The Dutchess’ Hard-Hitting Rap Earned Her an International Following During the Pandemic

“When I first started getting into rapping, I wouldn’t even turn the radio on. I would only play my own shit for like four years straight.”

Best New Bands 2021 The Dutchess (Wesley Lapointe) (Wesley Lapointe)

Recommended by: Raquel Divar, 2020 Best New Band finalist

“She gives authentic West Coast turn-up music with fire lyrics and cold delivery. Stage presence: ‘I don’t give a fuck.’”

Also check out: Veana Baby, Scooter Rogers

The Dutchess didn’t expect her first album to take off during a pandemic. For a while, she didn’t even plan to drop a project at all.

Released at the end of 2019, the rapper’s self-titled album is a tight 20 minutes of hard-hitting bars, catchy hooks and bass-heavy, fast-moving beats. The fact that she barely had time to play shows to promote the album before the pandemic hit did little to stall her momentum. Each song on the album quickly racked up thousands of streams from listeners around the world.

“It blew my mind,” she says. “It was well received by the U.K. and Germany―it was so well received.”

The Portland rapper—who prefers to keep her given name out of print—has been writing her own music since she was 7 years old. But she didn’t start performing until 2019, at the age of 25. And it wasn’t until her friend and engineer, Trevor Scott, suggested putting out an album that she considered it a real possibility.

“He was just like, ‘Make an album.’ And I was just like, ‘Facts,’” she says. “He believes in me, hard. Trevor definitely put the encouragement behind dropping a freshman album.”

That’s not to say that Dutchess lacks self-confidence, though—that’s plenty evident when she’s slapping down lyrics about how the world’s her footstool and dropping goofball lines like, “The Dutchess on your ass like a thong.” But that outward bravado is powered by a kind of inward focus.

“When I first started getting into rapping, I wouldn’t even turn the radio on,” she says. “I would only play my own shit for like four years straight.”

It’d be easy to lump the Dutchess in with Cardi B, City Girls, Saweetie and the current wave of high-energy women rappers dominating the music charts. But even if she had been listening to the radio when she was first honing her craft, most of those names weren’t even around. Still, fans of those artists will find plenty to like in the Dutchess’ music: whomping, genre-defying beats, catchy hooks and unrelenting bars that blend raw confidence with sly humor.

With the exception of the occasional livestream performance, the Dutchess has been relatively quiet for the past year, in part because she was dealing with the mess that was 2020. Being on the front lines of last year’s protests was especially traumatic.

As a way to decompress, Dutchess and her husband recently took an interest in motorcycles. Though she admits it’s been somewhat of a distraction from her music, riding as healing is a fitting analogy, in a way, for the cathartic release her music provides.

The Dutchess doesn’t want to be anyone’s role model, but in a way that’s its own form of kindness.

“Be who you are, because real life ain’t gonna treat you like the bitch you’re pretending to be, they’re gonna treat you like who you actually are,” she says. “You are you, and you’re bomb.”

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