It is unfortunately easy for women to be outshone by men in almost every capacity and while rapper Young Moose has received much of the credit for the protest song ‘No SunShine,’ the song’s success owes just as much to a fiery verse from 19-year-old spoken-word poet and rapper Martina Lynch: “We live in poverty/ probably seen some things/ that could take you out of your normal state and turn you into a fiend/ or maybe give up your dreams/ and take you out to the street/ the only place we feel free/ but damn we still ain’t free/ no, the police don’t know me/ but they wanna take out my whole team/ then my niggas in the streets, they shootin’ too/ no sunshine, it ain’t bulletproof.”
Lynch’s delivery speaks to several years of perfecting her flow while building up an impressive and growing résumé, performing in various open mics in the area and out of state, at the African American Festival, Artscape, and, soon, an event at the Walters Art Museum on June 25. She’s also got a couple of TEDx talks under her belt, an appearance on BET’s “106 & Park,” a mixtape called “The Climax” on DatPiff, and the “#TinaTurnUp” EP, with plans to release another mixtape this summer. When she’s not performing or writing, she teaches kids in after-school spoken-word workshops around the city, in conjunction with Dew More Baltimore. We sat down with Lynch in a Station North coffee shop and talked about her early influences, how music can be an outlet, and why women ought to look out for each other.
City Paper: How did you get into writing poetry and rapping?
Martina Lynch: I started writing poetry when I was 9 and, like, my poetry turned into hip-hop. I’m basically influenced by Tupac. Tupac is one of my favorite rappers for real. I like that he makes you feel like you can relate to him; like he lets his fans know that they’re not alone, for real, that’s what I wanna do with my things, let them know that they’re not alone. I want them to be able to relate to what I’m saying.
CP: Who are some of your other influences?
ML: Well, I started learning about poetry probably in second grade, and my teacher definitely taught me a lot about haikus and stuff like that; I started out writing simple poems like that. But who really influenced to start rapping was [my sister’s boyfriend at the time]. He was a rapper, and he called himself Nu-Boy, and he was doing his thing. I saw that he was really dedicated to it, and he really wanted it, and he was expressing himself through his music. I was real shy before I started rapping and performing—like, people are surprised [about that]. So it was kind of a way for me to speak my opinion. And when I got older, when I was like 14, he ended up getting killed by somebody. That really hit me hard, so yeah, after that, I really started talking about black-on-black crime, and that’s really what made me want to start getting into spoken word and things like that. That’s what really helped me go further into it.
CP: So how do you, as a rapper and a poet, respond to what’s going on, especially everything surrounding Freddie Gray? How do you deal?
ML: I just get inspired by it. It’s not just about the painful situation, you can get inspired off of something happy too, but when it is difficult times like that, when I really feel passionate about a situation I’m like, “yo, you really need to hear about this.” . . . I guess when I see situations like that I see it as an opportunity to have an outlet and express myself . . . because I feel like music has a big influence on people today. You listen to a party song, you might wanna go drink, you listen to a love song, you might wanna call your boyfriend—music can change the world. If you can get everybody to hear you talk about what’s going on, if you had that big outlet and everybody’s listening to you, you might as well say something important and say something that can bring some change . . . And then especially with everything that’s going on in my community, I’m not always in the area that it’s happening in, but I’ve lived in these communities before, I know people who live in these communities, and I see what’s going on. I definitely wanna talk about it, as far as poverty, police brutality, and then just regular problems, like everybody’s day to day problems: women empowerment, or just, you know, self-esteem. That all matters, you know what I’m saying, like I don’t wanna just talk about one thing.
CP: How did you meet Young Moose?
ML: Well, we initially met on Instagram, I was checkin’ out some of his stuff, he checked out some of my stuff . . . but I met him because he and his family have a clothing store on Monument Street, and I was just walking down Monument Street one day and I just saw him out there like, hey, what’s up, and we met up. You know when rappers meet up they just like start having a cipher or something, so we start putting on instrumentals and freestyling, and we [were] like yeah we gotta get a track together, we gotta get something done. So probably like a week later, we met up in the studio. And we didn’t even plan on doing anything for Freddie Gray that day, but . . . we put on a beat, just put on some instrumentals and we were talking about everything that was going on, and we were like yeah, it’s crazy, people really wilin’ out. And Moose was like, “yeah we should just make this song about Freddie Gray.” And I was like “yeah, let’s do it.”
CP: Your verse in that song is so good, it gives me chills every time. Can you talk a little more about why female empowerment is important to you?
ML: I don’t feel like women show each other enough love. Women are like really catty, they get really jealous, and then sometimes, like, especially in high school, it’s hard for females to fit in, or try to find a clique that they fit into, and it’s so hard for them to feel pretty. And if you don’t feel like you have any guys telling you you’re pretty, and then you got girls throwing shade or whatever, you could feel low about yourself. Growing up, I was always told that I was beautiful. [My grandmother] let me and all my sisters know that we was beautiful and she told us every day that we was. “It’s not about the way you look, it’s not about that, so don’t compare yourself to other girls,” that’s what my grandmother always told me. If we ever wanted another pair of shoes that another girl had or something like that, she would just tell me like don’t worry about what they got, worry about what you got. You can’t chase another person’s blessings, you’re gonna have your own blessings.
CP: Do you feel like Baltimore’s home or are you trying to go other places?
ML: Baltimore’s definitely home, but I’m trying to take it beyond Baltimore. Like way beyond Baltimore. Like, I want to reach everybody, I want to start here ’cause I definitely gotta get my town behind me. And I love my city so I’m gonna show my city love, but I’m definitely trying to go beyond this, I can see it going way bigger than what I imagined. But it’s not about as far as fame, it’s just as far as me getting my message out there, like me being able to make a career out of what I like to do anyway.