It was an early spring afternoon when I met up with Angel Davanport. The nomadic but often-sighted-in-Chicago rapper is perhaps most known for her role as one third of the Rapper Chicks. Accompanied by fellow musician and Chicago legend, MC Psalm One, we started off the day shooting some photos. After finishing, we all decided to chat over drinks at Rhyme or Reason in Wicker Park, so I call an Uber.
When my Uber pulled up, Angel broke the ice, asking driver’s name and causing the him to crack a smile while being coy and withholding:
DRIVER: My name is ‘Uber-driver’
ANGEL: Okay, saucy!
Angel carries herself in public the way she does on wax — outgoing, unabashed, and intensely steeped in her own silky style.
En route to our destination, I picked Angel’s brain about her musical endeavors and other recent Chicago hip-hop news. We talk about the rapper v. singer divide (or lack thereof) in popular music today – which offered me the opportunity to throw her the same question I ask many Chicago hip-hop artists: Is Chance the Rapper’s recent success as an independent artist affecting the general attitude of newly budding talent?
ANGEL: Chance has popularized a sound that not necessarily everyone is interested in.
She goes on to voice her concerns about whether emerging talent hinges itself on diversity and originality.
ANGEL: “If Chance can do it, I can do it,” is not good enough. Know what your asset really is. Do you really have bars? What do you do?
PSALM: Some people can definitely tell a record label to go fuck themselves, some people can not—
GPS: YOUR DESTINATION WILL BE ON THE RIGHT.”
Angel has no interest in fitting into an archetype. Realness with oneself is the driving force behind her infectious persona.
We pull up to Rhyme or Reason in Wicker Park:
ANGEL: Well, since I don’t know your name, thanks “Uber driver!” You get five stars!
(to Psalm) Got everything, girl?
PSALM: I do. Dignity intact.
We approach the hostess and ask for a table outside. Making friends with everyone as we go, Angel is magnetic in her intensity and warmth. She and the hostess are exchanging compliments before we even sit down. Later, she had our server laughing within moments of greeting us, calling his hair suave, and
ANGEL: Very silky.
Three bourbons get ordered right away.
Before I begin hurdling a more formal slew of questions, I mention my preference for organic conversation in interviews.
ANGEL: You can ask anything you want, as long as it’s not about my sex life, cause I’ll just say ‘no comment.’
PSALM: You can just read her Twitter.
ANGEL: (laughing) Just look at my Twitter, you’ll see everything you need to know.
I’ve seen most of your work through Rapper Chicks – but you’re also working on a solo endeavor. How is that coming along?
I can tell you that it’s going to be very aggressive. And, it’s going to be very punk. It’s a mixture of genres – but it’s definitely a range of topics people have heard me talk about, like love in “FREE PU$$Y,” sexuality, and, you know, just being a free spirit.
Rapper Chicks is more aggressive, and kind of angry. It’s about getting all that bullshit that’s in you out.
But now I feel like doing solo work. I’m definitely stepping into doing a different range of shit: from love, to liking food, to liking sex, to being angry, to being sad, to being happy, to wanting to go to the beach, wanting to have a fucking dog, wanting to go on tour.
I think it’s just a range of stuff – not just emotional. More like, a teaching lesson to give other people.
What are you calling yourself?
A lot of people have been calling me Angel, I know there’s a couple names out there.
Yeah, I’ve noticed a few.
Totally. People have been calling me Angel since I was 16-years-old. I started with Angel Davanport. Then my team Skigh Mob — the group that I kind of came up with and learned to rap in — that’s what they named me. I went with that for a long, long time. Then I grew off that, and a couple years ago decided to change it to “Angelenah,” just because I thought it was more Diva-esque.
But then I just felt like it wasn’t me, because, people still call me Angel. So it doesn’t matter, you know?
You can constantly change, right?
Absolutely. Absolutely! Because it comes so often and you can’t stop it. The only two things that are inevitable are change and death, ha. You’ve kinda just gotta let them happen when they happen.
Angel Davanport is my name…though Young N Silky just my silky-ass moniker, cause I’m young and I’m silky.
To be Silky is a way of living?
Absolutely. It’s definitely who you are and not like… you know like sauce? You can get sauce; sauce can be acquired. Silk you’re just kind born with. You gotta have it.
[Seeing our whiskey arrive] Aw, I like this place. I’m telling you I was ready to hate. This was my home for two years. Every Saturday.
Yeah. We used to do a rap karaoke here. It used to be called Jerry’s. We went from a monthly, to a weekly, to a biweekly. It was super successful. Hip-hop karaoke. The first and maybe only in Chicago for three years.
How long have you, been doing music?
5 years. I’m a baby.
Are you from Chicago?
