"If I go through a normal day of my life without offending anyone or making someone think then I haven't done my job."
There's a revolutionary sound coming out of Manchester. No, it's not a Brit-pop redux. This is Manchester, New Hampshire, the unlikely hearth of a new hip-hop goddess-in-training. Bethany Paradise, a rap impresario with impressive pipes to boot, has big-time dreams with an underground appeal. We caught up with this thuggish filly via email to learn a little bit more about her "Coco Glamourus" style.
How'd you come up with your rapper name? I like to be called Bethany Paradise. That's something I questioned for a while, at first I wanted everyone to be using my real name ... like Kanye West. I'm not sure what it took for me to get over that but once I thought up Paradise it really stuck. I think it was the perfect addition.
Your raps have as much braggadocio as anyone in the game right now. How much of that do you bring to your "everyday" life? How much of Bethany Paradise is a performance, and how much of it is your "normal" alter ego? Very little of what I bring to the table in my music has anything to do with what I would call an alter ego. I hate to sound cliché by saying I'm 100 percent real or something like that, because what does that even mean? I will just say that I feel my personality is a big part of my music and it's dynamic. If anyone were ever to spend a day with me they'd see that very quickly. I often tell my friends if I go through a normal day of my life without offending anyone or making someone think then I haven't done my job.
North Carolina (where you grew up) and New Hampshire don't seem like hotbeds for hip-hop. How'd you hone your skills? What made you transition from singing to mostly rap? When I was growing up we had a family friend who had been rapping for many years. I talk about him in my song "For Zebulon With Love." That was the first person who ever really got me thinking about the hip-hop genre. Up to that point I had always expressed my feelings through singing. When I was growing up I actually was not a big fan of hip-hop. When I relocated to New Hampshire I feel like I lost a lot of my culture. The rapping became a way for me to reconnect with that. Eventually I was writing only rap lyrics and I realized my lyrics in those songs were a lot stronger and I believed in it more. I(t) just felt right.
What were you like as a kid? Did you always want to be an entertainer, or did you have another dream job as a child? I was a very outgoing child. I did always want to be an entertainer, so it's funny that you ask. Growing up I always had these grand dreams of being some kind of rock star fronting a band. I didn't think about striking out as a solo artist until I was almost 19 years old. I also wanted to be a veterinarian and the first female speaker of the House, but I gave up on that second one after Nancy Pelosi beat me to it.
What's your writing and recording process like? I hear some great samples in your work, like Modest Mouse in "Say Yay." My writing comes to me at odd times. Any time of the day or night. I'll sometimes be in the most inconvenient situation, like dinner with friends, and I whip out my BlackBerry and start writing a song. Once I've put that first four bars down it's usually impossible for me to stop until the song is done. I go back and rewrite everything before it makes it to recording. I think my diverse musical interests have helped me with sample choices like that. When I look at the catalog of music I enjoy listening to it goes everywhere from bands like the Kinks and the Turtles to rap artists like Gucci Mane and everywhere in between.
Sex and drugs are big parts of your rhymes. What does your family think of your music? What do you feel you offer musically that other rappers don't? My mother is probably one of my biggest fans, however my father has never been a huge supporter of my rap career. I feel like my number one asset to my music is my life's experience and my personality. It comes through in all of my songs. Everyone has a different story to tell and I think that if someone can hear my story and relate to it, then I've done well. My ability to adapt to different genres sets me apart as well.
You use SoundCloud to get your music heard. What kind of feedback are you getting from fans? Any interest from labels? Soundcloud has been a godsend for me when it comes to promoting my music and giving people an outlet to listen. Whenever someone hears my music for the first time, they're usually like, "Oh, that's you? and you're so good!" But I definitely get some negative feedback as well. I like to take that as constructive criticism. I'm proud to announce that I have been working with an upcoming indie label, The Winner's Circle, currently based out of Indianapolis. What I love most about this venture is that we are such a diverse group of artists and everyone brings more than one talent to the table. They approached me because they felt like I could be that missing urban pop flare and I'm looking forward to working with them further and building a brand; I have endless respect for my team.
Do you have any shows in the near future? Do you see this as a career or a hobby? I am currently planning trips to both Indianapolis and California to record and perform. I have not pinpointed the exact dates yet, but it will be during the spring and summer months. This is definitely more than a hobby to me. At the time being I don't think I can call it my career, either. It's my dream; it's my life.
The artist you'd most like to collaborate with is...? Julian Casablancas. Hands down. I would also really love to work with Kanye West, Lil Kim, or the Beastie Boys because they're my three biggest influences in hip-hop. I hope to someday also be able to work with Katy Perry as well because I love her voice and her style.