Keoma Mallet is a 36-year-old freestyle rapper extraordinaire who has been performing under the stage name RhyMinister from the time he was 26.
The former Harrison College student who has a Bachelor’s Degree in Computer Science from the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus recently celebrated ten years as a freestyle rapper with an event held at the Pelican Craft Village entitled The Art of Rhyme.
Bajan Vibes sat down with RhyMinister to reflect on his journey over the last decade as a lyrical wordsmith in Barbados.
Q: Who is RhyMinister?
A: RhyMinister is a freestyle rapper extraordinaire who loves language and using it to inspire others.
Q: If you could describe yourself in three words what would they be?
A: I would describe myself as brave, determined and passionate.
Q: How did you become involved in spoken word?
A: Well, I am a rapper really. I can do spoken word, but that is a more by the way occurrence. I used to freestyle at home from as early as 2002, but one day in 2004, I asked my younger brother how I sounded and he said ‘okay’.
I responded “Okay?!” because I felt like I was busting my brain, so ‘okay’ was not cutting it. I asked him about his response and he told me about Justin Taylor who performs under the pseudonym Sunrokk and attended Barbados Community College at the time, saying that Sunrokk was exceptional at freestyling. I went to Barbados Community College where I met Sunrokk. Weeks after we started freestyling almost every Friday for a while, most often accompanied by Winslow Rubytech Jordan. From there it was open mics and then RhyMinister became a thing. There are many ways that I could have answered this question, but this is the most accurate one.
Q: What made you decide to continue in an art form which is not celebrated for 10 years?
A: I love it and have always been fascinated by how words can be flipped when rhyming.
Q: How was your event The Art of Rhyme where you celebrated 10 years as a freestyle rapper?
A: It was great based on the feedback that I got. I had a blast! It was the most fun that I had in all four episodes of the show as well as for a long time.
Q: What motivated you to start The Art of Rhyme?
A: I needed to do something creative as I was in a slump. I was feeling as though my other activities at the time stifled my artistry.
Q: You also work with Gine On Magazine – how did that partnership come about?
A: I have known DJ Simmons for a long time – since secondary school, as we both attended Harrison College and I have known Empress Zingha for almost ten years. I love and respect them both a lot, long before the magazine was launched. I used my social media as a way to keep people informed about what was happening and when as it related to artistic events. DJ reached out to me with this great idea to start a magazine [on what] I was doing but on a way larger scale [and] in a way that I had never envisioned. So, I was in full support of that and since then I have helped out when I could.
Q: What is your vision for developing the spoken word in Barbados?
A: I really want to make sure that artistes are paid properly for their work. Since I am a rapper, my thoughts tend to evolve around that genre a lot though they are not limited to that. I am a huge proponent of open mics and local artistes in general.
Q: What is one of the challenges you would have faced being a freestyle rapper in Barbados?
A: My biggest challenge is my personal conflict of wanting to just rap while contending with the understandable but stifling mentality that it is not something that I could be successful at in Barbados. This is a conflict that many artistes across disciplines share. So, there have always been efforts to do what I ‘should’ versus what I want to do. I am still working on that, but my approach is changing. It has to.
Q: You do something which is amazing as you can freestyle on a wide array of words. Did this come naturally or were you taught how to rhyme any word possible?
A: I am a word worm. Growing up my mom and my sister were both bookworms, so my love for word came from them. My sister used to do this weird thing where she would just sit and read a dictionary. “Who reads a dictionary?” I thought when I was younger. I decided to investigate, got intrigued and got hooked.
Q: What inspires you to do an underrated art form every day?
A: I would say that rapping as a form of expression best defines who I am as a person. Even when I am going through my worst times, my spirit drives me to just be me. It is who I am.
Q: If you could change anything about how spoken word is viewed in Barbados what would it be?
A: I would change the perception that rap, spoken word and other disciplines in art are not worthy of the same time, money and respect that we would give to more traditional fields. These things are not just hobbies to people who are serious about them and they mean the world to them. Would it not be best for people to do what they love and be paid for being good at it?
Q: Anything else you would like to tell Bajan Vibes?
A: There is nothing more beautiful than being you. Be you. Really, BE YOU! Get out there create and express. Let’s change how art is perceived together.
Q: Where can persons find you on social media?
A: I can be found on social media @rhymministermc on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook.