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Psalm One Mixes Chemistry, Charity, and Hip-Hop on the New Album Hug Life

In a Q&A, the Ukrainian Village rapper says what influences her art, what went into the album, and what to expect at its release party at The Hideout tonight.

Catch the local MC Psalm One at The Hideout tonight.
Catch the local MC Psalm One at The Hideout tonight.   Photo: Nick Bulanda

Chemist might be the last word that comes to mind when considering the work of talented local rapper Psalm One. The 33-year-old MC, who lives in Ukrainian Village, explains why science and rap are not so far off. Her new album under the name Hologram Kizzie, Hug Life, drops today.

Your new record Hug Life drops today. Why did you decide to do a full album under your new persona Hologram Kizzie?

Kizzie was one of my first rap names and the hologram is a symbol of the future. It’s just sort of a time travel theme for me and continuing upon something I started years ago. Also, Kizzie is Kunta Kinte’s daughter in Alex Haley’s classic Roots, so there are a lot of themes going on with the name Kizzie. But the most important thing is that it’s a continuation of my first rap name. 

What’s the difference between your two personas, Psalm One and Hologram Kizzie?

Not much except that Psalm One loves the kids and Hologram Kizzie is more adult with the content. It’s not vulgar or overly raunchy, but it does deal with adult themes. It’s just a way for me to be more free and less polarizing because Psalm One is a biblical reference and that can be hard for people.

What can we expect at the release show at The Hideout tonight?

We’re going to be doing tracks from Hug Life, but presenting them in a different way. ShowYouSuck is an amazing artist and my partner Fluffy and all the crew will be there. It’s really a family affair. The cool thing about Hug Life is that Hug is an acronym for “Help Us Grow.” I’m going to be traveling to Haiti to bring what I do here with Rhymeschool to kids in Haiti, so all the proceeds will go towards that and our unique brand of music education.

Tell me more about the Rhymeschool program and the impact you’re having in Chicago schools.

Right now we’re doing a 10-week session with Beehthoven Elementary School which is on 47th Street on the Southside. We have about about 30 fourth graders and it’s awesome. Rhymeschool is basically a partnership between myself, my partner Fluffy and the Intonation Music Workshop, which is an accredited afterschool music program. They place kids in rock bands, kind of like School of Rock, and I keep their method of instruction but bring hip-hop. We started about three years ago and we’re in our fourth school now and interest keeps growing. I’ve really learned how powerful a mentor in popular culture can be. I’m teaching kids life lessons through a hip-hop backdrop and it’s a really beautiful thing. I’m blessed to be able to do it.

Did you have a mentor growing up?

I come from a very strong family. I’m fortunate because I grew up in the hood, but I’ve gotten to travel and I attended private school before I moved to Englewood. There were times of poverty in my family, but we were really good at maneuvering and getting out of the neighborhood to see the world. I’ve been in places where people are really wealthy and I’ve been in places where people are just completely destitute, so I’m thankful for that unique perspective.

You were a really dedicated student and studied chemistry at [University of Illinois]. Do you find that rap and science overlap at all?

They do! For me it’s all about making stuff. I’ve always wanted to make stuff. I worked in a food science lab in Chicago Heights when I did work as a chemist, and the reason I got into it was because I did want to synthesize things and organize experiments. I definitely do that with rap. And I love to cook. I always say that if I’m not a rapper or a scientist then I’d be a chef. And it’s all the same: Whether I’m laying out a rap or a recipe at home, it’s all about how I organize my ideas in order to make something. I don’t know if that’s crazy or genius, but those are the parallels I find.

I’d say it’s pretty genius and it probably helps you teach, right?

Oh yeah. Organization is definitely important in the classroom, but I think I win kids over with my personality because I’m just a big kid. Fortunately I don’t have to do a lot of disciplining in Rhymeschool because I’m not very good at it and I think I’m viewed as a giant kid.

Psalm One, a.k.a. Hologram Kizzie, plays The Hideout tonight at 9pm. Tickets are $10.

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