Dutch ReBelle, Oompa, and Red Shaydez look back on trip to Grammys, ahead to Grammy goals
In February, three of Boston’s most decorated female hip-hop artists attended the Grammys for the first time as members of the Recording Academy. Dutch ReBelle, Oompa, and Red Shaydez have the power to help shape the next generation of Grammy Award winners, and the experience has involved much more than simply voting.
“You dream of getting a Grammy and you don’t ever really know what it takes to get there,” said Oompa, who recently joined Pepsi’s Music Lab as the sole representative from New England.
In 2022, the Recording Academy tapped more than 2,700 music professionals from under-represented backgrounds to increase transparency and equity in the process. ReBelle, Oompa and Shaydez were the only three musicians selected from Boston.
“I’m not on that Grammys stage yet, but it feels one step closer,” said Oompa, who strives to represent fellow queer, Black, orphaned kids.
As a queer Black woman from Roxbury, Oompa has a plan to pay it forward to upcoming artists in the community. She recently received a grant from the City of Boston to start her own artist collective and incubator, OutLaud Entertainment, that will support five independent artists of color through a unique cohort-model fronted by Oompa herself.
“I’m basically trying to create more competition for myself,” Oompa said.
Unlike similarly situated award shows like the Oscars, the Grammys are the only peer-presented award. Additionally, one must be invited to the Recording Academy by a current member to be considered.
Although it’s still a mystery who nominated each artist, Oompa said that whoever did must believe in what the Boston music scene could be.
“There is so much power with [ReBelle and Shaydez] and what they know about the industry and this city,” Oompa said. “We move with our hearts and we always move with fierceness.”
Despite all the potential, Oompa added that there’s still much to be desired as a Black woman rapper in Boston. At this moment, she’s using her momentum to open up as many opportunities as possible.
“We’re scrapping and getting out of the mud and I couldn’t be more proud,” Oompa said.
A Grammy often represents the highest achievement a musician can receive in their career. However, independent artists—particularly women, BIPOC, and queer artists—often face systemic barriers when being considered.
“It’s not that we aren’t good enough to be Grammy nominated,” Shaydez said. “It’s that we don’t have the machines behind us. That’s the barrier.”
For Shaydez, the top priority is amplifying the work of outstanding artists who are being slept on. The Recording Academy invite opened an entrypoint in that direction.
“I think this is all part of the cultural shift to give more independent and self-released artists a chance to be nominated,” Shaydez said. “If independent artists are able to make it on the ballot, that’s a windfall for us.”
Shaydez has also been instrumental in cultivating Boston’s hip-hop scene through her personal relationships and passion for music. She is a member of the leadership team for Boston’s Women in Music Chapter, which provides meaningful support to women musicians, and is now the third member of the Hub’s chapter to serve as a voting member of the Recording Academy.
In a traditionally male-dominated genre, Oompa sees ReBelle and Shaydez as her sisters in rap.
“We all know what it means to be a girl in this game—what it means to be a feminist’s game,” Oompa said.
The respect is mutual. ReBelle, who has been a nationally recognized rap artist for years and a trailblazer for Boston, said she has always wanted to see more women commanding the New England hip-hop scene.
“When I first started, people were like, Oh my god, there are no girls,” ReBelle said. “It’s a blessing to be recognized for caring because when I was coming up, I was just doing what makes sense to me. It’s a full circle moment to be named as an influence.”
She added, “It’s really dope when you find your tribe. Your vibe attracts your tribe. You know, hearing girls give me love means that they know I’ve been genuine. It’s the biggest hug back.”
ReBelle is aiming for a Grammy nod of her own, but already sees her role as a voting member —“calling the shots,” as she put it—as one of the highest accolades an artist can receive.
This article is syndicated by the MassWire news service of the Boston Institute for Nonprofit Journalism. If you want to see more reporting like this, make a contribution at givetobinj.org
Dakotah Kennedy is a journalist and radio producer from Portland, OR. She recently completed her Master’s in Media Advocacy at Northeastern University where she leveraged her criminal justice background to create compelling narratives. Her work has appeared in Boston Hassle, Boston Neighborhood Network, The Emancipator, and The Scope Boston. You can find Dakotah on Twitter @foreverdakotah.