Toni Monroe is beautiful. She has a powerful stage presence, and doesn't need a hype man. But yet, she's something of a hard sell. For one thing, she's white. For another, as her press release says, she is rap's "biggest" new artist -- a reference to her weight.
"I have heard it all," the release continues, "From 'She's fat and white!' to 'How can we market this?'"
"God, there are so many critiques!" she says, speaking from her studio in Reseda. "I've gotten, 'You sound too hard, you should lose weight, your show should be you and a gang of dudes.
"I'm a voice for women who go through real issues," she continues, "real struggles."
When Monroe's DJ asks her why she didn't dress up for this interview, she laughs. Glancing down at her black leggings, cardigan and Uggs, she shrugs, "I'm working. I need to be comfortable."
The rapper is practicing for her upcoming set, in which she'll be opening for MC Hammer tomorrow night at Club Nokia. "I wish we could stick to one set. But until you get a hit on the radio you have to arrange your set around the crowd you know is coming," she says.
She's got 11 years of rapping on her resume, a mixtape hosted by Ice Cube's DJ Crazy Toones, and been on bills with everyone from Mobb Deep and Lil Kim to DJ Quik and Lady of Rage. But despite all that she's still just the opening act.
Monroe, who won't give her age, grew up in Van Nuys. She describes herself as a troubled teen who didn't graduate high school. She was dating a guy with a studio in his apartment, and he brought a girl in to rap on a track. "I told him it was horrible, but he thought it was dope. I said even I could do better, and he told me to put my money where my mouth was," she says. She soon fell in love with rapping.