The hype has preceded each Psalm One venture – from 2002’s LP Bio: Chemistry, to 2006’s Rhymesayers debut The Death of Frequent Flyer, to the ongoing Woman at Work mixtape series – and the praised has followed. Since leaving her chemistry background and entering the hip-hop game full-time, the Chicago MC from Rhymesayers Entertainment has been called an “unforgettable personality” (Chicago Reader), “pretty damn dope” (2 Dope Boyz), capable of creating “the type of music that feels like a great meal” (Spinner) and “[spitting] bars to make your head shake” (Fake Shore Drive). Now it’s time to find out what the hype’s about firsthand.

Jack: The people who are still down on hip-hop for reasons that maybe lack depth, what are they missing?

Psalm: {*laughs*} Pure American entertainment. For sure. It’s in everything. You can’t escape it. You don’t have to drown in it, but you can’t escape it. So there must be something to it. I will put my bid in to be your favorite, but that’s marginalizing. I mean, favorite female. That’s marginalizing. But I’ll be that too. But even if you don’t like my joint, there’s so many other females out there doing it thoughtfully and doing it well, and doing it differently than the dudes. If you only listen to male rappers, that marginalizes yourself. I couldn’t deal with that, all day all the time. Hearing new voices is a good thing.

I got into rapping simply because there was a lack of good females. There weren’t a lot of girls in crews, and a lot of girls who would step up and rap sucked. I just come from an elitist sort of hip-hop background, especially from Chicago and the Midwest. We always thought biting was a sin, that being wack was a sin, and we always challenge each other to just be better all the time. For me it was not being like, “Oh, just another female in rap because they were underrepresented.” We were represented but not necessarily the best. I came in to be the best. My music at first was just a showcase of skill, whereas now my music is getting more introspective. Shedding more light onto who I am as a person, because I’ve been shedding light on who I am as a rapper for a while.

In school the females would be around because, I mean, hot hip-hop guys. They’re around, but I rarely saw females spit, and if I did I was not impressed for the most part. There wasn’t a female rapper that I knew that I respected for a long time. No disrespect to any females who rapped at Whitney Young between the years of 1994 and 1998, but I don’t think there were any other than me. I became my own role model for that.

When I started saying, “I’m rapping,” there weren’t any females representing like that. I love Salt-n-Pepa, I love Queen Latifah, I love MC Lyte… I wasn’t rapping then. When I was coming into it I would remember those female role models, but there wasn’t anyone at present that I could look to just for inspiration.

J: Left Eye?

P: Left Eye, yeah, but you never really know how dope a rapper is if they’re in an R&B group. Left Eye, and even Da Brat, but I was really more just a fan. And Lauryn of course, but Lauryn to me is more over here, kind of an iconic figure, and she’s singing too. As far as just straight spitters, a lot of the females that I actually do respect now in the game, I didn’t meet until after I started rapping.

I started getting treated like, “Oh, you’re the girl that can spit.” I didn’t even have a name. Just, “you’re the girl that raps.” People would come up to me and tell me that I rap, you feel me? So I was like, “Okay. I guess I’m The Girl.” I’m a tomboy and I have a lot of male cousins. I’ve grown up being more with the dudes anyway, so it didn’t feel uncomfortable for me to make the transition from being the only girl in the crew, to being the only girl who was really rapping in school, all that. That was just a natural transition. I don’t even know if it was a transition.

There is no gender line as far as that’s concerned. I like meeting dope rappers, dope rappers who are cool to talk to and chop it up with. I’ll say it like that. Sometimes you make friends in the rap game and you like them more than you like their music. And that happens a lot. So for me, finding a dope rapper who I can talk to… man. That’s few and far between. I cherish that. As far as females, yes, they’re inspirational when you come across a dope female. It reminds you of your competition, it reminds you that they are out there, and it reminds you that you all need to come together so that other people can know about you and you’re not so, like, “Wow, I found this great underground chick who may never make it, but she’s dope!” I don’t think it should be like that.

