By Ray Stern
By Ray Stern
By New Times
By Amy Silverman
By Stephen Lemons
By Stephen Lemons
By Monica Alonzo
By Chris Parker
So she can write a transparently egocentric line like "I'm the hottest thing to hit the street since Malcolm," or freestyle a boast like "Let the Kitchen air out spray just like Raid on roaches/You don't wanna approach this/I'm ferocious/Lyrical prognosis, I gotta dosage/And it's gonna make you sleep," and somehow make the audience share in the moment.
Aside from the occasional freestyle battle on the East Coast, Kitchen had practically no performing experience when she moved to Arizona in the summer of 1998. But after quickly deciding that there was little to do for entertainment in the Valley, she started making the rounds of local hip-hop nights, looking for freestyle contests to enter.
"The thing that made it fun was battling right off the bat," Kitchen says. "The style that I prefer is that kind of rap, battle-rapping against people. And all the hip-hop places that I went to were battle-rapping, which made it easy for me to jump on the scene and make a name for myself."
After winning her first contest at the Big Fish Pub, she grew so accustomed to winning local rap battles that she began to count the $100 and $200 victory prizes in advance when planning her finances each month.
William "Big Willie" Walker first heard Kitchen rap two years ago on a local AM radio station. At the time, he was working at a radio station in Bakersfield, California, and visiting a friend in Phoenix. He heard her battle a male MC and was stunned by her talent.
After moving to Phoenix a year ago, he met Kitchen playing basketball at the Scottsdale Community College gym. A few months later, he saw her competing at O'Mally's and was even more impressed than he'd been by her radio performance.
"She'd gotten even better," he says. "But from the conversation I'd had with her at the gym, I knew she wasn't really sure how serious she was about it. She did it for fun, but she kinda wanted to pursue it. So to see that she was this good and was kinda undecided was amazing to me."
Walker says Kitchen's dominance of the O'Mally's scene was such that other MCs at the club would go out of their way to put obsequious compliments to her in their raps, just to make sure she wouldn't rip them to pieces.
Four months ago, Wady called Walker at Power 92 and asked if he knew of any promising female rappers on the scene. Walker told him he needed to check out Kitchen.
The 25-year-old Wady, a graduate of Tempe High, was trying to expand the reach of his fledgling management/production company, Dezert Heat Entertainment. The baby-faced entrepreneur, a lifelong hip-hop fan, jumped headlong into the music business last summer when his cousin's Long Beach, California-based group, Concrete Jungle, saw its Pacific Records label go under. The label's entire roster was left out in the cold, so Wady snatched up a handful of the acts.
But Kitchen is clearly his top priority right now. He recently took her to Long Beach to hook up with several potential producers for her forthcoming album, which he hopes to release on his own label, with distribution support from an established national label.
During the Long Beach trip, Kitchen started freestyling with members of the Black Knights, a Wu Tang Clan protégé group. According to Wady, one member of the group was so intimidated by Kitchen's freestyling flow that he ran to get one of his previously written rhymes. It was a repeat of the effect she's had at O'Mally's every Tuesday night.
"I haven't met any person that can match my mental capacity when it comes to using words and putting things together that make so much sense," Kitchen says. "Things that have to do with life and history and books. You can tell that I read a whole lot and my brain has a whole lot of vocabulary in it."
She credits this vocabulary to her studies at ASU, but beyond the impact that college has had on her music, there's a bigger reason Kitchen's so driven to complete her education. She looks upon it as payback to her grandmother, a way of thanking the woman who salvaged her from an orphan's life, and showed her a way out of the streets.
"My whole focus was to show my grandmother that raising me was not going to be a waste," she says. "I wasn't going to end up in the street causing havoc or a ruckus. I just wanted to show her that I really appreciated it."