Lyric Michelle stands out when you see her at Tout Suite. She stands out when she shakes hands and smiles graciously for radio interviews or on-camera spots. She’s genuinely happy because for a brief time, she can remember when life was dark and decided to scold her for merely existing. For merely being a black girl, and in a broader sense, being a Nigerian girl placed in the middle of Houston from Chicago.
But what’s the perspective to take when listening to her? Lyric's poetic delivery is more punk rock than condensed and to-the-point hip-hop? You know she’s a woman based upon her looks, her curves and how she speaks. There’s no need to put a disclaimer on her, the “female rapper" toe tag. We don’t classify women who take photos as female photographers. We don’t add that catchall to a lot of other professions. But in the boys club that is Houston hip-hop, she fights it. And hates every fiber of it.
"You always hear, 'Who’s the female MC representing Houston?' You never hear, “Who’s the male…” because no one cares!" she said in a recent Q&A with Noisey, weeks before she takes over Walters for her MissDirection album release party. "And normally here in Houston, I get billed in earlier slots. But when I’m not here, I get great slots. I had a great slot in Los Angeles performing at a Joe Budden show. Same with Montreal. Here, it’s different.”
A lot of what Lyric represents is different, which is why MissDirection is outfitted with vocalists to back her own voice. The album kicks off with her voice amplifying right along with the bass line. “Okay, fuck it, I’m fine,” she says in a rather dismissive tone about a breakup wherein her musical daydreams couldn’t intersect with perfect love. “It’s not that I don’t have all the answers, I just pose the questions,” she ponders near the end. She wants to be as confident and proud as ever. MissDirection is autobiographical; it plays up to a woman owning not just her skin but her presence and her physical stature — and how she intimidates the hell out of people.
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She populates much of “Weekend (Ladi Dadi)” with seeking some companionship but only as a last resort. “I really find myself, floating in the clouds,” she strums along behind some simple yet effective jazz accompaniment. When she does seek a bit of mutual understanding about a topic, she gets Fat Tony to wax about his own problems with being a Nigerian creative on “Directions.” As much as Lyric Michelle loves and appreciates her family, she knows that her parents may never hear her music, or even attend a concert. Tony’s family either. So it’s a broken situation that she hopes will eventually be mended. But then again, there’s plenty of things Lyric hopes to mend with MissDirection.
Coming to grips with your own pains and scars is ultimately the singular theme of MissDirection. As Lyric’s voice and flow dance around being straight poetry, with emphasis on certain words hitting harder than others, she can throw it up against templates that sound like ‘60s beach days (“Can’t Stop”) and in other ways like guitar blues (“My Pain”). What Lyric eventually confronts with MissDirection isn’t just that her shade of black is just as beautiful (“Berries,” with Kam Franklin) or even that her idea of womanhood is just as powerful. It all centers around a lyric from “My Pain” that grabs everything up with plotted ethos: “I’m still that dark-skinned nappy-headed girl from the Chi/ Six people, one bedroom, my daddy got us by/ Take my advice, don’t let their words pierce you like a knife/ My scars are barely healing, I’m bleeding through this mike.”
Lyric Michelle's MissDirection release concert begins at 8 p.m. tonight at Walters Downtown featuring guests Kam Franklin, Kitty Beebe, Jack Freeman, Ashley Toman, Suraiye, Kyle Hubbard and Corbin Dallas. DAYTA will be your DJ. For tickets, click here.