My Neck, My Back, My Pussy, and My Life - Take Two

Khia talks about her pussy, her life, her crack, and making comic books.

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Mar 8 2012, 3:25pm

The other day we posted a Q&A with Khia, the woman responsible for the masterpiece “My Neck, My Back.” That Q&A was specifically tailored for the TL;DR crowd and was cribbed from the much longer piece below, which presents a much more comprehensive—and sociological—analysis of Khia’s career and its implications within the context of hip-hop’s patriarchal tendencies. The reason we’re posting this second take is so you, the reader, can choose between being fully informed (this version) or semi-informed because you don’t like to read anything over 800 words (the previous version). Have fun.

Ten Years Since My Neck, My Back

This December, theNew York Times wrote that the presence of several upcoming white female rappers is beginning to challenge “hip-hop’s masculine ideal,” declaring that “the conversation in hip-hop is, and always has been, about black men." For me, however, hip-hop has been about the ladies since at least 2002, when a line from Missy Elliot’s “Work It” became my outgoing voicemail message (“If you a fly girl, get your nails done, get a pedicure, get your hair did”) and Khia’s “My Neck, My Back” taught me that the best head comes from a thug. Then again, I—white law school student—am not exactly the authority on hip-hop. (Although I’m not sure the New York Times is either…). Curious that music critics are just now seeing hip-hop as something that women can do, and well aware that Missy would never answer my phone calls, I decide to hit up my girl Khia, who has been creating hip-hop since far before anyone knew who or what a Kreayshawn was.

“When did you first know you wanted to be a rapper?” I ask Khia early in our conversation.

“I wouldn’t say rapping is what I want to do,” she says. “I enjoy singing. I don’t do metaphors. I create and compose songs.”

Khia explains that in the late 90s, when she began creating music, R&B took a back seat to hip-hop, and it was easier for her to “make it” as a rapper. So rapping is not something Khia ever wanted to do. But that’s not to say our conversation was a waste of time. Instead, I got to know, and garnered respect for, a woman often dismissed as a joke, as a hoodrat, as washed-up, as a one-hit-wonder. I learned that despite her less than flattering public persona, Khia Shamone (or Finch, or Chambers—friend Damiko Hill says she goes by “all three”) is a strong, independent, positive, and hilarious woman who, 10 years after “My Neck, My Back,” is determined to be known as more, much more, than a one-hit wonder.  

First Things First

If you happen among the minority of Americans familiar with Khia, and not just as “that girl who sang ‘My Neck, My Back,’” you are likely also familiar with the Smoking Gun’s infamous mug-shot collage documenting the rapper’s 30-plus arrests between 1994-1999, also featured during her ABC News interview in the Spring of 2010. You may also think she’s dead, if you happened to hear the rumor that spread around the internet in 2002 that she had been killed by her boyfriend, which she says was planted by a former record company.

“The media” tells us: Khia is a bad girl, a gangster, or, in the words of her 2006 album title, a Gangstress. “I’m no stranger to jail,” she admits early in our conversation. And neither is jail a stranger to the hip-hop industry. But unlike artists like T.I. and Lil Wayne, who are frequently in and out of jail despite their celebrity stature, Khia has, with once exception, stayed out of jail since achieving fame.

Khia attributes her stints in jail to growing up in the Tampa hood, where run-ins with the law were a part of life. “If you in the ghetto, you know, shit happens. You might get into a fight.” Regarding charges of gun possession, Khia responds, “In my neighborhood, you couldn’t leave the house not strapped.” Khia also ascribes her numerous fights, which led to her eventual expulsion from school, to the her innate desire to “step in when I think something isn’t right.” She’s always had a soft spot for the underdogs: “Animals, people, it doesn’t matter, leave the dog alone!” I explain that I am studying law and am aware of the criminal injustices inherent to impoverished communities, and ask her if she was ever falsely accused. “Oh, I was at fault every time,” she says, “Well, not the last time. The last time…” She pauses, “No, I was at fault then too.”

