Daisha McBride settled on an artistic approach early on, as she dropped bars in her Knoxville high school cafeteria and rapped over borrowed beats in her MTSU college dorm room. In those days, she was simultaneously discovering, developing and showing off what she could do. She continued in that mode when she started dropping her own tracks, fervent and frisky about showcasing her technical ability and charisma. And after she set up shop in Nashville a few years back, plenty of her rhymes and boasts had regional resonance, but she wasn’t yet interested in getting much more specific than that in her songs.
McBride, and the core producers she’s worked with since college, Big Bruno and Sci-Fy, didn’t settle in that spot, though. By 2020, it was evident from her music that she was exploring deliberately, and she spent the better part of 2021 adding to and subtracting from Let Me Get This Off My Chest, an album that stands out from the rest of her catalog to date. It’s a true song cycle, one in which she steers through the emotional particulars of a subject that had immediacy for her: the emotional toll of taking a real chance on romance. She stretches both the muscular and melodic sides of her rapping toward affecting extremes—toward confessional intimacy; reedy and suave R&B hooks; pop iciness—to capture the feel of swaggering flirtation, riled distrust and wounded vulnerability.
I asked McBride, one of our former Nashville Artists of the Month, to recount how she pulled that off.
Daisha McBride: So when it comes to the music that I’ve made in the past, when I think of it, I feel like it’s the music that I thought I was supposed to be making, but not necessarily the music that I wanted to make. It’s like, “OK, you’re a female rapper, so this is how you’re supposed to do this.” I just felt like I was kind of just something where I’m just piggybacking off of what everybody else is talking about, because I really didn’t have much to say.
And then with this album, though, I was just like, “OK, let me just take a step back. What is something that I really feel like I can speak about? Something that I feel like will let people know a bit more about who I am and what I’m going to say?” And I just immediately went to my personal life, because at the time, my love life was not going well. I think it might have been my therapist who suggested, “Why don’t you just start writing some songs about this?” And I was like, “Oh my God. I don’t really be letting people know like my business like that.
So the first song from the album that was made was “Walk Away.” Basically, I was talking to this girl. We’d been talking for, like, a year and a half. I went to Atlanta to go visit her at the beginning of 2020, and basically when I was there, she broke it off. I feel like I put all my eggs in one basket into this girl, and I was hurt. I went to the studio. I was talking to Josh, Sci-Fy, about it, and he was like, “You know what? Let’s just talk about it.” At that point, I was still kinda iffy about my singing voice. He’s like, “Look, just sing it. And if we don’t like it, we can go back and find a singer to feature on it.” We literally set the mood, turned off the lights. I had to get real in my head and my feelings, and “Walk Away” came out. It was so different than anything that I had done before.
So through that whole process of me trying to get over her and just my own personal feelings, more songs kept coming out. The idea was to do an EP, but I kept going. I kept getting into a hell of a lot more situations with a hell of a lot more women, and I just had a lot more to say.
I think I was taking a lot of risk in my personal life when it came to just the whole new world of dating women and navigating that. Once I kind of let go of that in my personal life and really came to grips with, “This is who I am and this is what I want to do,” I think it made me feel more open to try new things in the music: I don’t just have to rap. I don’t just have to use these kind of beats. I don’t just have to talk about this. I can get a little bit more outside of my range.
That’s what I was most excited about when it came to the album because I was like, “People don’t even know I can sing. People don’t know this side of me musically, and they don’t know this side of me personally. We’re just going to drop it all, all at once.”
You can ask Josh: I cried a couple times recording these songs, because I really had to get in my head. I’m one of those people I don’t really like to talk about my feelings. I’m not the type that’s going to be like, “I’m sad, and let me tell you why I’m sad.” I take it to the chin and I move on and I’m tough on the outside. I really had to get vulnerable. We had to retrack a couple of songs, actually, because I was like, “I don’t feel it enough. It’s not giving the emotion that I wanted to give.”
That was, I think, the first time ever where I was super picky about when I recorded the songs, because before with other projects, it’s like, “All right, I’ll just get in the mood and rap.” But with this project, if there was a day where we were supposed to track and I was not in the headspace, I’d be like, “Nah, let’s do it another day.” So it was almost kind of like Josh would be on call. He’d be like, “Are you in your feels today? Cool. Let’s track.”
I think at the end of the summer, we had eight songs, maybe eight or nine songs. I felt like I was singing too much. I was like, “I have to make sure I’m still rapping. You can’t have one rap song and then the 10 singing songs. That’s just going to be a little too off for me.” That’s when we made “Ties.” That’s when we made “FWB.” And then that’s when we added “Balance.” And when we added those three songs, I was like, “OK, this feels a more like there’s a little bit of everything in there.”
I normally get super nervous before releases, because I’m like, “I don’t know if people will like this.” And I think this was the first project that I did where it was all excitement. I really feel more attached to them than any other songs that I’ve done.