Validation, the new eight-track release from Charleston songwriter and activist Tazz Majesty, is a debut album, but it sure doesn't sound like one. Perhaps that's because Majesty has been in love with words since she was an 8 year old living in less-than-ideal circumstances in Columbia.
"My family was awesome," she said, "but we grew up on the wrong side of town. And I just remember that I always wanted better for myself. And I found it through my words. I always did well in English class, and I always spoke well and wrote well."
But, not everyone who writes well becomes a talented hip-hop artist. Tazz managed this because of one of her earliest influences, Nicki Minaj, whom she emulated, at least to a point.
"When Nicki Minaj came out, I think I was somewhere between 8 and 11 years old," she said, "And she was the first female rapper that I saw during my lifetime that made a living. I was like, 'Whoa, she's doing it, I want to be like her.' The only thing I had an issue with was that I kept telling my mama, 'I don't want to wear the bathing suits onstage; I want to be me.' And as I got older, I found out that I could still be myself and be onstage."
On Validation, Tazz lays down a fierce flow that mixes rapping with melodic vocals and leaves no lyrical stone unturned.
On the opening track, "Shoutouts," she sends some love to people that made it and salutes those who tried to put her down. "Shoutout to people that hated/ Y'all made me grind," she says in the song.
Tazz teamed up with producer/rapper Uncle Sam on the insanely catchy duet "Night Like This," shadowboxing over a skittering, bass-heavy beat, then spaces out on the skeletal, eerie "Living Lavish."
It's an impressive collection of songs, especially since it's her first try. As it turns out, while Tazz was attending the College of Charleston, she became an experienced performer, even if she was still a novice in the recording booth.
"I was doing live shows all the way through college," she said, "but all the years I was at CofC, I never put anything out. I was writing songs, doing shows, going back and forth between the two, but I never thought that any of the stuff I wrote was good enough to be recorded because I was just starting out. I was just trying to get my feet wet in the industry."
"When I use those derogatory terms like the N-word and the B-word, what I'm saying is, 'Shout-out to the people that people thought couldn't make it."
—Tazz Majestyclick to tweet
While sharpening her skills as a rapper, Tazz was also becoming an activist, speaking out on racial injustice and mentoring young children. In fact, she was chosen by the City Paper staff as 2019's Best Hip-Hop Artist-Student-Activist.
"I really stand for children in general," she said. "My songs may not express that but I work with kids volunteering. When I was a child, I wish I'd had someone to mentor me. I advocate for black human rights because I saw brutality and a lot of things in my childhood that kids don't see."
In fact, that activism is what made her a little hesitant about the language in one of Validation's strongest tracks, "Shoutout (Intro)."
"I don't want people to get a negative connotation of it," she said. "When I use those derogatory terms like the N-word and the B-word, what I'm saying is, 'Shout-out to the people that people thought couldn't make it. Shout-out to the person that society thought wouldn't make it. Shout-out to the people that no matter what they label you as, you made it, I'm proud of you.' My music is very powerful and I really speak to my people, and I think it's because I want people to know they're not alone."
Once Tazz became more confident in her writing ability, Validation came together quickly. Signing with regional label Real South Records, Tazz rose to the occasion and banged out the vast majority of the album in a few marathon sessions with producer Uncle Sam.
"We recorded seven songs in three days, Friday through Sunday," she said, "On the last night, Sam said, 'I have this song that I want you to rap over.' And I was like, 'Man, I'm tired, I'm ready to go home.' And my girlfriend was like, 'Just try to rap over it,' and 'Night Like This' is the song we did that night."
That's not the only great moment on the album that Tazz's girlfriend is at least partially responsible for. Perhaps the most striking moment on Validation is a tender, intimate ballad called "Bestfriend." Over a sparse piano line, Tazz pays tribute to the woman she loves, singing, "I'm lovin' her style, so pretty and brown," along with some more explicit and more spiritual attributes.
It's one of the few vulnerable moments among the wisdom, swagger and dance beats on the album, and it wasn't easy for Tazz to perform.
"It was weird," she said. "What I don't realize when I'm writing music sometimes is that it's not just going to be me hearing it. When it was uploaded, I was like, 'Oh my goodness, they're gonna hear this, people are going to ask me, 'Who's that?' and I do not want to hear that. I'm not normally an open, vulnerable person, but she really is my better half. I met this girl and she really showed me how to be me. She's been by my side the whole time, trying to get my music off the ground. And I wanted to show her that I care for her."