So fresh and so clean in her pressed white polo, Atia Evans can't wait to get the dirt off her shoulders. Her popped collar stands up to afternoon humidity as she thinks back to B.C., life before committing to Christ, a day-to-day "party like a Rock star" existence where she routinely passed mics, cheeba-stuffed cigars and fifths of whiskey in any cipher that put five on them.
"People always love (to hear) dirt on other people, and I pretty much tell a lot of my business on the album," the 24-year-old says of Religitics, an episodic walk with a woman who ministers by sharing matter-of fact experiences. Her cool mid-range is different from metallic, smack-talkin' MCs that make being girlie sound like Baby Alive, grown-up and burnt out. Take the intro for "Never Getting Signed" — her spiel feels warm like Gladys Knight eulogizing "the good ol' days" on "The Makings of You."
"I didn't like my voice at first," she says. In high school, she felt she was a good writer and would battle anybody, but she thought her voice was too deep and no one would like it.
"When I became a Christian," she says, "all that stuff went away (because rapping) was something I always wanted to do."
When she joined her father's church, Greater Harvest, she traded in rhymes "snapping on homies" and began writing about living life humbly. Fishing around on SoundClick.com Atia snagged independent producers like Brian Lesun, Hi Fly and 311 Productions, who arranged her pieced-together concepts into filets of Soul.
Subsequently, 17 songs bridging schools of religion and politics sprang from the water.
"I wanted to give people a taste of both sides of the fence," Atia explains. "Most decisions we make with politics are because of religion, and most of the decisions we make with religion are because of politics."
Some of her songs recall when decisions went up in smoke. The imagery of "Purple Haze" that made her "squint 'til she couldn't see, looking like a crash dummy" is expected to come from Lil' Wayne or Luniz, not from a rapper turned Christian. Needless to say, this is intentional. On Atia's blithe reefer-madness satire, where marijuana paralyzes her emotions, a sped-up Blues hook chirps an invite to a bizarre ride to the far side on "Let's Go Get Stoned," to which she replies casually, "Oh, no, not me. I had to give that life up." Knowing the lyrics imply ambiguity, she wants people to play it back and go, "Did she just say what I think she said?"
Vocalist Terry Mallor joins Atia on "Selfishness," which reminisces about how she "used to talk trash, claim revenge and never listen." She says she modeled her flow and intonation after Kanye West's, whose Grammy-winning epic "Jesus Walks" softened the hearts of fundamentalists. But it's the "heads" she wants listening as she "burns tracks like the tip of a match and sends messages like Fed-Ex packages."
"I want people to catch on," she says. "I'd want you to come into my life and see what I see. The whole thinking behind this project was, 'How do I put Christ in my lyrics and get people to want to listen?' And honestly, I got a pretty good following going on right now."
Atia refuses to become a secular MC for a record deal on "Never Getting Signed." Her roll call shouts out "the old days, when people rhymed from their soul days," and cites Nas, Jay Z and The Roots as true-school examples. EMI Hip Hop Gospel artist K-Drama stepped it up locally.
"I wanna be like him one day," she says wistfully. Following in his footsteps, Atia wants to show lyricism being "reborn" as a cleaned up act.
"Some of today's Hip Hop music is so tainted with negativity that there's no way to enjoy it," she says. "It paints such a distasteful picture. I want my album to touch people's hearts without polluting their spirits. "
For more ATIA EVANS, go to myspace.com/atialevans.