South Africa has a small number of females in the hip-hop industry, and 23- year-old French-speaking Barbara Wedi, famously known as Rouge, is one of the few aiming to change the game and up the level of greatness.
Who is Rouge?
I am a female rapper based in Pretoria. My aim is to bring change in the hip-hop industry, especially the female market. I do not only want to appeal to the women of hip-hop, but to everyone. I want to be known as a rapper, not just a ‘female’ rapper, but rather someone who is talented at what they do.
How did you start rapping?
I had a session with one of my guy friends; he listened to my RnB songs and suggested I rap instead singing the lyrics. At first I thought of it as a ridiculous idea, but after I tried it, the flow was amazing. I couldn’t stop rapping after that.
There is a particular look most-hip hop artists are going for, do you fall into that or have something that sets you apart?
I am more focused on the way I want my lyrics to touch people. Yes, the image is important; but I want to tell a story that people can relate to.
There aren’t too many female rappers in Africa, never mind South Africa. With this said, what is your relationship with them? Would you collaborate with any of them?
People expect us to beef (hate on each other), but this is not the case. In fact, we all respect one another’s hustle and support each other. 2015 is the year for the females, and we just want to bring our personal A-game. In future, I could perhaps do collaborations; but right now I need to focus on my brand and my production’s success.
2014 was a great year for local hip hop, with Skanda music growing fast. Do you see yourself headed that direction?
I cannot really see myself doing Skanda music because I am French speaking, and could never rap in any of the South African languages. I have my own flavour and style. However, I plan to do collaborations with the artists, but I am about being me.
What influences you to do music?
My everyday life – from my family, friends and daily experiences. But even artists influence my music, from the likes of Lauryn Hill to Drake. I love how they tell their stories through songs. That is what I want to do.
Let us talk style; you seem to have the puffy hair look? Tell us more about this; is this your trademark?
My hair is very important to me. I have been doing these curls since I was in high school. I have always been very bold and had a bold hairstyle. My name Rouge means red, so it’s a bright colour that stands out. Even though I don’t do it intentionally, my clothes and everything about me always stand out.
How important do you think education is within the industry?
I am a University of Pretoria drama graduate. I loved being a student and learning more about my passion. This helped me to be a better musician. The skills you learn in school and tertiary do benefit you in life.
You have released a number of amazing tracks, from Real Talk, to My Moment and Party…What’s next?
In the next few weeks, I will be dropping a new single called Mi Corazon, which means, my heart in Spanish. The song is about my love, the love I want to share with my fans and the love I would love. Later this year, my debut album will be coming out and may be working on a few new singles.
How important is PR for any artist?
It is important. Most artists think that they can do it on their own, but you can’t. Having a team that helps you grow as a brand is highly beneficial.
The hip-hop industry can be hard-knocking. How have you overcome the challenges thrown your way?
My challenge was rapping. I only started rapping at the age of 19, so it took me a while to get around it. But once I practised more and worked on it, it all became simple.
Where can fans get hold of you?