The Boston DJ’s debut full-length album Finally dropped yesterday (September 7), establishing a new bar for representation amongst women and non-binary artists in New England hip-hop. Utilizing what WhySham calls “social justice trap,” Finally pairs pillars of Boston’s creative community over her own eclectic beats.
“My vision for this project is to really show binary and non-binary [people] can actually rap and produce great art,” DJ WhySham tells Vanyaland. “There are many articles about females taking over hip-hop, but have they really? Equal pay is still not there when it comes to booking shows. Women still are at the end of the list when it comes to rap battles, so now I want them to be first. We get overlooked so much even to the point where I had males asking if they could be on the album, even after seeing this was for them [womxn].”
By her side is longtime collaborator and friend Brandie Blaze, who she DJs for in an official capacity during live performances. Of all ten tracks, Blaze is the only artist who’s featured twice on the album (“Finally,” “Thelma and Louise”); Red Shaydez, CakeSwagg, Marcela Cruz, Eva Davenport, Kay Wattz, and other major Boston names round of the rest of the record.
The record’s uplifting mission also meshes with that of Boston Got Next Entertainment, WhySham’s New-England-centric independent record label.
“My album is also an ode to ‘Thelma and Louise’ (Brandie Blaze’s and my musical journey) of knocking things off the bucket list and taking a stand on the culture in how the hip-hop community views women,” WhySham adds. “Thelma and Louise came out the same year I was born, and not many things have changed. Sexual harassment is still high in the music industry and I want to create a safe space for women to record and have a place to come for artist resources.”
Even the cover art, which depicts a graduation-gown-adorned WhySham standing against an all-white backdrop of fellow students, circles back to Finally’s goal of ample representation. When attending Cedar Crest College in Pennsylvania, WhySham says that diversity was sorely lacking on campus. “I had this intense meeting with the student body of my undergraduate college on Institutionalized Racism in Higher Institutions and I used this album cover to show the lack of diversity that was at the school,” she recalls.
Her time at Cedar Crest also harkens back WhySham’s first brushes with DJing. Her journey started in 2013, when she began tinkering with iTunes playlists and DJing software in college. Seven years later, she’s still entirely self-taught, although she’s turned to producers like DupesDidIt, Rilla Force, and Abstract Minor for pointers. She cites DJ 3Jay, DJ Menace, and Vital Riddims as major influences.
“I didn’t take it seriously until Porsha Olayiwola, Boston Poet Laureate, asked me to play music for the (at the time new) ‘Haley House Poetry Slam Team,’” WhySham says. “Growing up, a lot of local DJs inspired me because they were always the ‘go-to-DJ’ and I wanted to be that person.”
Another turning point in WhySham’s career arrived when the COVID-19 pandemic shut down shows and live events early this spring. Holed up in her studio at Dorchester Art Project, she focused on learning about recording earlier this year. From there, Finally began to take form.
“Three years ago I wanted to create a mixtape with local artists but never brought it to life,” WhySham notes. “Fast forward — I wake up in June at 3 a.m., started listening to some beats, and it was over from there.”
Those beats sowed the seeds of WhySham’s social justice trap, whichsucceeds not only through Finally’s representation, but in its messages. “Sin Justicia, No Hay Paz,” for example, mourns the losses of Breonna Taylor and Sandra Bland while also acknowledging the constant grief and pain of a country witnessing a seemingly endless cycle of police brutality. Similarly, “Rekia Boyd (Save Me)” amplifies the harrowing poetry of Porsha Olayiwola and honors Boyd — a 22-year-old Black woman who was murdered by a Chicago police officer in 2012 — when no one came to a march for her.
The album ends on the realest application of Finally‘s mission, with WhySham asking her godchildren what they want to pursue when they’re older.
“I have seven god-kids: five girls and two boys,” she says. “My project ends with the girls bringing the project back [full] circle with me asking ‘what do you want to be when you grow up?’ One says a dentist, while the other says a ballerina. I want them to know they can be whatever they want if they have a great support like I did with creating this album.”
With albums like these paving the way, that reality is already within reach for today’s generation, and those who come after. We’ll say it louder for the people in the back: Finally.