(Blogger’s Note: I first met Houston-based rapper TroubleSum (born Tabitha Grant) during an event I was coordinating in our city for Tip “T.I.” Harris. She has a passion for giving back to the community plus she maintains a rigorous schedule in her quest to leave her mark in the Hip-Hop world. I caught up with her recently to talk about her upbringing, her love for Hip-Hop, and how she’s making waves.)
Jesse Muhammad (JM): First, thank you for taking the time to do this interview with me. You're a sister on the move! Let's start with your childhood. What was that like?
TroubleSum (TS): Thank you for reaching out to me Brother Jesse. I grew up in a musical family. My mother and my father sung, and my father played the guitar as well. So I guess you could say I inherited the musical genes. (lol) My sisters and I formed a group with some of our friends at church and called ourselves "Twinkling of an Eye", a name we pulled out of a scripture in the Bible. My younger brother Jon played the drums. So I've been performing in front of an audience since I was a little girl. My parents always encouraged my love for music and still do.
JM: I read in your bio that at the age of 15 you had a life-altering experience. What was that?
TS: My parents separated causing our lifestyle to change dramatically. I moved to southwest Houston and that's where my love for Hip Hop grew.
JM: At what point did you fall in love with Hip-Hop? When did you discover that you had lyrical skills?
TS: I gave my heart to Hip-Hop I would say when I was 17. That's when I fully understood the power of music. That's when I got it. I got that I could convey every emotion in my body with my pen, pad and a dope beat and touch lives.
I knew I had skills when I was 15. I joined in a freestyle session with some of my homies and bodied it! I remember them telling me how I "killed it" and it meant a lot coming from them because these were dudes that I looked up to as brothers. So every chance I got, I would hang out with them and freestyle. Because of them I entered in my first freestyle contest at Sharpstown Mall in Foot Locker store. I didn't win but I didn't lose either, because I walked away more confident and with a stronger desire to perfect my craft.
JM: Why did you take on the name TroubleSum?
TS: The name TroubleSum was given to me by my sister. I was being a mischievous adolescent and started getting into trouble and acting up. One day we were listening to a Tupac record and the song "Troublesome" came on. By the time the song ended she looked at me and said “that's your name, your name is TroubleSum.” I took it and ran with it. However today, I'm more so TroubleSum in the sense that I go against the grain. I won't do whatever to get on. I don't always do as I'm told and I certainly will not compromise myself self-respect. So these things make me "troublesome". I'm the trouble that everyone wants to get into, and let’s be honest there’s a little bit of "troublesum" in everyone. (smiles)
JM: How has your delivery evolved over the years and how did you get the title of Houston's First Lady of Hip-Hop? And I am a serious mafia movie watcher, so please tell me what is the criteria to become a Teflon Diva, as you are called?
TS: My delivery has always stood out because it has never been the traditional "Houston flow”, so to speak. So my sound was always distinguished. Over the years the flow has just become effortless.
The name "Houston's First Lady of Hip Hop" was given to me by producer and rapper Cory Mo. And I've been yelling it ever since. I remember when I was doing a spread in Envy magazine they told me that Chamillionaire told them I was Houston's First Lady, so I guess with those two stamps, I can’t lose.
I love gangster and mafia movies as well! Mookie Jones actually gave me that name. He felt my flows were so tough and I spit so fierce, he said “you’re the Teflon Diva because you’re bulletproof.” So I took it and ran with it as well. All my aliases were given to me.
JM: The presence of female rappers has been on a serious decline in the last decade or so. How are you making your presence felt on a national level? Do you feel you are truly penetrating the Hip-Hop industry and making waves?
TS: Yes, there hasn't been a real solid presence on a major level in a while. I salute Nikki for bringing back the hunger for female rappers.
Yes sir, I know I’m penetrating the Hip Hop industry, without a shadow of a doubt. The success that I've had as an independent artist is ridiculous. Keep in mind I've never had a major recording or distribution deal. My notoriety comes from the streets. My fans aka my family created such a strong demand for me that B.E.T reached out to me to be on "Rap City" and MTV reached out and I was featured on "MTV JAMS". These are major networks and I accomplished that without the "machine". My stiletto is always to the pedal so the best is yet to come.
JM: I have had the opportunity to watch you in several capacities including community service. How important is giving back to the community to you?
TS: I love to give back to the community. I was raised to give. My parents always taught us that it's a blessing to give than to receive, so every chance that I have, I give back. It is very a rewarding experience.
JM: I have heard the mixtapes and your delivery is strong. When is your solo album dropping? What is the core message in your music?
TS: Thanks! I don't have a concrete date for the album, but I'm always recording and adding to the catalog. But it's on the way real soon!
The core message in my music is to give hope to the hopeless, to awaken the sleepers, to give the consumers something to think about. I represent a class of women that have class, showcasing that you don't have to sell sex to move units or to get on. Talent and substance is still an important factor, for me at least, and I hope that's what I communicate through my music. I do have joints that are sexy, club bangers, because I'm still a young mesmerizing woman, but everything in moderation and well polished.
JM: What else is next for TroubleSum for the rest of 2010?
TS: You can look out for me on the new Bun B album, I believe it's titled "Trill OG" and should be dropping this summer. I'm also dropping another mixtape. I'm currently working on two and I’m not sure which one I'll drop first. Be looking out for a documentary about Houston Hip Hop I'm featured in that should be hitting theaters in July or August. I'm on countless mixtapes, you can catch me on stages throughout the states, and I'm taking more auditions this year so hopefully you'll see me on the big screen getting my acting on!
Everyone can "Holla At A Star" at www.TroubleSumOnline.com. My website always has my upcoming shows, editorial features, anything and everything current in my career and you can follow me on twitter at @TroubleSum.
Thanks again Brother Jesse for reaching out, you are always encouraging me and it means a lot.
JM: Thank you and I will keep following you!