Who wants to pass on the first competent female rapper to blow up without dropping her pants? Not the Midwest’s Rhymesayers label. It won an underground-label battle in 2005 to sign 26-year-old Southside Chicago native Cristalle Bowen on little more than a few singles.
Bowen, aka Psalm One, pulls into the Bay Area again this week, supporting her first LP and its standout hit “Rapper Girls,” which attacks the Lil’ Kims of rap while demonstrating the difference between her and the rest of the skindustry. The former University of Illinois chem major grew up singing in church choirs and playing piano, saxophone, and other instruments. By 2004, she had traded in her original rap name Psalm 65:11 for Psalm One because kids could never remember it. Ironically, she can’t remember Psalm 1:1. “Something about God,” she says.
“Beat the Drum” and “Macaroni and Cheese” show her dedication to getting booties shaking, but she does it with classy samples and (gasp!) positive messages. “The Living” is a day-in-the-life rap from her stint as a food-chemistry tester.
Bowen has ditched the safety goggles thanks to excellent production by Overflo, V-Traxx, and Madd Crates, who lock onto midtempo, vintage-inspired hooks with a little horns here, a little piano and organ there. None of it detracts from her clear, insistent, intelligent, and layered delivery — a rhymesayers’ trademark.