The Come Up: Dutch ReBelle
Dutch ReBelle is Boston's fiery talent that's ready to go big.
Boston hip-hop has reached a new level of popularity. It's evident at the Middle East Rock Club in Cambridge, MA last Friday night (Sept. 26), where Dutch ReBelle reached some rarefied air. Dressed in a Cam Neely Bruins hockey jersey that served as a dress, garter belts and the crispiest wheat Timberlands, she rocked for a packed venue in celebration of her new project ReBelle Diaries. As an artist in Boston’s highly competitive hip-hop scene, she’s now headlining on the same stage she’s shared with artists like Action Bronson and Big K.R.I.T. Being the star of the show is regular occurrence these days for the artist better known as Vanda Bernadeau.
The Haitian-born, 27-year-old has been busting barriers since she came home after earning a journalism degree at Penn State and decided to pursue her other word-fueled passion, hip-hop. XXL featured Dutch Rebelle in The New New: Boston edition and our 15 Female Rappers You Should Know. Her rep in her hometown, along with her breakout performances at festivals like SXSW, A3C and NXNE, led her to gaining national exposure. A growing presence in the blogosphere with her mixtape Married To The Music resulted in her chopping it up with Sway as a guest on RapFix more than once.
Want to know why Dutchie is special? Look no further than the crowd at the release concert. The show feels more like a coronation than a concert. A who’s who of Boston’s scene are there to see her step up to the next level. The college kids that have come to love her from her live shows are right next to the women that party to her songs in the clubs who came with the cats that bump her music in their whips. ReBelle has built an audience for her exuberant brand of hip-hop built on left of center samples and clever turns of phrase. Like her idols Styles P and Lauryn Hill, she weaves consciousness into her turn-up without coming off as preachy.
ReBelle Diaries is all over the place in the best way. The introspective tone of the album that includes guests like the 2011 XXL Freshman Fred The Godson and production from ATG gives you and up-close and personal look at what’s going on in the mind of the Haitian-Dominican spitter. As she speaks on the stress on surviving (“Yen”), loving the wrong person (“Love Is”), self-reliance (“All On Me”) and the jealousy that attention brings (“I Know”) you feel her as she’s trying to make sense of it all.
And what does one do once they get love in their hometown? Smart hustlers take the show on the road. With the launch of her own label ReBelle Music, she's working hard with her team to reach the next level. A return trip to SXSW in 2015 and this year’s edition of A3C festival where she’s appearing on three stages should help the world know what Boston is already up on. We talked with Dutch about building her own company, her friendship with Fred The Godson, and how education helps her navigate the industry. Get familiar with Dutch ReBelle in The Come Up.—G. Valentino Ball
On how education influenced her music:
Dutch Rebelle: I think that journalism made me care more about my words. As far as how Ive been moving through the industry I feel like my education gave me confidence. My education gave me the confidence to be in a room with people who are more advanced [in their careers]. Its like being a freshman and knowing all the seniors. It makes me care more about the project that I’m putting out. I attack every project like it’s a book and every record is a chapter.
On setting up her own company ReBelle Music:
It was important to set up ReBelle Music . I can’t work with anybody that doesn’t understand the whole vision. I don’t want to work with anybody that’s going to microwave me and put me in a box and throw me out there. I love music. So anyone that works with me has to understand the potential that I have. Not just that, they have to understand the vision because I’m not going to compromise that. I’m open to working with people. But I want anybody that wants to work with me to understand that I’m coming with a machine built already. I’m not looking for the vehicle. I’m looking for the parts.
On her friendship with “Stop It” collaborator Fred The Godson:
Fred's the homie. We met two years [ago] at a show. Not only was Fred in the building, but he was in the crowd front row. He came out and watched the show. When I performed, him and his squad came up to the front and watched my whole set. And since then any time there has been an event and I see him, it’s all love. Anytime they touch down in Boston I get a phone call. If I'm in New York, I gotta hit them. We’ve always had love for each other. He was like whatever record you want to do let’s do it. So he jumped on “Stop It” and killed it.
On the industry pitting female MCs against each other:
It's real corny. There’s no place for it. To be honest - that’s fear. Anybody that has an issue with someone before they know them, that’s fear. I rock with Rapsody. I rock with Sasha Go Hard. I rock with 3D Na'Tee. There’s plenty of chicks out here that I rock with. But I think there is cattiness with females. But I also think that with all these reality shows there are females who think that’s entertaining. But there are certain females in the industry for whom that’s not entertaining. There are girls like Remy Ma who are not about that. I love that. No other person is going to make me feel a way about somebody. That’s just who I am. That has nothing to do with music. I think that people who let the industry change their morals had no morals to begin with and that’s what you’re going to get.
On Boston hip-hop and being a women in the game:
A lot of people don’t realize that the '90s influence is still around. If you want to call those the golden years than Boston got the juice. There are a lot of different cultures that really know hip-hop as if they learned it in school. They know the history. The fact that Boston is such an eclectic place and there’s so many different colleges and stuff contributes to the music. We are a place that promotes collaborative work and stresses team work.
I think some of it was that I was like a best kept secret [in hip-hop] in a sense. I wasn’t out here when I started. I wasn’t in Boston. I was in Pennsylvania at Penn State. So people knew who I was but when I came back doing music I think that some people were like “Who is this?” When I came back from school I had a fresh face appeal because I wasn’t all around the market.
I believe the way I conducted myself helped also. It’s my personality which comes from my background. I always wanted to be the voice for the chicks with no voices and the dudes with no choices. Being a Haitian-born chick, being Haitian-Dominican, coming to Boston. Going to school at Penn State. Spending time [in] every hood but never too much. I think that I was able to grasp a lot of different personalities. There’s a little bit of me in everybody and vice versa I think. So it’s not me being a female but the type of female that I am.
On the making of ReBelle Diaries:
I give you a certain angle in a different package than most people expect to see it in. I feel like a lot of artists get caught up in what they think they should be talking about. A lot of female artists get caught up in letting everyone know they are a female. I just talk about what I know. I talk about the basics of what I see and whats important to me. Nine out of ten, that’s the real world; the people that went to school, the people that have problems with bills. They’re not necessarily selling drugs but they see that. That’s a perspective that I feel a lot people don’t get to associate with in music. They don’t get the “I’m a kid of hip-hop.” We aren't always the dealer. We aren't always the baller. I’m the observer. And it’s a voice that people want to listen to. Its almost like people are saying, “Yes! We aren’t as crazy as they try to make us seem. People think like this.” Like on “Yen.” I want yen. I want money. I need that. But I don’t have that. I’m getting close to that and that’s cool for now. Everything is so forced and I feel like people are getting tired of it really.
On what's next:
I’m sensitive about my shit [Laughs]. I want people to understand I’m a small fish in a big world but I’m a piranha. I love what I’m doing. I love creativity and I’m not trying to get boxed in.