An Ethiopian-Israeli rapper making waves in Tel Aviv’s growing hip-hop music scene was the subject of a Vogue magazine profile published on Tuesday.
According to the popular fashion magazine, which praised Eden Dersso’s “captivating and provocative work,” the rapper stands out as one of the country’s few female artists in the genre. “Ethiopian culture is fundamental” to Dersso’s work, the magazine added.
“I am the youngest rapper, so I always talk about it. I always rap that I am better than a man because they need to know,” the 21-year-old artist boasted. “They need to know that a girl can do it better than them, and they don’t. They expect me to come out sounding like Beyoncé, but I’m more like Tupac. And then I spit, I spit my heart out.”
Eden Dersso. Photo: Instagram
The Rehovot native, whose family immigrated to Israel in 1992, said her heritage impacts her sense of identity, and explained that she feels Ethiopian when she’s in her hometown but very Israeli when traveling elsewhere.
“It was super-frustrating, because I feel so Israeli, but I also felt very Ethiopian, but I wasn’t even there [in Ethiopia]. I wasn’t even born there, but the culture, the neighborhood, my mom… ” she said. “I felt too Ethiopian in my hood, but in school I felt like I was letting go of my Ethiopian side. I always had that struggle.”
An experience last year performing in Ethiopia for the first time with local rappers jolted her connection with her Ethiopian roots. She told the magazine, “I didn’t know how to speak to the people, and that ruined me,” referring to the Ethiopian language Amharic. “I was like, ‘What am I? Am I Ethiopian?’”
Dersso began rapping in the seventh grade, mostly as an emotional outlet. She rapped about things going on in her life, wanting to get out of her home and neighborhood and, she added, “if my life was too boring, I would just use my imagination.”
The rapper was raised with five brothers who were avid fans of Tupac and Lil Wayne to the point that she did not know who Beyoncé was when growing up. She began writing rap lyrics in English and posting videos of her rapping on Facebook but at the age of 16 she switched over to Hebrew after she heard local artists rapping in the language. Tel Aviv-based musician DJ Mesh became aware of her talents and invited Dersso to join his label, Shigola Records. He then produced one of her most popular music videos called “Busses,” in which she uses the public form of transportation as a metaphor for people’s opinions weighing her down.
Most of Dersso’s YouTube videos garner around 70,000 to 100,000 views and she performs several times a month, according to Vogue.
In her song “Transparent Crown,” Dersso calls herself the “new age Queen of Sheba,” possibly a reference to the claim that Ethiopian Jews are the descendants of ancient Israel’s King Solomon and the Queen of Sheba. She told the magazine, “I want to touch every girl like me, so I want to be an actor, a fashion model, I want to write, make music videos. I want to be everywhere for everyone to see, acknowledge, and respect what I do, because I would have loved to see a black woman spinning this country when I was a child. I want Israel to eventually be sick of my face.”