Medusa, née Monae Smith
Often referred to as the "Godmother of West Coast Hip Hop," Medusa is a respected Hip Hop artist who makes scenes as a performer and an educator. Informed by legacies of the blues and jazz women that preceded her, she is committed to creating community through music. She was a central figure in Good Life Cafe and Project Blowed in Lost Angeles’s Leimert Park, an open-mic workshop space for emerging Hip Hop artists. With Nappy at the Roots, a musician’s showcase and collective, she created opportunities for artists to further develop their craft. One of the first Hip Hop artists to assemble a live band, her crew "Feline Science" charted new musical paths in their blend of soul and Hip Hop. As a Women Who Rock Keynote Performer, Medusa’s experiences as a queer Hip Hop artist reframe and expand our understanding of the influence of women and women of color musicians and performers on the creation of community, social activism and popular music aesthetics.
Medusa - In the Los Angeles underground hip hop arena, Medusa is considered by many as the Gangsta Goddess of west coast Hip Hop. Hailed “the Angela Davis of hip-hop,” Medusa started off in Pomona, California as a 16-year-old pop-locker with a dance crew called the groove-a-trons. Her undying love for hip hop and pop-locking gave her talents a platform to win the Best Female Dancer in the 1st Hip Hop Dance Awards at The Palladium. Soon after high school, Medusa’s life changed for the worse after going to jail. Once she got out, she vowed never to go back. The pain she endured only made her stronger, and shortly after Medusa was born.
In 1999, Medusa released her first EP, "Do It the Way You Feel It," which established Medusa's fan base in the United States and overseas. Medusa’s success spread throughout college campuses across the nation, and she has essentially become a Goddess to the underground hip hop scene and artistic community. Medusa was the first artist in the LA hip hop scene to perform with a live band.
Coming up in the LA scene, Medusa honed her flair and skills at the Good Life Café and Leimert Park’s “Project Blowed” Workshop. She was part of a musical community that includes Jurassic 5, Freestyle Fellowship, Volume 10, Kurupt, WC, Black Eye Peas, Macy Grey, and Xzibit. Medusa has shared the stage with lyrical heavyweights such as Stevie Wonder, KRS-ONE, George Clinton, Dead Prez, Dave Hollister, Chali 2Na, Super Natural, Public Enemy, Blackalicious, Erykah Badu, Roy Ayers, Dilated Peoples, Speech, Common, Pharoahe Monch, Meshell Ndegeocello, Fishbone, MC Lyte, Bahamadia, and Blk Thought of the Roots. Medusa is also known as the “Top Cat” of the clique/band Feline Science. She received a Grammy with the band Ozomatli and LA Weekly voted Medusa “Best Hip Hop Artist” two years in a row. Medusa’s versatility has been compared to revolutionary artists such as Gil-Scott Heron and Lauryn Hill.
Medusa’s skills are not limited to music. She has exhibited her talents behind the scenes through film scoring and soundtrack production. Such credits include “Life Is A Traffic Jam,” featuring the late Tupac Shakur; Gridlock, a Vondi Curtis film; and the sitcom, “Moesha," where Medusa appeared as Lady Lunatic. She wrote, produced, and performed “My Momma Raised a G” for the HBO film Stranger Inside in which she played the role of Leisha. Currently, she is a featured artist at Harvard University’s Hiphop Archive. Medusa continues to promote hip-hop seeds across the country in unparalleled numbers.