Friday, December 19, 2003

Street poetess Medusa

Girls celebrate
hip-hop lifestyle

Rachel Raimist admits she did not foresee the kind of fervor her film "Nobody Knows My Name" would generate. In fact, she says, its initial premiere was as much an eye-opener for her as for her audience.

GiRL FeST presents "Medusa's Ball"

Where: Studio 1, 1 N. King St.

When: 7 p.m. to 2 a.m. today

Tickets: $15 pre-sale (available at Cheapo Music and Too Gruvs), $20 at the door; 18 and over

Call: 945-0996

Also: Rebel Girl Underground benefit party for GiRL FeST, 10:30 p.m. to 2 a.m. tomorrow at Chuck's Cellar, 150 Kaiulani Ave. $5 cover (free before 10:30), 21 and over. Call 753-0466 for info.

In 1999, Raimist, then a third-year graduate student at UCLA's School of Theater, Film and Television, first screened the 58-minute hip-hop feature to an overflow audience at the James Bridges Theater on the school's campus. Never in the history of the venue had a documentary sold out every seat, and Raimist, who had expected only a few friends to attend, was astounded by the turnout.

"The theater was packed," she recalls. "People were sitting on the floor. They were threatening to call the fire marshal. It was really overwhelming." Prominent members of the greater hip-hop community were there, including Sway, of the internationally syndicated "Wake Up Show" (and, later, MTV), and longtime L.A. rap fixture Medusa who, despite a starring role in Raimist's film, could not find an open seat. "I was like, 'This is just too much.' I couldn't believe it because this film was just my little project. It was just a story I had to tell."

It was also a story whose time was nigh. "Nobody Knows My Name," which delves into the lives of six women who, through choices of lifestyle, career or marriage, have been bound to hip-hop, has found receptive audiences everywhere it has played. It will screen tonight at Studio 1 in downtown Honolulu as part of GiRL FeST, an ongoing project by the Safe Zone Foundation, a local organization dedicated to preventing violence against women and girls.

"This week it's Hawaii, last week it was in Sweden, the month before that it was Australia, in Japan, Ghana, South Africa, Cuba," recites an overwhelmed Raimist. "It completely exceeded my expectations. I've gotten thousands of e-mails. At every screening, people always come up to me, and they're like, 'This is my story!' There's something there that connects so many of us who aren't in hip-hop for the money or the fame."

In her feature, Raimist spotlights such underappreciated female figures as the fleet-fingered DJ Symphony, of the World Famous Beat Junkies; B-girl Asia One, whose commitment to the art of break dancing led to her involvement in organizing the lauded B-boy Summit; Lisa Rivera, whose unfailing support of her family allows her husband, Anthony (known to the world as Click tha Supah Latin), to pursue his dreams; as well as recording artists Leschea (Masta Ace understudy and member of the INC), T-Love, a reformed gang member who has supplemented her career in rap with stints as a hip-hop journalist and label owner, and Medusa, the heralded street poetess twice named Best Hip Hop Artist by LA Weekly, who will perform at tonight's show.

"Medusa's good at everything," attests Kathryn Xian who, along with a group of nearly 30 volunteers, is organizing tonight's event, entitled "Medusa's Ball." "She sings incredibly, she's a great freestylist, she's a black feminist and a rapper. She was perfect for what we were doing, and with her involvement, we're hoping to draw more of an awareness to the kind of message she sends as an independent woman of color."

The event will also feature dance and spoken-word performances, live music from Kauai funk/hip-hop outfit the Ineebz and a deejay-manned after-party featuring Sisters in Sound, DJ Primitiv and DJ Lady J. As with the subjects in Raimist's documentary, Xian and her cohorts are mindful of a greater goal.

"It's a multimedia event that incorporates all these different arts, but really, the focus is to come together to end violence against women and girls," she affirms. "But even if it's a party and everybody comes to celebrate and see the movie, the energy in coming together is a first step. It shows people that other people are into the same thing and that progress can happen. Unity can happen."

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