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Rita J: Bridging the Gap

Unlike many of her indie hip-hop peers, Rita J isn't a huge fan of nostalgia. And that goes for her music and her life as a whole. "I don't dwell on the past," says this up-and-coming hip-hop MC. "I like the past–I think it gives you perspective for the future–but I just keep it movin', man."

A genuine free spirit, Rita left her native Chicago, and her hometown crew Family Tree, in 2005 without much of a game plan. Unsatisfied with her first pit stop in hurricane-prone Miami, Rita moved north to sunny Atlanta. What's kept her in the ATL is not solely music–it's the creative spirit running through the city.

"Atlanta is a place for me to focus and just be grounded," says Rita, who, in addition to connecting with the local hip-hop underground, has fulfilled a passion for fashion and modeling since befriending several Atlanta-based designers and photographers. "I just wanna be expressive in any way possible, so if I can convey my energy through pictures, hair or whatever, I'm down with that," she says.

As a forward-looking lyricist, it's ironic that Rita has found solace in the epicenter of trap rap and instructional club bangers. "At first, the whole shiny-suit club scene really got on my nerves," recalls Rita. "It seems like it's almost gotten worse, but at the same time''m kinda over it. This is what they're gonna give the people but I can't let that hinder my growth."

While penning her debut album, Artist Workshop (All Natural), in both Chicago and Atlanta, Rita reserved a few tracks to examine the shallowness of the rap game–particularly to put stereotypes of black women to rest. On the uplifting anthem "Asses Shakin'," she bluntly calls out near-naked music-video models and female rappers by asserting on the chorus, "So many fake tits and tracks/Where's your self esteem?/Wake up/Bring it back." The album also reveals an enigmatic side to Rita J, especially on the progressive, synthy funk jam "Paranoid"–a bizarre, yet oddly catchy, song about her distrust of others.

"I try to take it to that next step and not just do the 'A-B-C, 1-2-3,'" she says. "Even some old-school rap is not dope to me because it's just too simplistic. It's just too easy. I like to catch something that you may not catch on the fly. Or you have to listen to it a couple times and then you'll be like, 'Oh, wow! I didn't even realize he said that.'"

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