Speakerfoxxx gets ratchet with Dopegirl Anthems
A mixtape manifesto for empowered hustlers of every persuasion
The ability to read a room and adjust to the mood is a necessary skill for any serious DJ. Over the last two years, Atlanta native Speakerfoxxx (born Christen Nilan, or just Nilan to anyone who knows her) has risen through the ranks of Atlanta's club music scene to become such an act. But she's been honing her seemingly telepathic powers of perception for the better part of her 28 years — long before she ever entertained the notion of becoming a DJ. "My dad had alcohol abuse issues," she says quietly, "so in order to survive in the household where I grew up, I always had to read the temperature of the room. 'Was he mad? Was he drunk?' That survival skill has really helped me as a DJ, because now I can read people, and Atlanta is full of all kinds of people."
It's a dark passage, but when conveyed in her relaxed, matter-of-fact tone, it sheds light on her stylistic collision of punk rock flamboyance and rap's Southern grit.
With her sophomore mixtape, Dopegirl Anthems (released via Yelawolf's Slumerican imprint) — a follow-up to last year's Dope Boy Anthems — Speakerfoxxx turns the medium into the message. The new mixtape boasts no exclusive cuts; rather, she weaves an hour-long mix of solid crunk, gangsta, and trap rap, butting sleeper classics together with street-level club hits. "I play all types of music — all over the place," Speakerfoxxx says. "But what I have the most fun playing is really hood shit, which takes people by surprise, because I play it well."
From the opening shout-out, an endorsement from Gangsta Boo of Memphis, Tenn.'s legendary Three 6 Mafia, who claims, "This mixtape right here is about to put dope boys to shame," Dopegirl Anthems sets a tone of street-hardened female empowerment.
As the title implies, Speakerfoxxx fancies herself a hustler — a role dominated, more often than not, by males in the hip-hop world. But with a mix that includes such songs as Unladylike's "Bad Bitch Roll Call," Terror Squad featuring Remy Ma's "Take Me Home," and Gangsta Boo featuring CoCo Brown's "Pretty Pussy Lips," Speakerfoxxx plays selector for a hypersexualized, pro-female grind, all the while never relying on girlie antics to make an impression. "Whether it's dope 'boy' anthems or dope 'girl' anthems, what makes it an anthem isn't a gender, race, class, or creed thing, it's a lifestyle, an attitude, and a frame of mind," Speakerfoxxx says. "Yes, I am a girl in a male-dominated industry, but guess what, I can hold my own in both. Being a boss has nothing to do with gender," she adds, and with Dopegirl Anthems she drives the point home.
But Dopegirl Anthems is more than a mix of femme fatale rappers. With a roll call that includes Project Pat, Jeezy, Juicy J, and too many other male voices to list, the demographics are all over the place. And despite the fact that strong, white females have become something of a blog rap commodity over the last year, Speakerfoxxx chooses to go her own way. "I don't want to give credit to Iggy Azalea or Kreayshawn, but a lane has opened up for me, here in Atlanta, to really be myself, and not just a white girl in the club, but take a cue from some really respected DJs and producers, like Don Cannon or Diplo, and really find a prominent place in the DJ world," she says.
This year alone, she's landed some pretty choice gigs: She's planning to release yet another Slumerican-sponsored mixtape with DJ Dirrty and DJ Burn One, and another with DJ DiBiase. There's talk of a three-month tour later this year with Yelawolf, but plans are still being finalized. And she'll also be behind the turntables on stages across the country as the official DJ for Slumerican rapper Rittz and Gangsta Boo.
"Speakerfoxxx got a cool personality, cool swag, and she plays cool music," offers Gansta Boo, who's called Atlanta home off and on over the last 10 years. "She can rock a crowd, but not look like she's trying at all, and that's what make's her a real dope girl, and that's why I wanted her to go out on tour with me."
In the midst of all this activity she's taking time to learn production, all while designing a new women's clothing line for Slumerican.
All of these elements converge, to a degree, on Dopegirl Anthems. No doubt, she hand-picked the bricolage of Southern beats, giving brilliant shine to some serious underdog cuts. When she fades between 2 Chainz's slow crunk pep rally jam "Spend It" and Waka Flocka's "Round of Applause," the lyrics and pace are so comfortably thugged-out that it becomes a soundtrack for a player's night out. "I just wanted to make something really ratchet — a mixtape of all the songs that I like listening to with my girlfriends when we're going out at night, or driving around from club to club," Speakerfoxxx says. "You know, the guilty pleasures."
With Dopegirl Anthems' closing hook, a bit featuring "Birdman vs Lil Kim," the listener is left not only nodding to a serious beat, but reflecting on the wealth of references that are flourishing within this mixtape's confines. It's a manifesto waiting to be discovered, rife with requisite raw production and attitude that flies in the face of hip-hop's traditional gender roles. It's music assembled by a woman, but made for hustlers of every persuasion.