Dutch ReBelle is a woman with a business and a song.
The Boston-based hip-hop artist could add all sorts of other nouns to her title. Words like poet, composer, lyricist, record company owner, music and video producer, singer, dancer, influencer, philanthropist.
When asked what she does, actually, call herself, she says, “I’m not into labels. Labels are labels until someone makes a new label. I’m not going where I’ve been. I’m evolving every day.”
ReBelle, whose parents hail from Haiti, with one grandfather from the Dominican Republic, grew up in the Boston area, in a household filled with all sorts of music, family and friends.
She was into hip-hop, with certain parental restrictions exercised regarding her listening choices. Her mom, a tech support analyst, had music blasting all of the time, including Latin, rock and roll, reggae and opera, and ReBelle soaked it all up.
With this background, ReBelle’s artistic career in music might not be surprising, but it surprised her.
A journalism major at Penn State, ReBelle went through a series of challenging events, including totaling her car and the death of a friend, causing the kind of emotional energy in which artists, at times, find kernels of creativity.
One night, out with friends, she spontaneously took to the stage to freestyle — something she hadn’t done since high school. Freestyle is improv in hip-hop speak, and when it’s done well, it is electrifying.
Unknown to ReBelle, friends videotaped the performance and posted it online. Via social media, the video flew around Penn State’s campus. Her star quality was obvious, and the video she didn’t know existed was a harbinger of things to come.
Today, ReBelle creates her own music. As an artist, her goal is to poetically comment on the current urban landscape. She works digitally, laying down beat tracks (the recorded rhythmic underpinning), then adding the lyrics over the beat track. It’s not traditional song writing, but it is traditional hip-hop production.
She takes a matter-of-fact position on the male-dominated music industry.
“It’s the same in the music world for females as it is in any workplace,” she says. “Inappropriate jokes, guys getting a little too close, assuming we are ‘with’ someone instead of assuming we are ‘the’ someone. It’s a cliche, but it’s unfortunately still true much of the time. There are creepy dudes all over the place.”
In order to maintain control of her own work and to foster other exciting, up-and-coming talent, she also started her own record label, ReBelle Music. This means, aside from artistic input and direction, she is entitled to a bigger piece of the pie.
This imaginative, informed artist also lends her talents to philanthropy, actively participating in Korektho, a not-for-profit organization started by her father. Her entire family helps fund a school in Thomonde, Haiti, her dad’s hometown.
They regularly hold dance parties — as a child, ReBelle did traditional Haitian dance for some of these events — with 100 percent of the admission fees going directly to fund school teachers, supplies and maintenance.
The crowd, Haitians and many others, keeps expanding. ReBelle is proud of the fact that, “We don’t guilt people into giving.” But, give, they do.
ReBelle is an accomplished artist with a sense community, a sense of self and a big imagination. Keep listening. Keep watching. She’s got things to say.
To hear ReBelle discuss the business of music with other artists who have used crowdfunding to finance their recordings, check out the free, five-part The Roaring Crowdfund podcast.