Boston Rapper Vintage Lee is a 21-Year-Old Female Force | The_ONES
Boundary-Breakers: The Boston Rapper Who’s A 21-Year-Old Female Force
“...I do what I wanna do, move how I wanna move,” raps 21-year-old MC Vintage Lee in her hit song, “Hennythings Possible,” from her debut album which released in July 2017. The catchy “do you” anthem recently made it onto the NBA 2k18 soundtrack and the official music video dropped in late January, and things are only looking up.
With her signature silver-framed glasses, bottom gold grill, and red-dipped locs, Lee drips cool and confidence. Match that with her catchy wordplay, mad flow, and undeniable charisma, and you better believe she’s making noise in her hometown of Boston—and beyond.
Lee grew up in the Boston neighborhood of Roxbury. It is the city’s heart of black culture, an area soulful, gritty, and charismatic (much like Lee herself), rife with independent businesses, bright murals, and, of course, the no-frills attitude associated with Bostonians at large.
During her short (so far) but bright turn in the spotlight, Lee has established herself as a force in Boston, joining the likes of rappers Michael Christmas and Cousin Stizz who also hail from the city. Christmas went viral in 2013 with his song, “Michael Cera” from his Is This Art? mixtape and has since collaborated with artists Mac Miller, DRAM, and more. And Stizz emerged on the scene following the release of his first mixtape, Suffolk County, and after Drake was spotted bumping his single “Breakout” in 2015. Lee is in her own lane though, and not afraid to speak her mind and embody confidence. A woman on the rise.
Paying homage to her beloved Roxbury, we shot Lee around her neighborhood in some favorite haunts featured in her last two videos: “Hennythings Possible” and “Bless You,” which hit last year. There’s Claudia’s Market, there’s Dudley Square, there’s Washington Park.
Then we chatted with her to learn more about her rap journey, how Boston brashness shapes her music, and the inspiration, style, and sneaker that carries her from the street to the stage.
When did you first start rapping?
“I started rapping when I was younger. I feel like I got my first mic before I was 5 years old as a gift. I didn’t start rapping seriously and going to the studio until two years ago, though.
I didn’t grow up in a musical home but my mom was always playing music, house music, oldies, stuff like that. My uncle is [classic soul composer] Ellis Hall but that’s the only musical-type situation I got related to me.”
What did you grow up listening to?
“Everything really, but a lot of rap, and a lot of Rick James, James Brown, Isley Brothers. My mom bumped a lot of R. Kelly. Whatever she was playing, I would listen to. My dad listened to some rap, but I feel like I really got into hip hop and R&B myself.”
How does being from Boston influence your music and sound?
“Bostonians are said to be rude or don’t care. They’re very upfront, so that’s what I put into my music.”
Is there a strong music community in Boston?
“Definitely. Before I put my first song out, the artists I knew of in this city were Cousin Stizz, Michael Christmas, and OG Swaggerdick. And then they became helpful early supporters of me. Before them, I met [a rapper] named Casso who was instrumental in helping me navigate through the city.”
Which songs should people listen to first to learn about who you are?
“I’d definitely play ‘Right Now’ because it’s my first track [I released in 2015] to give you insight on who I am and to show you what I’ve gone through. I’d play ‘Lean Lean’ because that’s my shit. It gives an introduction into why I am the way I am. I also probably would play ‘Tell Me,’ which tells you where I come from, like a story-type situation.
“I don’t want to call them party songs, but a lot of my songs are more on the fun side, a little more upbeat.”
How do you live and create authentically?
“Being authentic means keeping it real and creating my life realistically through my music. You stay authentic by talking about real things or actual events that occurred to you. I can take something that happened a day ago or what I’m about to do the next day or something that happened years ago and put it into a song. That’s how I stay authentic. I don’t feel pressure to be any certain type of way. I think that’s just me personally whether I’m in music or if I were in another field—I choose to be who I want to be.”
