Dynasty: Big dreams pay off for Tampa's 'Femcee'
(All this week, we’re spotlighting tbt*’s 2011 Ultimate Local Artists on Soundcheck. Today: Dynasty.)
It’s ironic: To make it in hip hop, Diana Hardy had to leave Queens — the home of Nas, 50 Cent and Run-DMC — for Tampa.
“I thought I was done with music for a long time before coming to Tampa,” said Hardy, a.k.a. Dynasty. “It tickles me that I’m from the big city, a city girl, and I come to Tampa, and it’s where everything goes crazy for me. I come to Tampa, and a do a song with DJ Premier. It’s like, what?”
Her head may be spinning, but it hasn’t happened overnight. Since moving to Florida in 2005, Tampa’s self-proclaimed “Femcee” has become one of the top female rappers in Central Florida. In 2010 she released the mixtape Dreampusher, a soulful collection of clever, autobiographical jams that was praised by critics and local hip-hop fans. In 2011, she’s filmed a pair of videos for Dreampusher: Epic Dynasty, with the aforementioned DJ Premier; and Forever, which she’ll release later this year.
But unlike many rappers, despite her success in the studio, Dynasty still feels more at home performing live, at venues like Jannus Live, the Ritz Ybor, or simply on YouTube. It was through her rhymes at local open mics that she first drew the attention of established artists like Tampa’s influential DJ Sandman, who has served as something of a mentor.
“Put me onstage in front of people, I come to life,” she said. “That’s when I’m at my best.”
It’s been that way all her life. Hardy performed for her family as a child, wrote rhymes for talent shows in high school and studied theatre at Five Towns College in New York. Today, she feeds off the energy of crowds, opening for rap legends like the Wu-Tang Clan, Talib Kweli, KRS-One and more. There’s a clip on YouTube of her backstage at Jannus Live, rapping for Big Daddy Kane. He seemed to dig it.
“I’m at a point where I believe something big’s happening,” Hardy said. “I feel like when I have these shows, it’s bigger than me just going up and doing some songs for people. I really feel like I’m relating to people.”
That has earned Dynasty respect beyond the local hip-hop community. Last May, Dynasty became one of the rare rappers to perform at WMNF’s Tropical Heatwave, a festival that overwhelmingly skews toward more eclectic rock, folk and world music. They crowded around the New World Brewery patio as Dy spit rhyme after rhyme in rapid-fire succession, looking the audience straight in the face.
Less than a month later, an enthusiastic crowd returned to New World Brewery for a Dreampusher release party. The vibe was overwhelmingly positive, and evidence that the local scene is rooting for Dynasty to succeed.
“I stood at my table for over an hour signing autographs and taking pictures,” Hardy recalled. “I don’t take any of that stuff for granted. I’m like, Are you kidding me right now? This is out of control!”
After that show, a tbt* reviewer wrote of the packed house: “An outside observer might have thought she was a national headliner.”
Maybe someday soon, she will be.
-- Jay Cridlin, tbt*. Photo/video: Carrie Pratt, tbt*