Eventually, however, prompted by the local judge’s threat of prison and the death of her mother, Khia realized that she needed to change her ways. And she has remained essentially jail-free since 1999.  Although she now considers herself a changed woman, Khia is grateful for her time in jail as a teenager because it allowed her the quiet needed to perfect her craft. During those years, jail became her only opportunity to write and work on her music because life outside was full of distractions: “When I would get out, then it was back to the block, back to the streets, back the hustle.” In jail, in addition to writing music, Khia wrote books, poetry, comedy, plays, cartoons, and even comic books. “As soon as you get out of jail, you get back with your friends, and you ain’t thinkin’ about no comic book.” But when Khia’a mother died in 2001, Khia realized that she didn’t need to be in jail to write. She isolated herself for three months, and “when I came out, I put my album out [Thug Misses], and I had a number one record.” After that, she “never looked back.”

Except for that one time. In August of 2011, just a few months before I first spoke with her, Khia was arrested in Atlanta for “concealing or endangering a property-secured interest.” (Blogs have speculated that she schemed to hide a car on which she refused to make payments, although Khia is vague when I ask her about it.) Recalling an article about Lindsay Lohan being harassed by her fellow inmates in jail, I ask Khia if she experienced taunting during her most recent incarceration due to her celebrity status. On the contrary, Khia speaks fondly of the experience, during which she put on an impromptu concert for her fellow inmates: “It was Jail House Rock!” She believes that her presence uplifted everybody. “I think they kinda forgot they were in jail.” She made friends with the other women, and was “preachin’” and “counselin’ the young ones.”

A (Recently) Single Mother.

While it is strange to think of Khia, the woman beaming widely in the vast majority of her mug shots, as a role model, the artist actually has two young ones of her own. Well, they aren’t exactly young anymore—her daughter, also named Khia, is 20, and son Rayshawn is 19. Khia gave birth to her children when she was a young one herself; she had little Khia when she was only 14, explaining, “I got pregnant the first time I had sex.” Having children so young meant that all three of them “grew up together,” and shared her dream. “They’ve been with me through it all,” helping out with everything from recording, to marketing and promotion. They were even there for her when she was getting into trouble. “They’re my biggest cheerleaders.” While Khia admits she was scared when she became pregnant so young, she was able to get through it with the support of her mother and then husband. Yes, I was also surprised that Khia was married with two children when she wrote, “you might roll dubs, you might have G’s/ but fuck that n*gga, get on your knees.” And in the characteristic positivity that I soon learn accompanies Khia’s opinion on everything, she explains that she’s grateful she had children early: “If I had waited until now, then my mom wouldn’t have been able to see their grandbabies born. I think it all happened for a reason.”

Now that now she’s single (she and her husband recently split), and given her apparent fascination with fucking, I ask her what kind of guy she’s attracted to. “You’d be surprised,” she says,  “I like the nerdy guys.” She tells me that due to her “Thug Misses” sobriquet, she attracts the bad boys. “Well, I like bad boys too. Don’t get me wrong. And they’re into me.” But relationship-wise, she’s all about the nerds.

A Woman in the Industry.

As is so often expressed by successful women, Khia believes the industry is harder on her gender. “I’m always up against men, men, men, they just want to run the show.” Khia maintains she is aggressive and dominant in everything she does, a trait that comes out in her music. She dismisses female rappers like Lil’ Kim, whose songs are often written by men, and whose behavior, dress, and lyrics are aimed primarily at pleasing the male market.

