It's a spectacular event to welcome the emergence of a new, strong female presence in the hip hop industry. 1997 heralded the arrival of Queen Pen, the rapper, lyricist, career woman, working mother and community activist. With her debut album, My Melody, Queen doesn't just hit us with an effortless flow of slickly styled rhymes, she takes us on a life journey as well, along with extraordinary producer Teddy Riley by her side and special guest appearances by The Lost Boyz' "Mr. Cheeks," Phil Collins and singer/songwriter Me' Shell Ndege'ocello.
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Like most journeys, there are rocky parts, unexpected twists and turns and triumphs of will. Queen Pen's gift of writing her candid lyrics (she's been writing songs since she was 14), and her silken delivery, make this journey worth the trip.
Whether she is rapping about the combined bliss and agony of first love in "All My Love," the psychological and emotional effects of domestic abuse in "Get Away," or the reality of street life in "The Setup," Queen's storytelling is from the heart. "Every song I wrote has something to do with me," says Queen, "and somebody out there can relate to it because it's the straight-up truth. I want people to rewind a certain part of a song and say, that is so true."
Queen Pen, a.k.a. Lynise Walters, grew up in some of the roughest areas in Brooklyn, NY. She always wanted to rap and perform on-stage. "Everyone in a video was my inspiration," she chuckles, "you couldn't have told me I wasn't Salt-N-Pepa." She even attended a performing arts high school where she studied acting and dance. But like many young girls, she succumbed to the environment around her. By the age of 15 she found herself pregnant and out on her own. For the next ten years she would exist simply by survival instincts.
But she never gave up on her dream. In 1992, Queen approached BLACKstreet's Teddy Riley and told him she could rap. "I had known Teddy for a long time through mutual friends," she explains, "but I never approached him on that level." The superstar producer/performer told her that when he started his own label he would keep her in mind.
He kept his word. In 1996, he put her on as a guest rapper on BLACKstreet's #1 chart-topping platinum single "No Diggity." Soon after, he signed her as the first artist on Lil' Man records, his newly formed label. The success of "No Diggity" opened up doors for Queen, who went on to appear in Levert's "True Dat," and to tour with BLACKstreet on New Edition's 1996-1997 "Home Again" tour.
Now, the streetwise and determined mother of two sons is witnessing her dreams come true. Lucky for us, we're along for the ride. Queen's album, My Melody, is not only a diverse offering of finely interwoven stories, combined with the lushness of Teddy Riley's production, it is a departure from the norm.
Queen Pen can come off hard without sounding forced, and she can tell the truth without preaching. She can educate and still make us dance. "I want to use hip hop as a tool to really say something. I'm not here just to throw out records and videos. I'm here to make changes." And Queen has already started making changes. Whenever she's on the road, she stops and speaks to kids at group homes to share her experiences and encourages them to stay in school. "People are so afraid to dream and have goals," she says. "I want them to know I came from the same place, and look at me now." Fierce, independent, yet still not afraid to dream, Queen Pen will lead the pack.
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