You’re not going to forget I’m a chick when you listen to me. You’re not going to forget these things.

(Friend and manager Dorothy Claybourne pipes in: The record is called “Woman at Work,” but it’s not weaved through the music.)

P: Right. There’s no alienation when I use the word “woman.” It’s intrinsically feminist, so I’m not overtly or ultra-feminist. I know that me doing what I’m doing is not going to let you forget that I’m a chick on the mic. Because I get to say things on the mic that guys can’t say. And I use that to my advantage.

I don’t know if guys would say, “Don’t Chris Brown me. I won’t Chris Henry you.” I don’t know a guy who would say that. That line goes deep. Not necessarily like, (rapping) “I got my period today! And blah blah blah.” I haven’t made a period song yet. I say “yet,” because there’s gotta be one great one out there. (laughter) I’m searching for it. “Woman at Work” is really more me just telling you what I’m doing in very general terms. This is volume one, and we just uploaded the trailer for volume two, and there’s volume three coming around the corner around my birthday, which is in July. (snaps fingers) That’s what I’m doing. I’m working toward my next commercial release, putting out promotional releases this year, just so when my buzz comes and I do hit you with the commercial release, people know, and there’s really no excuse. I don’t want to be this great unknown artist. I want to be this great known artist.

I lived out in Oakland for a little while, and I supplemented my income by working with kids. I continued that work here in Chicago with the Pope Charter School, out at like 19th and Kedzie. Out on the Westside, in an impoverished area, blah blah blah. Took ‘em to a really nice studio downtown, did some work with them, and we did a song called “Fly Imaginary Cars.” It was really dope rappers, little budding rappers.

J: So your music is for kids too?

P: It’s good to reach out to the kids. I don’t know if I had anything like that growing up. I was fortunate enough to go to a couple magnet schools, and Whitney Young gave me a lot of opportunities that I probably wouldn’t have if I stayed in my neighborhood. I’m always happy to help the kids because even if I try to ignore that I’m a role model, I am.

It makes me not curse so much. I think about what I’m saying or what kind of images I’m portraying. I don’t censor myself, per se, but I do a lot of thinking about what I’m saying and what kind of picture I’m putting out there. What type of person I am.

I was never lying or glorifying anything so negative that I had to make this grand change. I cut down on using the ‘n’ word. Just using, you know, using a lot of foul language. Just trying to get my point across in a way that’s not so vulgar. Because kids are listening. And if I saw a little girl spitting my lyrics, I wouldn’t be the happiest if she was spitting my raunchy stuff. Like, “Dang, that’s the one you like, huh?” That’s just a weird thing, because I’m not, you know, I’m not a party girl, but I drink. You know, I do legal things. {*laughs*} I want to make sure that I’ve got something that I can be proud of, and that I can play for the kids too.

J: What do you listen to besides rap?

P: With music, you can’t be discriminatory. I used to be like, “I’ll listen to everything except for country.” And I’ve heard some kick ass country songs since I put that stigma down. It just takes an artist or a group in that particular genre – Tribe Called Quest did it for me. When I first got into high school I wasn’t really into hip-hop. I had moved from a really affluent neighborhood to a really “bad” neighborhood, quote unquote. And all I heard was hip-hop, and it was all gangsta shit and it was all bad. (pause) I’m sorry. I don’t know if I can curse. But gangsta S. And I didn’t like it. I didn’t really appreciate the glorification and the misogyny and all that. It was very abrasive to my ears.

My friend was like, “Man, you gotta listen to Tribe,” and I was like, “I don’t want to hear anything about anybody shooting,” or whatever. I was being close-minded. And my friend was like “They’re not talking about that. And if they’re talking about that, they’re talking about it in a way that we would talk about it.” And I gave them a chance and it was over for me.

There’s so much music now – you know, it’s kind of like going to a buffet and expecting someone to bring you your perfect plate. You gotta go get your plate. There’s no way you’re going to get exactly four spoonfuls of macaroni salad and black pepper corn chicken. You’re not going to get that perfect plate unless you go get it yourself.