A children’s author-turned-TikTok star is going viral with her literary breakdown of rap lyrics, but now she’s batting away rappers looking to collaborate.
She helped millions online by breaking down Drake and 21 Savage’s song “Rich Flex” earlier in November. “Zesty Drake” has been trending online, and Lee explained why some of his lyrics have been considered “sassy” by many.
These TikTok videos alone have been viewed millions of times online, which has resulted in a number of artists sliding into her DMs looking for a collaboration. The reaction has been wide-ranging, though, as Lee told Newsweek, she has made more of an impact with the videos than she ever thought she would.
Lee said: “There’s been quite a few people who are like, ‘Oh, I have autism, and this helps me actually understand the context behind what someone said. So thank you for that.’ And it’s not necessarily what I intended to do, but the fact that that’s a byproduct is actually really amazing.”
As well as millions of views, Lee has received thousands of comments on her videos, with around 90 per cent of them being positive in her words.
Her favorite reaction has been from a commenter telling Lee that she received a distinction at school by using the techniques from Lee’s video breakdown, or as she calls them, her “HANalysis” of raps. Less wholesome, perhaps, are the independent rappers who want to be HANalyzed.
“My inbox is an absolute mess,” Lee said. “I’ve got a lot of independent rappers and they’re like, ‘Do my single. What the hell?'” She adds that she’s unlikely to take up any old rapper on their request. “I have to connect with it. Some of them are amazing, but I just have to connect with the material.”
During her HANalysis of songs, Lee delves deeper into the lyrics, the expressions, the inflections and even the background of the artists to keep everyone in the loop.
The origins of these TikTok videos started in a longer format. “I basically wrote a dissertation about [Ivorian Doll] song “Rumors” on Twitter, because I just heard the song and it moved me. I love music that moves people. And I was like, ‘Wow, this is an amazing feminist anthem.'” This essay got a lot of engagement, which inspired Lee to do more.
“I’m always interested in why people pick up on certain lines and regurgitate them,” Lee said, suggesting she follows trending topics to try to decipher why certain lyrics, songs and artists are trending over others.
“The Drake song (“Rich Flex”) recently, ’21, can you do something for me?’ Everyone picked that up. Why, when there’s been a whole album of stuff, why is it that line that is getting everyone? Just like in Shakespeare, why is it, ‘To be or not to be?’ What is it about that one that people pick up?”
Overall, Lee thinks rap isn’t given the credit it deserves in terms of art when compared to poetry or sonnets of old. “There’s a weird, jokey, underlying thing that people have towards it. I don’t believe it’s given the same gravitas as you would something like an opera.” Lee added, “At the end of the day, every lyric, whether you like it or not, is a story.”
Going viral was less of a coincidence for 25-year-old Lee, and more of an amalgamation of her existing skillset. She is also a children’s author, having written awardwinning books The Rapping Princess and My Hair. The latter takes the reader “on a journey celebrating black Afro hair in all its glorious versatility,” while The Rapping Princess is a modern fairytale all about “embracing what makes you special and embracing your talents.”
Lee may have struck gold with her HANalysis series, and the next step could be to create longer-form videos away from TikTok.
“In words of the great philosopher, Mariah Carey, I’m gonna do the best I can with what I’ve got,” Lee said. “I just need to get my funds to go and all that, and then I’ll conquer the YouTube world or like TV.”
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