At 14, Dallas rapper Lyrical had a poem published after winning a poetry contest, recorded hip-hop music for the first time and met her father for the first, and only, time. It was a year that made a profound and lasting impression on her. Lyrical is a hip-hop artist with a big voice and jaw-dropping freestyle skills. Now she's preparing for the release of her second album, a tour and some charity work.
She met her father by accident. Lyrical was visiting her uncle and brother in jail in Waco and found out that’s where he was too. Back then, everyone knew who her dad was; let’s call him a crime boss. When Lyrical was a baby, her dad was too dangerous to be around so her mom had to get her out of that situation. When she found him, Lyrical was excited to finally meet her father, but she wasn’t on his visiting list. “I was right there,” Lyrical says. “So close, but I couldn’t see him.”
Lyrical cried so hard that an officer gave her 15 minutes with her dad anyway. She looked at the scars on his face and thought about all sorts of stories she had heard about him going to the hospital for many reasons, including getting shot in the head. She asked him if he had committed all these crimes she had heard about and he admitted that he had. He told her she had lots of brothers and sisters. And that was it.
But it wasn’t enough. She tried to call her dad, but by then he had been moved to a different jail. She started calling other jails until someone finally told her that it was a waste of time. The location of her father would not be given; it could put her in danger to know. Heartbroken, Lyrical gave up on the idea of ever seeing her father again or even knowing where he was.
She kept writing poems, and the poetry of hip-hop began to appeal to her. It often told stories she could relate to. “Poetry speaks to your entire being and inspires you,” Lyrical says. “Hip-hop does that too. But it also inspires you to act.” She started focusing on hip-hop after making those first recordings. It wasn’t something her mother approved of.
But there were lots of other things her mother didn’t approve of either. Fun things, like holidays. Lyrical was raised by a Jehovah’s Witness, her Dad was in jail and her grandmother and brother died of unnatural causes. She often wondered about all those brothers and sisters. Her formative years were not always fun. But today her music is emphatically fun — aggressive, but fun.
Lyrical has a big voice and she’s a poet on the mic. It makes quite a first impression. “We all have that sweet side,” Lyrical says. “But people push you to that point sometimes and you have to be aggressive.” Her music seems to convey both dispositions. With heavy bass and drums, the production sounds angry and emotional.
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There's a theme of empowerment that is central to her music. “There’s a lot of pressure on how you look and changing the way you look,” Lyrical says. But she is not concerned with specific and ever-changing physical and stylistic expectations. She winces at the thought of someone getting cosmetic surgery. The thought of a person going to such extremes to accommodate popular opinion particularly bothers her.
“I’m sexy and fun, but different,” she says. Lyrical doesn’t want to make videos with lots of skin and no substance. She wants visceral imagery with a story. “Use yourself as a person to change society,” Lyrical insists. And she believes women like her are the best people to do that.
In the past few years, Lyrical met one of her sisters and a brother on Facebook. It made her want to find her father again. She wondered where he was, if he was even alive, and had so many questions she wanted to ask him. But it also made her want to make a difference. Not knowing her father was a very difficult thing to go through as a kid and it wasn’t something anyone ever helped her with. But she has made it through. “When you have the type of strength or mentality to get through something I feel like it is your obligation to pull the next person through,” Lyrical says.
That's why she has decided to work with non-profit organizations like Sylent Heart to help kids figure out who their parents are, and if they're incarcerated, facilitate visits there. She wants to share her story, play benefit shows, participate in fundraisers and help gather donations. But more than anything, she wants to raise awareness of this issue and resources that can help others find the strength she had to find on her own. “I want to help those people who are looking for what I was looking for,” Lyrical says.