Author and media personality Sesali Bowen is the mastermind behind the Purse First podcast, a show exclusively about female and queer rappers. If you’re in love with Megan Thee Stallion or get geeked learning about the rising queer rap stars coming up in the industry, this one is for you.
Sesali and her co-host Pierre Phipps provide a fresh take on the female and queer hip-hop landscape as they cover everything from fat representation in rap, the new era of Nicki Minaj, to the latest in entertainment news. In between, the energetic duo interviews some of the most exciting femcees in the game. Past guests have included Baltimore Club Queen TT The Artist and gay hip-hop icon ILoveMakonnen.
How it started
This has been a long time coming for Bowen, who has contributed her stellar writing to notable media platforms like Refinery29 and PopSugar. The self-proclaimed “trap feminist” has a special place in her heart for the rap girls; she believes they don’t get enough shine in mainstream media. When rap stars like Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B jumped onto the scene in 2017, she noticed that some big media sites wouldn’t give their stories an ounce of coverage or anything representative of Black women’s interests. As the former Senior Entertainment Editor at Refinery29, Bowen was one of the leading creators behind UNBOTHERED, an online community celebrating Black voices and Black art. It was a place where she could finally give the rap femcees some much-needed recognition and an idea that would unknowingly lead to the birth of the Purse First podcast. But initially, her unwavering support for the rap girlies came with a bit of pushback from higher-ups.
“We really wanted to see more Black woman’s interest represented in an outlet like Refinery29, which was, you know, just to keep it a buck, is very white,” she explained. “As an entertainment writer, I found myself really having to go to bat to get coverage of certain artists, especially rappers. It was like pulling teeth to get them to cover Cardi B.”
After fighting tooth and nail for months, Bowen finally landed a cover story with Megan Thee Stallion in 2018, which coincidentally fell on the same day she was signed to 300 Ent. “That was Meg’s first big profile for a mainstream publication,” she gushed.
When Bowen finally took the leap of faith and went freelance in 2019, she knew she had to keep the momentum going. By then, female and queer rappers were dominating the scene. But, she still felt like the media landscape around hip-hop’s commentary hadn’t quite caught up to speed with the phenomena.
“One of my favorite things to come out of that year was Clubhouse. Pussy rapping and all of that kind of kicked off at the same time, and I was so excited. I was like, okay! I’m not the only one who wants to have these conversations.”
In 2020, the busy media personally quickly scrapped together a pitch deck and shopped the idea of Purse First around, and the rest was history. Now, Bowen and her trusted co-host Pierre have recorded two juicy seasons of the show.
The podcast isn’t just an ode to the new-age rap queens of today. Purse First also pays homage to the OG’s of the industry, like in episode 17, where Bowen and Pierre interview Trina, who is undoubtedly the baddest bitch in the game.
“It was just an honor to have the conversation that I wanted to have with Trina,” the Bad Fat Black Girl author said. “I think that’s the difference because even when I’ve interviewed her in the past, I’ve interviewed her about Love and Hip Hop, I’ve talked to her about different things, but it was just really fun to talk about the stuff that I wanted to hear, like if she liked Diamond Princess more than The Baddest Bitch. Let’s talk about your least favorite songs.” Which, in case you were wondering is “Look Back At Me” a fan favorite and arguably one of the Miami native’s biggest hits.
But what about the queer femmes? Bowen was adamant about including their voices on the podcast as well, given that queer rap queens like Lil Nas X and Saucy Santana have been making astronomic strides in Hip-Hop – a genre that hasn’t always been inclusive of the LGBTQ community. Pierre, who is one half of the first openly gay rap duo, The Freaky Boiz, offers a fresh perspective on some of the difficulties queer artists often face beyond the mic. In episode 6, Pierre and his partner in music TT chat with Bowen about the industry’s pitfalls and how they used their undeniable talent to challenge homophobia in hip-hop.
Now, Bowen and Pierre are gearing up for season three of Purse First, and fans are squirming in the seats to hear what the femme rap connoisseurs have in store for this season. Here’s a little hint.
“There are a couple of OG rappers that we are reaching out to because I really want to do more episodes that give an oral history of certain songs or specific moments in hip hop,” Bowen shared. I want to dissect the careers of artists who were poppin’ in the early 2000s, or even certain songs that had really hard female verses, and how those songs came about. There are a lot of different things I want to do because I think the conversation around women in hip hop is just so vast.” The duo also plans to share more visual content on YouTube.
Who’s hot on the rap queen scene right now?
So, who’s Sesali’s favorite rap queen on the scene right now, you ask? The buzzing podcast host told me she has her eyes peeled on Houston rap star KenTheMan and Chicago’s Kidd Kenn, who made history as the first openly gay rapper to perform at the BET Hip-Hop Awards in 2021.
“He’s only like 18 years old and just so hard and so pretty!” Bowen said with excitement. “I want him to get beauty deals like, PLEASE!” On the other hand, there are a few rap femmes who she’d like to see extend their talents beyond music.
“I love Saweetie, actually. I always say I’m not an Icy girl. I’m a lukewarm lady,” she said jokingly. “ I think Saweetie is such a star and such an IT girl. I actually find myself watching a lot of her vlogs on YouTube, and they are just the best. I think she has such a great personality and an amazing team that can really help her execute some high-quality visual content. I kind of just wish she would lean into that more like, give us lifestyle, give us fashion, give us beauty!”
You can listen to the Purse First podcast here, and make sure to subscribe to the show’s Patreon for more exciting content.
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