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Mama Duke. Photo: Facebook.

Who is Mama Duke? Trap, underground and braggadocious

The queer rapper celebrated the release of her new album, Ballsy, in a visceral, five-hour livestream.

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It would be an arduous task to find an album as well recorded, intense and underground as rapper Mama Duke's debut, Ballsy.

In a year that has forced self-production on artists, it is increasingly difficult to find modern albums with an essence of hip hop's origins. 

They are rebellious and boastful without giving in to gangster dynamics, and pure outcasts that grab the microphone to spit raw emotions on the beat.

This is what Mama Duke achieves in Ballsy.

Mama Duke, a stage name that comes from the nickname for the motherly figures in the neighborhood, was raised in Palacios, Texas, by religious, Mexican parents.

First, she had to accept her homosexuality in front of her mother, which caused many more problems in school than with her parent, who was totally supportive. That identity would become key to Mama Dukes' rap persona. 

"When I was fifteen years old my mother told me that I would be a muuufuc*a. I think I went to the extreme because I am literally a muuufuc*a,” she said in an interview.

But the challenges only started then.

Over time, she was cruelly reminded that she was a triple whammy: Black, female, and lesbian.

From then on, she had no choice but to push her way into the public and education arenas as well as into the Austin hip-hop scene, where she even had problems among queer peers. 

"I’m not Black enough for Black people, I’m not Mexican enough for Mexicans, I’m Black and [people claim] I’ve had no struggles because I’m lightskin,” she said.

All these difficulties and multiple labels work like a meteor shower of contradictions in songs like "Over my head," in which she struggles to re-appropriate all the insidious comments she's received while in the limelight.

Her awareness of her position as an artist is indisputable from the very name of the album's producer, Triple Whammy Records.

It is necessary to raise the bass, lower the lights and disconnect from many of the responsibilities to let yourself be carried away by the rain of emotions in the five-hour live show that marked the album's premier. From laughter to tears, all raced to overwhelm the artist as she took the stage filled with friends, including her girlfriend as one of the DJs. 

Continuing in the style of the best trap in Atlanta, Mama Dukes showed a little of her potential before with two mixtapes that earned awards for "Best Artist" and "Best Female Artist of the Year" in 2019 at the Austin Music Awards.

The first tape, Pre-K, was about R&B vibes. Safe Travels however, seemed like a freestyle in lo-fi, almost as if it recreated the first love poems she wrote to the girls in her school. 

Her first album, Ballsy, which she herself has defined as "braggadocious," looks raw and visceral. There are no lo-fi notes, the direction is through the Roland TR-808 and the autotune is to demonstrate her mastery of taming the trap in favor of her interests.

The voice and the speech sound angry, personal and integrated in their community, and therefore can play in the big leagues without giving up the aforementioned original underground essence.

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