Halifu Osumare, a Professor of Black Popular Culture and Director of African American Studies at U.C. Davis, tells me that “hip-hop’s masculine ideal” is something not inherent to hip-hop, but rather something that has emerged since the genre’s commercialization. When hip-hop began in the Bronx during the 1970s, “females were plentiful. There were break dancers, b-girls, and a lot of female poppers and lockers. As hip-hop entered the mainstream, however, it increasingly emphasized the masculine ideal (and also reinforced the notion that hip-hop was solely a “black form”), particularly because rap, rather than hip-hop more generally, became the centerpiece of money-making. This commercialization of rap also led to record labels embracing “ghettocentrity” as yet another iteration of the American “Outlaw,” a familiar myth that could be sold to white suburban teenagers.[1] Today, Osumare explains, female rappers must play to “a male audience,” referencing Lil’ Kim’s being trained by Biggie. “Most females who want to make it big are willing to submit themselves to a manipulating system.” In current commercial hip-hop, “males set the tone, and no one wants to be viewed as a ‘pussy,’ even females.”

As an independent artist, however, Khia isn’t wedded to industry expectations. “I write for the ladies,” Khia explains, “don’t trust no nigga, get yo’ own, respect me, lick my pussy AND my crack.”[2] And while people tend to focus on its vulgarity, especially coming from a woman’s mouth, Khia says her most famous song is about men taking time to please, love, and attend to their female partners: “Even though I’m cussin’, it’s a different message.” She says a feminist message lies is at the heart of the concept of “Thug Misses”: “We can ball like they do. If they can be a thug, I can be a gangstress; they can be a boss, and I can be a boss lady. I don’t care what kinda car you drive cause I got one too.”

I was surprised to learn someone with Khia’s talent, ambition, and prolific creative output has never been signed to a major record label. She has produced, written, and recorded all of her songs herself. After learning this, I better understand the voicemail I receive when I call Khia for our interview: Yeah this is Khia but, this is the wrong day, and the wrong time, leave a message, and if it’s about booking, I’ll call you back even faster. It’s Nasty Music, baby.[3]

It is her status as an independent artist that prompted her well-documented appearance on VH1’s reality show, Miss Rap Supreme in 2008. “With no team and nobody backing me, the opportunity to be on the show was a no brainer. Who wouldn’t want to be on TV when you have product that you’re promoting?” The experience, however, failed to meet her expectations. She didn’t know there would be challenges, and thought the show would be more focused on the “grind” it took to make it as a rapper. “When I got there, it just seemed like it was a bunch of girls in a house.”

“So you lived with those girls?” I ask.

“I did.”

“Did you like any of them?”

“I didn’t.”

Khia believes the girls were intimidated by her prior successes and didn’t understand why she was on the show. “They didn’t get it…. To be a rap supreme, you need to have done something, motherfucker. Otherwise you ain’t no damn rap supreme.” Her exit from the show, in which she was kicked off for performing one of her own songs during what was meant to be an original performance, became a target for media ridicule (as well as a frequent, drunken reenactment scene among my college friends). But Khia, as expected, remains positive: “I had the perfect exit. It was like…‘toodles.’”

And Much More.

While Khia is best known for rapping, a craft which she admittedly never wanted to cultivate, her creative endeavors aren’t limited to music. “I’ve written a bunch of books,” she tells me. “I have a self-help book, which is my favorite. It’s called Love Yourself Hoe.” She tells me she’s ready to release that one. She’s also written a novel called Gangsta Love, and she’s currently working another called Ignoring the Signs, based on the true story of a friend whose marriage to a man in the entertainment industry ended tragically when he infected her with AIDS. Khia was kind enough to send me a few chapters of Ignoring the Signs, which shares the same sexual bluntness of her music. Khia says the novel is going to be juicy, interesting, and real. Despite the fact that she hasn’t yet a convinced a publisher to purchase the rights to her books, she remains optimistic: “It might be bigger than the music!”

Due to her outspoken opinions on fellow, and often more-famous, celebrities, many see Khia as angry and bitter.[4] But Khia stresses her rants are strictly for comedic purposes. “I’m just like Kathy Griffin,” Khia tells me. “I’m like Chelsea Handler, with a little bit of Nancy Grace.” Khia laughs. “I’m just waiting for the right producer to come along and get the Queen on TV.” I mention Tyra Banks’s show, suggesting that its existence proves that having your own show doesn’t require much talent. “Yes!” Khia responds excitedly, “Like whose dick is she sucking?”

