Will Schube hates for people to die embarrassed.
Los Angeles’ late-aughts rap takeover is as much about regional talent as it is about national figures. Blueface has kids across the country grabbing their crotches, but Drakeo has folks previously uninterested in prison reform writing weekly letters to the locked up cold devil.
But in terms of female rap stars, LA has produced many gifted artists, but few household names. It’s a stark contrast to developments outside of the 9-0 zip codes, where women rappers have never been so front and center. In Houston, Megan Thee Stallion redefined the definition of freak. In Atlanta, City Girls are one of the best rap groups on the planet. From the DMV, Rico Nasty has been a demolition force to every one of Kenny’s beats. There’s Young M.A. and Queen Key, Kamaiyah and NoName, Dej Loaf and cupcaKKe. Cardi B is the popular musician on the planet. I don’t need to continue.
Yet somehow, LA, one of the biggest hubs of rap, hasn’t produced a nationally celebrated female solo rapper since the days of the Lady of Rage and Yo-Yo. That’s about to change with the self-proclaimed Princess of Compton, Azjah, an indomitable and deeply soul rapper whose debut project, Princess Diaries doubles as a coronation.
Azjah graduated from Paramount High in 2013 and began seriously pursuing a career in music shortly after her life was turned entirely upside down: the moment when her older brother was locked up for consecutive life sentences, After several years of transformation from a talented freestyler to an artful songwriter, Azjah released her first breakthrough 2017’s “The Warm Up,” which racked up roughly 100,000 streams between YouTube and SoundCloud.
From “The Warm Up’s” first moments, Azjah’s intent as a rapper is clarion: “He snitched on my brother/ He ain’t wanna do no months,” she half-sings, rocking a “Free Cholo Keep the Best” red t-shirt in the video, an homage to her brother and his nickname. “I ain’t no killa but I swear you pushin’ me/ A sweet n***a, you softer than a pussy.”
Azjah’s voice has a lilt to it, wavy and embracing but absolutely killer when she’s coming for someone’s head. With the momentum of that single, the emcee rocking Compton’s finest braids pushes her voice further and into more interesting territory on Princess Diaries. And while her brother’s incarceration still informs the album, Azjah begins to find her footing outside of this shape-shifting event.
On “Calabasas” she croons in a half-time flow over a low-riding, bass heavy beat, promising houses for her family and to come after anyone that doubts her. Calabasas is a fantasy, the yardstick by which Azjah will know she’s made it. “Ride For Me” plays with electro-synths straight out of mid-2000s Atlanta, and Azjah sings about the dudes that have abandoned her—probably because she can out rap them in her sleep.
Princess Diaries’ emotional fulcrum, though, is “Testimony,” an auto-tuned flashback that finds Azjah spelling out every single thing she’s had to beat to get to this point. “Man, the streets got cold on me,” she sings. Everyone’s disappeared. There’s a desperation in her voice that doesn’t relent, but it’s outweighed by her rise.
She came from the dirt, but Azjah turns her testimony from one of loss to a retrospective 20 years from now, after the come up, when she’s on top of the world — which judging from the strength of this project should be very soon.