Each One, Teach One | Finding inspiration in the rap game's "dollhouse"
Kash Doll, Asian Doll, Cuban Doll and Dream Doll are each doing something right.
As KRS-One articulated throughout his catalog and in his many teachings, “Rap is something you do, hip hop is something you live.” As the culture continues to evolve today, many feel it’s not only important, but vital to preserve and honor the fundamental elements: Graffiti, emceeing, breakdancing, deejaying and knowledge. This column called “Each One, Teach One” aims to do exactly that. It will highlight various lessons that can be passed between new and old generations alike.
Inspiration is everywhere and comes in many forms. Whether it arrives when spending quality time with those who motivate you, detaching from social media to enjoy the present moment, switching up your surroundings or simply blasting your favorite playlist; when inspiration strikes, the feeling is restorative, affirming and powerful. For many, music plays an integral role, as well as serves a dual purpose of soundtracking the drive that leads to the actualization of ideas. While inspiration is fleeting by nature, it’s also woven into unlikely places, such as in today’s multifaceted rap landscape.
Ample ink has been spilt, and will rightfully continue to be spilled while discussing how hip hop has historically regarded its women. However, it is increasingly hard-pressed to ignore those leading the charge to change how the industry views and embraces its non-cis male creators and consumers. Over the past several years — 2018 especially — there has been a refreshing air surrounding the revival and reception of women artists in hip hop. While success can be calculated, such as by celebrating Cardi B becoming the first solo woman to win Best Rap Album at the 2019 Grammys or Nicki Minaj becoming the first woman to top 100 million RIAA certified units, inspiration can be found in their journeys, their messages, their transparency regarding their own experiences and in their culture-shaping victories.
As the conversations that critically examine how much work the industry has to do to diminish the effects and presence of misogyny in hip hop continue, the fact of the matter is it’s an uphill battle working to make sure the cultural landscape reflects inclusive progress. Because of this, as well as due to the complexities of being a woman-identifying fan of music in general and hip hop specifically, women are consistently tasked with finding ways to navigate a culture that often thrives at their expense. When placing a focus on the next generation of women in rap and the veterans who blazed trails (and continue to do so), there are not enough allocated words for this column to share the nuanced ways in which the ladies inspire onlookers by taking ownership of their merit in rap, and by rising above obstacles despite the complicated challenges they unequivocally face, while possessing talents and achieving accomplishments.
In the spirit of celebration, ownership and inspiring the masses; an abundance of women rappers come to mind, as many can agree being a woman in hip hop is a radical act in and of itself. In lieu of namedropping the greats and undeniably leaving out integral key players, this edition of “Each One, Teach One” will be focusing on four rappers who are working to claim their own stake in the rap game: Kash Doll, Asian Doll, Cuban Doll and Dream Doll.
When discussing the emergence of the Dolls, the role that competition and reputation plays often comes to the forefront, taking precedence over their own individual stories. Because of this, these women are fighting to forge their own lanes, all while paying various degrees of homage to the doll/Barbie aesthetic first cultivated by Lil’ Kim and later Nicki Minaj. In honor of these four young women hustling to make their dreams come true and carve their own legacies, here are four songs, and their accompanying music videos, that double as their own distinctive brand of inspirational moods, respectively.
Detroit native Kash Doll first got her start in entertainment working as an exotic dancer, an experience that influenced her moniker. As she embraced her talents as a rapper, she found her confidence translated brilliantly into her music, allowing her to establish a name for herself as an emerging talent. From opening up for Drake on his 2016 ‘Summer Sixteen Tour’ stop in Detroit to collaborating with Big Sean and Metro Boomin’ (“So Good”), Kash Doll has come a long way since first dedicating herself to her music in 2014. Late last year, she helped sponsor three women from Detroit, so they could attend medical school, an initiative she plans to make an annual one. Kash Doll also recently launched a Detroit based non-profit called BAD Girls (Black American Doll), and continues to inspire both in and out of the studio.
“See, me and my bitches don’t save em / We catch his ass and we throw it back / Break his ass down like a pound / When I’m done you can have him back / Bitch don’t play yo self ain’t nothing bout that nigga golly / He ain’t just for you, baby, he for everybody.”
Known as the self-proclaimed “Queen of Teens,” Asian Doll has been cultivating a serious social media following, even earning a co-sign from Nicki Minaj. After dropping her debut mixtape, 2015’s Da Rise of Barbie Doll Gang Empire, Asian Doll has kept her SoundCloud-fueled momentum going strong and has since dropped five other projects. She has collaborated with the likes of PnB Rock, Rico Nasty and Bhad Bhabie, as well as joined the latter on her first international tour. In 2018, the Dallas rapper became the first woman to be signed to Gucci Mane’s 1017 label. With the backing of the Atlanta heavyweight and an army of loyal supporters, Asian Doll is entering a new level of her career, one that feels worlds away from where she was transparently sharing her struggles with her fans on social media. Most recently, the 22-year-old rapper was featured on Porn Hub’s Valentine’s Day project alongside Lil Xan, 24hrs, MadeinTYO and others.
“Running through the game with no cheat codes / Bad bitch in designer, she a freak hoe / Money over n–s, bitch that’s been the memo / Left a n–a, damn bad, how you take those? / You ain’t sliding, you ain’t riding, bitch / You ain’t popping, you ain’t sticking on a fly bitch / Get money in my sleep, flying private / Snipers on the roof, killers move in silence.”
Cuban Doll, also known as Cuban Da Savage, also got her start building a following on social media before transitioning into exploring her now-bourgeoning career in music. In 2017, she released her debut mixtape, Cuban Link, making the leap into pursuing music full-time. Less than a year later, she dropped her second mixtape, Aaliyah Keef, a testament to her duality where she drew inspiration from the late Aaliyah and her favorite rapper Chief Keef. The Dallas rapper’s track “Bankrupt” emerged as a breakout single with Lil Yachty and Lil Baby blessing the song’s official remix. For someone who is still in the beginning stages of her career in music, she continually is hitting impactful milestones, such as performing at Rolling Loud and garnering millions of streams with a handful of strategic loose singles.
“Fuck Boy Free”
“You be flexing with them stacks but that’s rent money / Probably scam all the time never spent money / You on my time never mind, why you beg for me? / Out a bad bitch way get the fuck from me / Like where the cash at? / Where my bag at? / You keep saying this designer where the tags at? / I ain’t wanna finesse him but I’m the queen of finessing / Even if I let him hit it then you know that I blessed him.”
Bronx rapper Dream Doll also has roots originating in the strip club scene, working as a bartender and going on to star on the reality TV series “Bad Girls Club.” Thanks to her time spent networking in New York, and with the boost in visibility stemming from her brief appearance on the show, she connected with “Love & Hip Hop: New York” star DJ Self and went on to sign to his Gwinin Entertainment imprint. In September 2017, she released her single “Everything Nice,” which helped signify her decision to focus on music, which was already paying off her in favor. Soon thereafter, Dream Doll dropped her first EP, Life in Plastic, and a month later, she went on to appear on the eighth season of “Love and Hip Hop: New York,” helping her gain traction in the music game. At the top of this year, she dropped the follow-up to her debut EP, Life in Plastic 2, setting the stage for what the rest of this year may have in store.
“Keep it a hundred in change / I spent a buck on a range / Dripping a watch and a chain / Skrt, you’re not in my lane / Bitches hating, I ain’t got no patience / I be waiting, send your location.”
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