Marithea, the Colombian freestyler , who has made history by becoming the first woman to win the national final of the Red Bull Batalla, talks with S Moda about machismo in rap, the pressure of success or the symbolism behind her afro hair.
Maribel Gomez could be the personification of the Cali dream. Of the updated desire, of course, because the rhythms that have turned this 23-year-old into an international phenomenon have little to do with those who put a soundtrack to the city’s salsa temples. “I don’t drink, I don’t dance, I don’t have tattoos … living in Cali is the worst thing that could be said,” she laughs on the other end of the phone before making a timely clarification, “but I rap!”
And Marithea, the stage name with which she torments her rivals on stage, does it so well that she has just entered freestyle history by becoming the first woman to win the national title of the Red Bull Batalla de los Gallos .
His victory in the most prestigious tournament of this modality based on improvised replicas ensures a place in the international final to be played in December. Overcoming the chauvinist and racist scrutiny that has accompanied her since her inception, and a humble origin saved thanks to her maternal effort, her success story is so impressive that even she sets an expiration date: “I don’t think she can withstand the pressure of the circuit more than five years ”. Let’s enjoy the rhymes while they last.
What face did they make at home when you said you wanted to be a rapper?
I was a fan of battles and I listened to them a lot at home, but my mother did not like them because they were very street and they said unpleasant words for her. He realized I was talented when he accompanied me to my first face-to-face battle and I won. Until then he had only done it for WhatsApp.
Did you rap on WhatsApp?
Yes, he sent audios to organized groups, with jury and format. I did not know how the move worked with face-to-face battles and, in addition, they were held in more complicated neighborhoods at the security level.
You mention your mother and you also dedicated the title to her. What role has it played in your success?
If my mom hadn’t supported me, Marithea wouldn’t exist. It is the one that accompanies me. When I wanted to tour the country, he came with me, supported me and paid for everything. And he had to reconcile his job with your career.
Suddenly we would go to an event at night and we would arrive the next day and mother, without sleeping, would leave at six in the morning to clean houses.
Have you ever been told that rapping is only a man’s thing?
Of course, because in their mind they do not understand that a woman can win a battle. And if it does, they think it is because of gender. I am a rapper just as capable as they are, I am not just a woman who comes to make the quota.
Is Colombia more macho in that sense?
In Spain the feminist movement is strong, they have a gender equality body and many other things that we do not have here. All the leagues there have worked hard for inclusion, it is totally different how they see women who do freestyle in Spain and how they see them in Colombia.
Do you envy it?
They are taking some steps, but it could be better. I feel sad because all the crap I have eaten. Being accepted and positioning myself in the panorama is more difficult because I am a woman. There they have certain advances that we do not have here and colleagues from Spain have a less macho mentality than Colombians.
Have you been attacked more for being a woman or for being black?
Both. Woman and black, minorities, they are on a par. They believe that being a woman and black I have had it easier, that they give it to me and that everything is arranged so that I win.
Has any rhyme hurt you especially?
No, because I take it as an acting role. I play Marithea, the other interprets ‘x’ and says what he has to say as if he were acting. But that remains on stage.
Does it hurt more then what they write to you outside of it?
They are worse, yes. I don’t have Twitter, fortunately, and on Instagram I don’t look at comments because, although most of them are positive, two bad guys can hit you. I avoid it so that my spirits do not drop. I have come to think of leaving Red Bull because of the criticism I received after my participation, but my mother always appears encouraging me. I keep doing freestyle for her.
The freestyler Spanish Sara Socas counted in S Moda that you could burden of having to represent all women. Have you also broken your head against the glass ceiling?
I never thought I had to represent all women because, as Sara says, it is too great a burden to bear. Nobody has placed me as a standard-bearer for women and, the truth, I was only thinking of representing my mother. If someone feels this way, it is collateral. I am there for my life to change and to reaffirm certain things.
The fact of leaving the neighborhood: that we exist here, that we make art here. I am a black woman, I live in a vulnerable area, and for me those things weigh.