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15 Songs in 15 Minutes: Inside Tierra Whack’s Whimsical, Twisted World

15 Songs in 15 Minutes: Inside Tierra Whack’s Whimsical, Twisted World

“I have so much built up inside,” Ms. Whack said. “To be able to put what I have in my head into real life is just an amazing thing.” Here are edited excerpts from the conversation.

What kind of place is Whack World?

It’s down, then up, down, then up. It’s scary, it feels good, it doesn’t. It’s crazy, it’s calm. It’s everything. That’s exactly me. Like, I was just washing dishes, eating grapes, now I’m about to go to the bathroom then I’m going to wash some clothes. Yeah. It’s like a roller-coaster ride. My mom says I have — what is it, A.D.D.? Can’t sit still.

Philly is known for its freestyle battle-rap scene. How did growing up there lead you to music?

Once I got comfortable enough to do my poems with beats, it gave me more confidence to want to get out and prove myself in the city. It was something that everyone was doing — all the guys, and I was a girl, so I had to work 10 times harder to get better than all the guys. It was in the battle-rap era, but I never was a battle rapper. It was like a cypher thing — I’m jumping in to prove myself. I’d see a camera, a big group of guys and my mom would tell me to show them that I could rap.

Did putting words together in a rapid-fire way come naturally to you?

I remember reading Dr. Seuss books, and he’s rhyming so many words together and I just loved the way it sounded. It became a challenge for me, to put words together that nobody would ever think about putting together. I had a rhyming dictionary, the dictionary — it was just practice and determination. Instead of going outside and playing, I was staying in the house and writing raps.

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