Ethel Cee Interview
by: Justin Rizzio
Photo by: Jonene Taddei
To Purchase Ethel Cee "Dirty Samples" visit http://ethelcee.bandcamp.com
So, as you've noticed, 215hiphop has returned from our hiatus. During this time several new artists have entered the Philly hip hop scene, while many of our veterans continued to hold down their already established names. Ethel Cee, not exactly a newcomer to us, is an artist who is currently expanding her name well outside the Philly limits. Most recently she has teamed up with BeeEater Records, along with Fel Sweetenberg, to bring us her new EP, Dirty Samples. So, while 215hiphop.com might have been on a break, Philly hip hop never rests and Ethel Cee is the proof.
215hiphop: How did you get the name Ethel Cee?
Ethel Cee: Ethel is one of my middle names. Yes, I said "one of." Cee is just short for emcee.
215: "I usually don't like female mc's, but you're dope". How many times have you heard that?
EC: Ha! All the damn time. There's a compliment in there somewhere so I'm flattered but curious. I always thinks to myself, "what is it about ALL female emcees that you dislike so much and how am I any different?" But I smile and say thank you...all genuine... instead. Most times it's said in an environment in which I don't feel like having the "female emcee" conversation which annoys me to no end sometimes. I never really feel like having the "female emcee" conversation. But I have to...at least I think I do. I feel like there's a female emcee conversation quota I have to meet every year. lol. I don't mean to sound like a jerk. Somewhere there's a feminist fan of mine shedding a single Indian tear.
215: So how come you don't rap like Nicki Minaj? That's what's "hot in the streets" right now.
EC: Did you hear anything I JUST said? For starters, lol at "hot in the streets." For the record, I like that girl. A lot. Sue me, but I do. I don't rap like her because I'm not her...and she isn't me. Although, I've been switching voices in the middle of verses for years and there's audio to prove it! lol. All that to say, I do me and will continue to do me and whatever path you choose, you should do you too.
215: Do you think young black girls have enough positive role models today? Or have they ever had enough for that matter?
EC: I think "positive role models" should first appear in the house before children start to look elsewhere for them. But that's an ideal situation. The media/industry seems to be the type of machine that (if you let it) will have you looking like a completely different person by the time you're revealed to the generalpublic. The folks that are watching never really know WHAT their getting.It's all about balance. I think it's important to have varying types of people to observe so that they can make an informed decision about who they want to be, not just famous people. That's all I have to say about that. It kind of threw me off answering that question coming from a white guy. You are white, right? Or are you some kind of blend that I don't know about? Help me out here.
215: Yes, I'm white...is that going to be an issue for you throughout the rest of this interview?
EC: No, not at all.
215: Do you think that being an MC makes guys intimidated to approach you?
EC: Hmm. I'd be interested to see how the guys who have approached me would answer that question. You need names? I'll give you names. lol. I think it's two extremes: on one hand, I think there are guys who believe they have it easy because they are hip-hop heads and think we can collaborate based on that. And by collaborate I mean end up fucking on the sound boards. It's not that easy. (Ba Da Bing!) You could be into death metal and I'll fall in love with you if you treat me right. Others think that I can't be reached or touched or approached in anyway. At least that's what I've been told. I am by no means demeaning what I've accomplished. I cherish all of that, but I'm not at diva bitch status...yet. Give it a couple years though. Let's not forget the girls that approach me too. Can't leave them out. Wassup ladies.
215: The ladies approach you too? Care to elaborate? And speak soft when you do. Don't leave out any details.
EC: Yeah, they do. Ask Reef. Or Ultraviolet...or any of my friends. They've seen it first hand. But I don't have any late night Cinemax type stories to tell you though. Sorry.
215: True or False? "It's hard out here for a pimp."
EC: I think it's harder on the hoes.
215: So, you just released your debut EP on Bee Eater Records. Tell us about it.
EC: Dirty Samples is very different from anything else I've put out before. Years ago, I released an EP that was described as acid-folk-house-hop (true story) and then after that I put out an ode to the Chemical Brothers. So people may be surprised to learn that Dirty Samples is the first strictly hip-hop sounding project I've ever done and I can't promise the next project I put out will sound the same. I'm very excited about all the good responses it has been getting and all the love people have been showing. I appreciate it so much. DJ Caliph, great DJ, producer, all around good guy, agreed to be involved in the recording, mixing and scratching process and we pretty much went to work. Here's the story behind the name. Fel Sweetenberg is an amazing producer that samples heavily. At one point I was concerned if getting clearances for those samples would be an issue. I stopped caring and pretty much said "to hell with it, for now, I'm gonna put this out as is." Also, in the past couple of years I've been in and out of the doctor, so pissing in a cup was something I became weirdly familiar with. Put that all together and you get the Dirty Samples EP. On a side note, I rarely toot my own horn publicly (pause), but the cover for that EP is the best goddamn idea I've had in years. Shout out to photographer Dom Savini for bringing my weirdness to life.
215: I see you have Bahamadia on your record. Between the two of you, who do you think would win in arm wrestling?
EC: Speaking of Dom Savini, apparently he calls me the hip-hop Angela Bassett. You know her arms...from when she played Tina Turner. Dom, if you're reading this, the jig is up! I know you call me this and I find it hilarious! My arms aren't even that crazy looking yet! So to answer your question, I'm gonna go out on a limb and say I'd beat. C'mon, throw me a bone. Pause...again.
215: Every time I see you, you tend to stand out, style wise. What inspires your fashion sense?
EC: It's kind of all over the place but I think I always blend masculine and feminine looks. I'm a tomboy at heart but in recent years I've starting embracing dresses. I really like studs and leather and stuff that's very rock and roll. Vintage 1940's pinup style stuff I can never get enough of real Salt-N-Pepa type shit. So yeah, it's all over the place. I've been told I wear too much black. Also, I will never wear anything that has butterflies on it. Don't ask me why.
215: Why won't you wear anything with butterflies?
EC: I don't know. Butterflies kind of freak me out. I'd feel like a hypocrite if I rocked them. I understand this isn't normal
215: You had Fel Sweetenberg produce your entire EP. Was this done on purpose for a more cohesive record?
EC: Fel has been a friend of mine for years now and I've been wanting to do a project with him for a long time. We've always done little stuff here and there but nothing like this. He was consistently sending me beats almost everyday. I can't even tell you how many he sent me and Dirty Samples ended up being 7 of his tracks, so I'm pretty picky...and I think any producer who wants to work with me should know that. He was sending me so much music that one day I just made the decision to make an EP out of the beats I liked.
215: What can we expect from you in the future, and what do you see on the horizon for Ethel Cee?
EC: More material, but probably less live shows. I've been itching to travel abroad some more. Also, I don't want people to expect the same kind of music from me every time I decide to release something. I mean, I'm not gonna be playing guitar or anything, but the next project just might sound slightly different production wise. (Note: Ethel does plan on singing in Reef the Lost Cauze's side project, an electro-folk band called "Happy Birthday, Spiderman"). Anyway, people who know the history of Ethel Cee know that this nothing new. I like to experiment and experiment I will do. Other than that, I don't know what to tell people. I take this thing one day at a time!
Edited by: Tom Williams