Kellee Maize is an American independent rapper, activist and entrepreneur, and also a doula, whose first album “Age of Feminine” was released in 2007. Kellee is sharing why she feels that creativity can help us heal and learn, and why is “The Handmaid’s Tale” significant. And do have a look on her video “Abortion Ban Protest/“The Handmaid’s Tale”/“Rise””!
Kellee, how do you define yourself?
I consider myself a truthseeker, seeking enlightened spiritual universal truths, and I see my role as an artist to raise awareness about a multitude of causes and interests. From writing about things like the divine feminine, brain science and indigenous wisdom, to social activism like intersectional feminism, racism, and social injustices. I hope to use my platform as an artists to educate people on the depth of these issues as well as share actionable ways to help. I try to live by example as well and try to have an impact in my everyday life. It’s easy in this social media age to just share a post on Facebook with your opinions, but sharing a post doesn’t usually solve these problems. It helps to raise awareness, but the real work is in how we live our daily lives to counteract injustices, empower people and devote time or money to causes that matter.
When and why did you become a feminist?
I’m not sure I can pinpoint exactly when I became a feminist. I grew up in a small rural town in central Pennsylvania, so I wasn’t exposed to much politically that I identified with. I was raised my an amazingly strong woman, my adoptive mother who recently passed away. But she was certainly a role model of being a strong female not boxed into stereotypical gender roles. She spent most of her life working in factories mostly along side men doing very physical labor. But I think on a more political level, moving to Pittsburgh to go to college exposed me more to women’s rights and feminism. Then after college when I started my own marketing agency I wanted to create a group of empowered women changing the game of how to run a business in a predominantly make oriented field of music and nightlight. We sought to embodying feminine energy to do business versus the traditional male competitive vibe. That was when my passion for female empowerment really came to life and became my full time focus. We mentored hundreds of young women through our internship programs. I also joined some spiritual women’s circles and now host a multitude of circles in my community. So when I began getting serious and recording my music this female empowerment/divine feminine focus was certainly at the forefront. I always stress it’s not about women being better than men, or hating men. It’s about unity, equality, embracing the unique qualities of feminine energy, as both men and women, in how we live our lives.
It has been said that your poetic rap is grounded in feminist spirituality. How would you define feminist spirituality?
I draw a lot of inspiration from the concept of divine feminine, or the feminine energy all humans, both male and female, possess at various degrees. My beliefs about feminism and divine feminism are not about male or female being better than the other. It’s about embracing both sides, within ourselves and as a society. Living as a patriarchy for so long, I believe it’s time to incorporate feminine energies into how we live and function as a society to bring more harmony. Feminine qualities include creativity, justice, balance, non-violent resistance, and awareness of emotions to name a few. I often share the indigenous quote, “When the women gather, the world will heal.” As we shift away from the competitive, logic driven, stereotypical material sense of success, to a more creative, balanced, place of unity, where we empathize with others rather than compete, we could live in a happier world.
Can you name the best methods of nonviolent struggle?
I think most simply put – it’s being the change you wish to see. To dismantle the patriarchy and systematic racism, you have to actively engage with everyone around you to educate on the ignorance surrounding equality. But at the same time it needs to be done delicately because a heated debate doesn’t often change views. Connecting and highlighting our oneness is more powerful. And just living by example, teaching our children a different way of being so their future can be in an evolved society. Of course I use my music to raise awareness and hopefully open minds to see things in new perspectives. I also try to “vote” my views and opinions with my dollar, avoid giving money to companies or systems that don’t support equality. For those that worship the dollar it’s sometimes the only way to get through to them and activate change even if it is for the sake of their own greed.
You are working within the music industry. How did you become a rapper?
Hip hop and rapping was a natural fit for how I express myself lyrically and I’ve loved political hip hop since I was in my teens. I’m able to say so much more rapping a verse than singing. And while I’m influenced by so many different genres from country to classic rock to pop, hip hop was definitely an early favorite growing up. It also is a rather political genre, at least the hip hop I listened to growing up in the 90s.
You are challenging rap’s hyper-masculinity. What is it like being a female feminist rapper in the industry?
