is like…gahhhh! It almost makes me feel like there’s no room for me, because if that’s what y’all want. I’m the polar opposite of that. And I’m not gunna go that route at all. But, I do feel like she does have talent. But, I think one of the main things that made Hip-Hop is that it had to be authentic. And, at that point, when you take authenticity away, who cares about everything else? I don’t care how you look. I’m a female. I aint lookin’ at you! I’m trying to hear what you have to say to me. What relatesto me. What resonates with me. What touches my spirit. That, for me, is missing. But, I salute her because she figured out a way in. She figured out her loophole, got the right people behind her, and that’s not her bad. That’s the consumer. I can’t get mad at her. She’s doing what they want her to do.”
iLL Camille rallies for a team which sells “soul not sex.” And yet, she still feels a constant pressure—even from friends and family—to shed a few layers of clothes. Without hesitation, Camille admitted that adding more “sexy” to the mix would absolutely accelerate her path to “success.” But, she isn’t aiming for the fast track.
“I get people—men and women—who ask why I cover up so much…I just do things my way—whatever feels comfortable to me. In this stage of my career, I’m more concerned with people being comfortable with who they are than working on who they aren’t. So, I do that music for them. And if it takes a little longer to have longevity, then so be it. Substance and sweats are sexy too!”
A conversation about “overly sexualized” female rappers is about as common as sand on the beach in the Hip-Hop community. Of course, the topic deserves the attention given to an entire college thesis, and it also requires the assumption that a woman rapper embracing the power in her sexuality is not something to be celebrated. But, assuming that the sexualization of female rappers is exactly what’s preventing them from being judged in the same talent bracket as male rappers, iLL Camille suggests a step in the right direction.
“I think there needs to be unity with female rappers. I think that because we are often set against one another.”
There’s a but…
“But on the flip side of that, I’m like, I’m only gunna rock with who I think is dope. Just cause you a female, doesn’t mean I’m gunna be like, ‘Yo let’s collab!’ I expect you to have that same criteria when it comes to me. ‘Female’ doesn’t get you in with me. This is not affirmative action. This is Hip-hop. There has got to be some sort of standard there.”
While continuing to pursue a golden standard in music, iLL Camille is steadily maturing as an artist, evolving significantly since her last solo project, Illustrated, which dropped two years ago. She is now gearing up to release Illustrated B-Sides, what she considers to be a more evolved representation of her artistry and mission to promote a healthy self-image for her female fanbase.
“It’s now more personal. On Illustrated, I was just kinda like, here’s the line of personal and not. I’ll give you just a little bit. But now I’m all the way in. Illustrated B-Sides is so personal. It’s so specific. It’s so ME to the core. I’m not afraid to do that anymore. There’s a two-year gap between Illustrated and now. So, I’ve grown a lot as a human being and it’s natural that it’s going to come out in what I do as an artist. I just am who I am so as I grow you’re going to hear my music grow.”
To hear the growth for yourself, lookout for Illustrated B-Sides, which is set to drop early 2015.
Written by: Shannon Weprin