“Being authentic means keeping it real and creating my life realistically through my music.”
- Vintage Lee
What message do you want to spread as an artist?
“That’s something I’m actually still dialing with at the moment. You always want to push and get better. I guess the lesson is to strive for whatever it is you’re going for. You can do it too and stay real, don’t be on no weak shit.”
What artists would you want to collaborate with? Living or dead.
“I would f*ck with Pimp C. Even if we didn’t do a song, I would have just liked to talk to him. I grew up listening to him. He seemed so real, spit real game, and seemed like a real genuine dude. I would have loved to hear what he had to say.
“As for living, Lil Wayne and Missy Elliott would be legendary. I feel like Missy’s ear for beats is amazing.”
How has the Internet affected how emerging artists like you build a fanbase?
“It’s definitely made it a lot easier because you can do a lot now just from your home, just from a click of a button. Your music can spread a lot easier. I feel like word of mouth is easier online.”
“Right now, I like to just throw on a pair of Vans, like the Sk8-Hi jawns. Those are cool and the go-tos.”
- Vintage Lee
How has your style and love for shoes developed over time?
“My current style is a mix between cozy and dressed up. Sometimes I do the laid-back look with nice kicks and sweats and keep it low-key. Or, I get dressed with a button down and wingtip shoes. My style has matured over the years.”
What are your go-to kicks?
“Right now, I like to just throw on a pair of Vans, like the Sk8-Hi jawns. Those are cool and the go-tos. Adidas are pretty comfortable too, those are nice.
“As for colors for kicks, I either go for dark or bright. If I’m wearing black, I might wear all black. If I’m feeling bright, I might be completely bright. It depends on the mood.”
What’s your favorite footwear to wear on stage?
“I like to wear my wingtip shoes on stage. Those are go-to too actually because they compliment the outfit. Besides that, Vans are good on stage.”
Why do you gravitate towards wingtip shoes?
“I had my first pair of wingtip shoes when I was 16. I always liked to get dressed and wear button downs and polos with pants. In high school I would go on the fashion section of Complex or Hypebae and look at how people would dress.”
What’s your first sneaker memory?
“The first pair of Jordans I bought for myself. My sister was a big sneakerhead at the time so she was getting all the sneakers. When she was done with them, she’d give them to me. But the first Jordans I bought for myself were Wolf Grey 5 Jordans.”
If you could do a Vintage Lee shoe, what would it be?
“I’d probably do a double-breast strapped shoe and do it all black with a red bottom maybe. I really like red. The clip on the strap/clasp would be gold.
The other shoe would be a wingtip, and I’d want the topbox of the wingtip to be a pattern and a whole different color, maybe blue or red. The tip of the laces would be gold. I would want the lining of the ankle to be some kind of color. That would be it, maybe put “PiMP” on the bottom, too, after my album.”
What’s your favorite song to get you amped for a performance?
“I like to bump Yung Nudy, Young Thug, 21 Savage, and Travis Scott.”
Once you’re up there, what’s your favorite song to perform live?
“All of it is fun but I like performing ‘PiMP Like Me.’ There’s something about the middle of the first verse to the chorus that’s lit the whole way through. The build-up is lit.”
What are you looking forward to in 2018?
“I’m excited to hear the new sounds I’m creating, the new video for ‘Hennythings Possible’ dropped and I’m just excited for the blessings to come. I’m also looking forward to making new music, new waves, new sauce, and all of that.”
What advice would you give to younger girls coming up after you who want to be in the rap game too?
“It’s fine, I just do my thing. My advice to younger girls would be just to be yourself.”
From the New Balances (“I like the 990 model and I’d never seen them in yellow before”) to the Stans (“I had the white and red jawns, but I thought the black ones looked fire”) to the Pumas (“the shoe I wore for a year and a half straight in 9th and 10th grade—it’s symbolic of the past”), Lee’s all about classic silhouettes in sharp colorways.
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