Based in Madrid, the female rap group IRA gathers four friends and feminist/antiracist activists. Raissa, Medea, Sátira et Elvirus told us about their new album El Duelo and their feminist fight through hip hop.
When and how did you discover hip hop?
We’ve been listening to all types of music since we were young. We probably discovered hip hop in our teenage days. In Spain, there was a big boom during the 90s, and we are now living a new era of growth and expansion of this music. Some time ago, we got to know alternative music via friends and closed circles, more than from the internet. Nowadays, thanks to different online music platforms, there are infinite ways of making music outside of the capitalist system.
How and when was IRA founded?
It was founded more or less in 2014, and our first piece of work was released in 2015. We were a group of friends and political activists in the feminist movement. We simply decided to incorporate music as one of our tools to spread and express a reality, which was more difficult to prove to the world at the time, and is still difficult nowadays but little by little, concepts like “feminism” or “patriarchy” are more normalized and accepted, something that seemed impossible some time ago.
How would you describe your music?
As we say in one of our songs from our latest album, we make “noise with principles, a lot of class and little cash”.
You just released the album El Duelo. For non-Spanish speakers, can you explain the concept of the project?
Our work El Duelo is a concept as a whole. It’s an extrapolation of the phases of grief (psychologically speaking) a process that we have suffered once we’ve started fighting this battle by and for feminism. We realized that, in this process, we live a series of phases, quite similar to the grief we feel after a loss. Far from being drawn in a line, with a beginning and an ending, they became cyclical, and once you’ve overcome them all, you once again find yourself in the first phase. Our grief represents the pain and the fight we began when we discovered all that had been taken from us and will never be given back. Here, we learn that we have to live with this loss, but the rage and pain won’t stop.
El Duelo combines the feelings of victory and defeat we feel when we see our comrades fighting and surrendering, and some alive and some dead. When we see how women are sexually abused, murdered and mistreated, and knowing, we will die watching it, at least our generations.
You’re often presented as “hardcore rappers”. Do you identify as such?
Well, we believe that this reference comes from the punk style that is present in our music, and the truth is we have grown in this environment, so it’s inevitable for it to appear. Our rap is usually quite raw and we are not shy on this aspect. Things have to be said exactly how they are, we don’t like to decorate them to “not offend” anyone. We talk about a clear profile of abusers, sexists and misogynists. Whoever feels offended by the terms aforementioned has a problem or more than one haha.
You describe yourselves as feminists and antifascists. Why do you think rap is a great tool to convey these ideas?
Music is a good tool for spreading any idea or message you want. Rap is poetry fitted into an instrumental base, which turns it into something lighter that wakes up a bigger interest in young people. For this reason it’s perfect for spreading our ideas.
There are very few female rap bands. Why is that according to you?
There are probably more than we think, at least solitary rappers. What we think happens is that we can all see the exaggerated masculinization of some musical genres, we see the difficulties that we are going to meet if we want to make a space for us in this world (the same as in many other worlds), and this makes us give up before we start trying. There are limitations imposed on us, despite our work, the talent or effort we put in it. We reach the so-called call “glass ceiling”, and this is what tears us apart from our dreams.
Who are your female role models?
Answering this question, we decided not to give names some time ago, since our androcentric history makes remember very few women’s names who inspire us, and the ones we remember had to make strong efforts and hard achievements. In reality, any woman who works by our side inspires us, known or unknown to us, the ones who fight for surviving this oppression, the women who are alive and the ones who have died inspire us, the ones who excelled in any job and the ones who were silenced. The ones who achieved their goals and the ones who gave in. All of them.
What are your upcoming projects?
After releasing the album, we were supposed to tour in Spain and Europe to present it. Due to the circumstances we are living at the moment, the alarming health situation and the precarious economic situation have left us without any work and musical future, at least for the times to come. Therefore, we are trying to give our project the highest digital diffusion possible, with the hope that we will be able to go back on tour when there is a more stable situation.
What do you think of Madame Rap? What should be changed or improved?
We can’t say anything negative about a media that promotes the visibility of women and people from the LGBTQ community inside hip hop culture. We wish these projects were not necessary, but whilst they are, we can only say thank you for them.
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