When I first started making music there were so very little female rappers getting any industry support, there were the handful of mainstream acts like Salt n Pepa or Lil Kim, but when I made my first album there was no Nicki Minaj or Iggy Azalea. The music industry as a whole has very little respect for women. So being a face for that and that’s it’s possible for women to have talent spitting rhymes was important to me. All of my music is 100% about inspiring the listener: to grow, to forgive themselves, to activate change within themselves and the world. It’s the only reason I make music. Not to be famous, not to make money: my music is all free. It’s my small part in helping as many others as possible.
Let’s talk about your video that brings together a collage of the “The Handmaid’s Tale” Season 1 and your original song “Rise”. What do you want your audience to gain, feel and/or do as a result of watching the film?
“Rise” was written several years ago for my album “The Fifth Element”. It was meant to be an uplifting empowerment song for women, a song about dismantling the patriarchy and what society expects of us. Empowering women to lead because I truly believe a revolution by women would be much more transformative than the war driven political revolutions of the past. The connection to “The Handmaid’s Tale” just seemed so fitting. I wanted to do something to honor the show because I just love it so much and multiple people on my team mentioned “Rise” would be a good fit and as we put the video together it just kept clicking into place so perfectly. June is trying to revolt in this dystopian society. I guess I also thought fans of the show and book who find the video may realize they resonate with my work and message. And the juxtoposition between the real life current day abortion bans with this supposed fantasy world just made perfect sense. Like a warning if we keep sliding down this slope we will end up there.
Why is “The Handmaid’s Tale” significant?
The book and show are a perfect example of what happens when misogynistic extreme religious sects come into power. Many say it’s a fantasy, it’s just a show, but Margaret Atwood has confirmed in the book, so at least the first season, everything is based on true historical customs and policy, some of which happen today in the real world. I think it’s a profound warning of which we are heading as a society if we continue down this right wing extremism that’s becoming so prevalent under Trump’s leadership. I really appreciated how the flash backs on the show show how it slowly starts to trickle into society, judging working mothers, judging women’s appearance, then boom all women lose their jobs and property’ assets. Then we’re in a military state where protest is met with automatic weapons. It’s a slippery slope and the recent attack on women’s rights with the abortion bans is a perfect example of policy lead by this thinking that can go too far if left unchecked. It also reminds me of the anecdote that the best Nazis were those who were personally good, civil people who just didn’t say anything to stop it, too afraid to rock the boat or question authority. We have to ask ourselves what side of history do we want to be on.
You are a level two Reiki practitioner and have organised women’s gatherings for support and spiritual growth since 2009. Could you elaborate on that?
I was part of many spiritual circles when I was going through the loss of my father and not being able to contact my birth mother and these circles changed my life. I learned how they worked and how to lead and coordinate them so others could lead, as it is truly about shared leadership. These circles are based on indigenous wisdom and understanding that there every voice should be heard. I have found for myself and everyone who takes part tremendous opportunities for transformation as when you are in circle you realize just how similar we all are in the ways in which we feel and think… It is just our circumstances and reactions/actions that tend to differ. Because of this, you gain new insight into how others deal with their circumstances and it’s a very beautiful and empowering thing.
What feminists, creative activists, musicians, etc would you say have influenced you the most, and why?
Lauryn Hill was a huge inspiration for me when I was young. Listening to her along with many other hip hop artists gave me a perspective on a life and culture that I knew nothing about but harnessed with Emmy a great deal of compassion and understanding. She also showed me the strength of a woman speaking her mind authentically. Otherwise I have to say that most of the women who impacted me were people that I know in my life. I have many spiritual mamas who are very intelligent and powerful and have helped me to deal with all that is going on in the world as well as my own personal life.
What’s next up for you?
I’m working on two albums, my 8th and 9th that I hope to complete soon. I’m also doing more theme based ideas and actually fleshing out another song inspired by a show, for “Chilling Adventures of Sabrina” (TV series) on Netflix. I consider all empowered women to be the same as our ancestors who were burned at the stake for things like herbalism, midwifery and such. I’m a doula and heavily interested and supportive of alternative healing and medicine. I’m writing an original song to the theme music, making nod to the show while also expressing how I define being a “good witch” today.
Video “Abortion Ban Protest/“The Handmaid’s Tale”/“Rise”” by Kellee Maize here.