Yeah, I’m from the South Side, Inglewood area. I moved to Florida in 2010 – I worked for Walt Disney World for like eight months.
How did you like working for Walt Disney World?
It was good. Man, you dress up in a costume every day. I used to work for Animal Kingdom in the Africa portion, and I sold merchandise. I sold the most ostrich eggs so I used to win all the contests.
I like contests. I’m a very competitive person.
Do you think you’ll ever leave Chicago?
Yes. I feel like the world is my home. I really feel like I am a nomad. I like stability, but at the same time I don’t, you know? It roots you to one place. I’m a Virgo, so sometimes I just have to get up and go.
How did your involvement in Young Chicago Authors influence you? Was that an introduction for you to poetry or writing in general?
Poetry yes. Writing no.
I started writing at a very young age. I used to write small three-page books and bind them together for my mom. In fourth grade, I got into performing, and then when I got into high school I started writing with YCA.
I was getting into a lot of trouble my sophomore year, and my English teacher said to me, “You’re so talented, I don’t know why you keep getting into fights. Why do you just hang out at the train station? Why don’t you just come find something to do after school?” I took her advice and got into her poetry club, and through her poetry club found YCA.
My first year competing in Louder Than A Bomb was 2008. I loved it. I found a community there that I wasn’t previously aware of. And I made it to semi-stage, and I was convinced I was going to win. But I didn’t win. I was so heartbroken. They say the point is the poetry, not the points. But for me it was totally the points. Like I said I’m competitive. I don’t like to come in second.
Through growing up I learned that it doesn’t really matter – first, second, third. It’s really about the talent that YOU have. How well YOU do.
In my last year of high school, I did Louder Than A Bomb again and won. I was second place, though, and this girl Erika Dickerson beat me – she’s fantastic. She goes to University of Wisconsin-Madison in their First Wave program (which is packed with incredible writers). I won that year and I went to Brave New Voices. That is how I was introduced to writing and performing, and through that started rapping.
Is your new stuff going to have any features?
Actually, there are two features so far – people I really respect. One is from Chicago and one is from Minneapolis. One is traveling, and one is fixed. But I’m lucky to have them both, and I’m very excited.
This is where the sensitive information comes into play, and some stones I found could not yet be unturned.
Are you still recording?
Yes. I am three tracks in right now.
Angel spends her time between Chicago, Minneapolis, Los Angeles, and wherever else she wants to be. She does come back to Chicago to teach music to youth through a program called Intonation Chicago.
I love teaching. It warms my heart to see kids excel and find their talents. In this age, even people who aren’t rappers want to be rappers. I encourage people to find a talent, but find the talent that best suits them. If you’re a businessperson, be the best businessperson you can be. If you’re a dancer, be the best dancer. You don’t have to mold yourself into this person because this is what everyone else is doing, because that’s not going to make you happy. I wasn’t always a good rapper. I wasn’t always a rapper.
Did you start singing or rapping first?
I sang first. I started singing in fourth grade. I did plays until twelfth grade, then musicals. After, I started teaching poetry and was heavily in YCA and did creative writing, but was also rapping. Every since I was young I’ve been into performance, just in different forms.
Do you have stage fright?
Every. Single. Time. I’ll sing through my set double-time to myself every time before I go on.
What artists influence you right now?
Tech N9ne who kind of fathered me into hip-hop.
You worked personally with Tech N9ne?
I did. He asked me to be on his album Something Else a couple years ago. I did a song called “Priorities” with him and The Game. It was the first major thing I ever did.
What was it like working with someone of that caliber? Was he organized?
He was organized. He knew exactly what he wanted.
Besides Tech, I’d have to say Kendrick, absolutely. And this girl right here (pointing at Psalm), just because she’s like a legend to Chicago females.
My motto is “Be like Beyoncé.” You never see Beyoncé shit on anybody. All you see is grace. Michelle Obama does the same thing. Being gracious, being grateful.
I also really like Princess Nokia, she’s up and coming. It’s nice to hear someone talk about women in such a positive light.
I hear you have a song on rotation with Power 92?
Yes, we do! It is a Rapper Chicks song called “Sunshine.” It’s me, Psalm, Mickey Factz, and J Lin. This is the first time I’ve been in rotation on a major radio station.
Anything else you want to leave us with?
I really like Fruity Pepples but Frosted Flakes is my favorite cereal. Um, I also really like Captain Crunch. Whiskey is my favorite. I like dresses. I prefer leggings. Inversion yoga is my favorite kind of yoga. I always floss; I brush my teeth in the shower.
With the premium Angel places on diversity and originality in artistic expression, and her ever-evolving silky style, I think it’s safe to say that we can expect great things from the nomadic Chicago-native’s upcoming work.
Stay tuned for new music –and please, for the love of God, stay silky.