Back Issue__ Pink Dollaz
After being whisked away in a Hummer from a crowd of screaming fans at a show in Compton, the all girl L.A. hip hop group Pink Dollaz, met us for their photoshoot in Silverlake, California. During the shoot a man pulled up in his car desperately trying to get the girls to take his CD. The girls giggled, took the disc and brushed off this awkward swoop of fame by joking amongst themselves, posing for the clicking camera while sipping on their sodas. It was a day that has become typical for Pink Dollaz--concert, photoshoot, fending off fans--but being a superstar is a hard thing to grasp when you are still in high school.
The opening seconds of Pink Dollaz Jerkin' hit, “Ball Game” is their twist on the baseball sing-along “Take Me Out to the Ball Game.” The goofy sportsman melody is sung in a choir of mutilated, baby-girl Chipmunk voices: “Take me out to the hair shop/take me out to the mall/buy me some diamonds and Gucci bags/if you don't I'll never come back...” Then, the beat kicks in and the five ladies of L.A's youngest female hip hop group, Pink Dollaz--Nilla, Reese, CeCe, Cammy B and Mocha--get going, rapping their way through razor-sharp jargon littered with references to sex, brands and boys. Imagine Salt n' Pepper, but younger, fresher and as charmingly self-aware as any indie darling (and without the irksome affected naivete).
The ladies of Pink Dollaz grew up together in Inglewood, California, which is home to the latest underground rap scene called Jerkin'. Since the movement started at Hamilton High School last year, Jerkin' has blown up to an international level catching the attention of major record labels such as Warner Brothers and Interscope and more importantly, transforming a generation of inner city L.A. youth, into skinny jean loving, “Tippy Toe” dancing, rapping, self-made hip hop artists, propelling them away from gang life. But, just like any underground movement, Jerkin' risks the commodification of the dreaded industry. In the beginning, these were just a bunch of high school kids who DIY'ed their way into a new breed of song and dance through the viral, infectious ways of YouTube and MySpace. Now, many have embraced the open arms of major label success--Ranger$, New Boyz, The Bangz--while the Pink Dollaz or the “Queens of the Jerk Music Scene” remain unsigned, despite the 2.5 million MySpace hits, sold out concerts and ever-growing fan base. But Universal is interested. The world is interested and Pink Dollaz are not weary of the rapid mainstream success they have endured. In fact, they think they are exactly what the industry needs.
"First off, there aren't a lot of girls in the industry at the moment," says Pink Dollaz member, CeCe who--along with the other members of the group--is now home schooled due to her careers high demands. "Our whole point was to start a girl movement, you know? [Society] labels everything--it's a man's world and all that--but rapping is just rapping regardless of gender or race. Do not discriminate."
In the last year, Pink Dollaz have collaborated with M.I.A, The Bangz, Diplo and most recently, New York dance-punk outfit, The Liars. Since the beginning they have released their own music videos and produced their own tracks (their early tracks were co-produced with the help of fellow P.E. student and Jerkin' head master, J-Hawk). They have a new mix tape along with four new singles scheduled to be released this month. They are still only 17 and 18-years old.
Lightening quick success aside, what sets Pink Dollaz apart is their attitudes about femininity, which becomes evident through their brazen, tell-all lyrics. Besides rapping about fame, cash, sex and independence, Pink Dollaz go deeper (literally), especially in tracks like 'Tasty'--a song dedicated to a girl getting hers and getting off. Some might write-off this sexual chitter-chatter as trite or unnecessarily explicit, but that would be missing the point because beneath the initial shock-value, Pink Dollaz are re-claiming female sexuality. At a time where most young girls in North America are being told to shut their legs, shut up and denied access to the resources to develop a healthy sexuality, Pink Dollaz call attention to the reality of female sexual pleasure.
Everything Kiely Williams is doing wrong, Pink Dollaz are doing right.
"We're the voice of the women," asserts CeCe speaking on be-half of the group. "So much of this world is sugar-coated and we came out raw, just spitting to what people are really thinking about and because of that everybody is like, 'Yeah, the girls wanna go hard on the boys now.' We declare our sexuality as women because we are often over looked and underestimated as women. Pink Dollaz are here to prove woman can do whatever the guys can, if not better.”
Rapping a lot about sex in their earlier tracks, Pink Dollaz have evolved onto different themes. They are, after all, teenage girls which means the battle between culture, perspective and self is a continuous evolution. Pink Dollaz think that rapping strictly about sex limited them to “only saying the things the guys say about the girls” since then, they have molded their lyrical game to new levels. It's this kind of sharp perception that makes Pink Dollaz unstoppable.
The “magic” happens when they write together. The first few Pink Dollaz tracks were written while the girls (who have been good friends for years) were just hanging out on the weekends. “We finally put our minds together and decided to make one song, J-Hawk [the producer] he was going to our school at the time and he helped us make our first song,” says CeCe. “All the girls came to my house, we had a slumber party and we wrote 'Never Hungry' and we went to [his] studio the next day. J-Hawk heard our lyrics and he really liked it but he wanted to do 'Tasty' first because he had a beat he'd never used and he wanted to it be used on us. We went crazy over it. So, we did 'Tasty' first, then 'Never Hungry' the same day, came up with our name, Pink Dollaz and then...we just sky rocketed.”
As far as inspiration goes, CeCe tells me she has deep respect for old hip hop legends like Biggie Smalls and Tupac, “[Their music] it soothed me, rocked me. They speak real.” But her number one influence is Michael Jackson. When he passed away, she and Cammy B went to UCLA hospital to pay their respects and take in the madness. Besides admiring his music and energy during performance, CeCe--who describes Melrose Avenue as her “best friend”--likes to employ M.J.'s look into her personal style. “A lot of the time when I perform I'll come back and do an old school Michael Jackson look with the vest, glasses - I love glasses, that's my favourite look - then I'll mix it up with some cowboy boots... I am very bold.”
Pink Dollaz energy in their live shows is summoned from their childhood dreams of being in the spotlight. Cammy B tells me her heart was always in the entertainment business, she has always wanted “to be that person on TV”
“In the beginning, I just wanted to go on stage and rap,” she says. “Now that we have developed fans, I really focus on bringing myself, how I feel in that moment, I go hard. When we're on stage we want to be known for killin' it. Beyonce kills hers, but we want to do it in our own way. A way no one has done it before.”
Pink Dollaz exude an undeniable positivity that can only be found in fresh, emerging artists who haven't been jaded by the industry yet. They tell me they don't worry about the haters, “because they are our fans in disguise” and one can do anything she puts her mind to. It's a blind optimism that comes from riding high so young and hopefully it won't fade as the Pink Dollaz grow up into full-blown super stars.
"I stay humble," Cece says. The line may be hackneyed but her tone--almost breaking with a swell of sincerity--makes it clear she really means it. "Regardless of what is going on around me, whatever could mess me up in the head, I just try to relax and stay calm.”
“I keep telling myself, I'm not there yet,” adds Cammy B. “[We] got more work to do. I just tell myself that I got to keep working harder.”