Khia believes that the entertainment industry provides a constant stream of material. I ask what she would talk about today if she had her own show. “Well I just got the dirt that Chris Brown and some guy were having sex,” she volunteers without hesitation, “Someone sent me the pictures.” Much of Khia’s humor revolves around the oft-suspected notion that many black men in the entertainment industry bat for both teams, an obsession perhaps driven by a subconscious desire to chip at hip-hop’s “masculine ideal,” or maybe as a way to show solidarity with her largely gay fan base. “T.I. and Puffy were fighting at the BET awards,” she continues, “I’m like T.I., you just got out of jail. You just did 9 months. You should be at home with your wife and kids. But no, you’re out, drunk, with Puffy, arguing like two lovers.” As she opened the door, I jump at the opportunity to ask whether she really thinks Kanye is gay, as she has suggested on her video-blog. “I do,” she responds rapidly, “I think a lot of them are.”

Aside from celebrities on the down low, female musicians like Trina, Beyonce, and Nicky Minaj have been steady targets of Khia’s sharp tongue. Khia recently received flak for accusing Beyonce of plagiarizing the My Neck, My Back video, tweeting “@beyonce has been smoking rocks if she thinks her J. Cole remix flop ‘Party’ will be as big as My Neck My Back.” Her friend Damiko stresses that the videos, both of which center around a pool-party, have a “similar concept,” although he admits that Beyonce’s is “glammed up a little bit more.” While the swarm of blogs that covered this one-sided twitter battle characterized Khia as incensed, Damiko emphasizes that Khia was just having fun with it, telling him that Beyonce, whom Khia greatly respects as an artist, “should have invited the Queen to the video.”

Khia also received a backlash for referring to newbie white girl rapper Kreayshawn as a “saltine cracker” after Kreayshawn used the N-word. Khia again stresses her comment was “just words,” “just comedy,” and was surprised by the accompanying accusations that she was a racist. “I talk about my people all day,” she explained, “I can say nigger. I can say this fuck ass motherfucker is gay. I talk about Kanye. I talk about Beyonce. I talk about Jay-Z. And then I say something about Kreayshawn, and I’m a racist?” she says. “Nobody is exempt. Everybody can get roasted when it comes to the Queen.”

Since I began this article, Khia released yet another girl-powered single “Pay Yo Pussy Bill,”[5] which was received considerable recognition (“praise” may be a stretch) on the internet, and was featured on Fader, NME, and, less notably, Perez Hilton. Khia’s newest album, in which Damiko explains she’s “bringing the 80’s back,” drops this summer, and while she may not be written up in the New York Times, I stand by the Queen and her undying quest to be more than just a one-hit wonder. 


[1] And without eviscerating any shred of cred I myself may possess, this phenomenon likely explains why I—a white, law student—am writing this article.

[2] These are all references to her songs—“Don’t Trust No N*gga”(from Thug Misses), “Respect Me,” (from Gangstress), and of course “My Neck, My Back,” (also from Thug Misses.)

[3] Upon receiving this message, I instantly think that maybe this interview wasn’t really going to happen, that I’d dreamt the whole thing up. Khia, however, calls me back within seconds.

[4] One particularly enraged YouTube user commented on her Fourth of July Video-blog: “This bitch had one hit song and she think she running shit. I can't believe she's talking shit about people who are more relevant than she is and will always be. Stop scrapping the bottom of the barrel bitch and put some meaning into yo pathetic ghetto trashy ass life.” (Ok, “Lamarrs,” calm down.)

[5] The ever-so catchy chorus goes: “Niggers like pussy, girls like money.”

Previously: My Neck, My Back, My Pussy, And My Life

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