DFW rapper Alsace Carcione flew into 2017 like a bat out of hell. The original winner of the Master of the Mic has already won multiple awards, written loads of new material and was gearing up to release several new projects.
All of that was put on hold when her mother and grandmother died within weeks of each other. It was then, for the first time in the artist's life, that she fell into dark place — one where music, the thing she loved most, became a chore. Over the next few months, with the help of her friends, family, and other artists, Carcione was able to find herself again. On April 20, she plans to show us exactly what that looks like with the release of her new album, New Normal.
Carcione is no stranger to hardship. The Virginia-native grew up as an LGBT person of color in the South, joined the Marines, fought the music industry’s boy’s club for a seat at the table, and — maybe hardest of all — watched her mother battle cancer twice for more than 10 years. But when she flew out to Virginia last January, she had no idea that she was about to lose two of the most important women in her life — within weeks of one another.
“My grandmother was a woman who lived unapologetically," Carcione says. “She was going to do what she wanted to do, no matter what.”
Growing up in the South, Carcione's grandmother Catherine "Cat" Haywood moved to New York in her teens — or as Carcione put it, “as soon as possible.” Haywood lived modestly in the Red Hook projects of Brooklyn while working for ABC and visiting her family often.
Carcione says Haywood insisted everyone call her “Grandma,” and made sure she was everyone's grandma. She would spontaneously take her grandchildren shopping and bring along their friends, so they wouldn’t feel left out. Haywood loved living life, she loved her family, and in her heyday, she even loved to party.
“She’s the only woman I know who’d go to the grocery store and fill the cart up with top-shelf liquor — you name it, she bought it,” Carcione says with a laugh.
Carcione’s mother, Nadine Guy, was also someone the rapper says was filled with love. As a church secretary, Guy supported her children in all that they did — and she led by example, working for more than 10 years to get her college degree. Carcione says her mother maintained a quiet strength, opened her heart to everyone she met and continuously moved forward, regardless of the obstacles in her path, which included cancer on two separate occasions.
“My mother is the reason I have the sense that I have," Carcione says. "She’s the reason I do what I do, and she was always there. She raised us to love each other. Even through her struggle, she’d be smiling at you and ask you if you needed anything.”
But her mother didn’t just stress the importance of love and dedication upon her daughter — she also taught her that women are just as strong and capable as the rest.
Carcione, who has been openly gay for years, recalls making a conscious decision in her younger years to be more masculine, because she didn’t want to go through some of the things she witnessed her mother going though — struggles she associated with presenting as feminine. It wasn’t until years later that Carcione realized that being a woman doesn’t equate to being weak, because her mother and grandmother were two of the strongest, bravest women she’d ever met. “I knew I was gay, this is who I am; I’m not defined by my sexuality," she says. "It’s just an everyday struggle that I don’t have to be so aggressive. I can let my guard down.”
On February 17, 2017, Carcione remembers being called to the hospital by her father, who’d informed her that Grandma Cat was close to dying. When she got to the hospital, she was met in the hallway by her father, who had tears in his eyes as he led her to her grandmother’s room. Grandma Cat died that day, surrounded by family, including Carcione.
That following Friday, during her grandmother’s wake, Carcione received a text message from her stepfather, urging her to come back to hospital for her mother. Carcione was met in the same hallway as the week prior, this time by her stepfather. Shortly thereafter, Carcione’s mother died.
“I kissed my mother that day on March 9 — got to Texas about 6 o’clock, recorded a song for Friday’s Foolery — and by 9:30, my mother was gone,” Carcione says. “So, music for me [at that time], just, it kind of became a chore for a little while.”
With the support of her partner, the woman Carcione refers to as her “queen,” she submitted her work to multiple outlets and festivals — making pivotal connections with Revry, an all-inclusive, queer streaming outlet, OUT Web Fest, and is scheduled to perform at this year’s Dinah Shore Weekend, along with another DFW artist, Snow The Product. In addition to that, Carcione began working on a new album and enlisted the help of other local artists including Topic, Sikwitit, KEYZdashSHAWN, Jeremy Biggers and Da Dreak, to name a few.
New Normal is something a little different than her previous projects, Carcione says. While fans will hear styles familiar to her other records, New Normal will have more lyricism, metaphors and soul. “The music that was chosen for this is tribal, almost," she says. "There are bridges, and bars, and change-ups.”
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Carcione will perform April 20 — a date that has traditionally been known to bring out the chillest of vibes — at Club Dada for the release of New Normal.
“While I’m trying to lift people up, people will be getting high," she says. "When you get high, just come in the joint and listen to some good fucking music. I’m going to be at one of my favorite venues in Deep Ellum, Club Dada, and I’m just praying for no rain so we can perform outside.”
Looking back on the last year, Carcione is proud of the woman she’s become and the artist she continues to be — and she credits a majority of that to the love shown to her by her mother and grandmother.
“In today’s society, we don’t get to experience it much; we don’t get to experience what unconditional love looks like," she says. "Everybody’s love comes with a condition: 'I’ll love you if…' But they showed me unconditional love.”