By now, most are familiar with the contemporary variation on the Gypsy Rose Lee story where an ostracized youth is cajoled into a life of show business not by a frustrated stage mother hovering impatiently behind the curtain but by an inner voice that says ‘if you’re gonna feel alienated you might as well do it publicly.’ “Do it like the stars you admire on music videos, like the unknowns darting to fame on televised talent competitions” goes the credo. And so a new era of rag-to-riches post Ellis Island sagas were born – ones that sported 15 year old Aussie girls the likes of Iggy Azealia wading through backwater states till they managed to hitchhike their way into media attention. But what of those other stories – the ones at one remove from local dives and hard luck moments, the ones that bypass the truck stop, eschew the cigar totting heavyset bar owner in rural America and head straight for New York by way of - nothing less than - law school. Cheryl Vickers may just possibly turn out to be one such success story.
Cheryl, who presently works under the moniker of The Holyc, hails from rural Scotland where she spent many of her formative years DJ’ing when not being immersed in her studies. Having attended the prestigious University of Dundee, she received a law degree while simultaneously acquiring a fluency in French. Shortly upon graduation, however, Cheryl made a choice to put her academic career aside and focus more fully on her music. Her decision to give an opportunity for her creativity to flourish soon landed her in New York where she began numerous collaborations among which US-based producer Unique Weirdo accounts for some of her most interesting works to date.
“It’s not like I’ve abandoned what I’ve learnt”, says Cheryl in a lilting tone. “In a sense, I’m convinced that my background in law actually helps when it comes to sorting out contracts… not to mention French – a language in which I also intend to rap in given the opportunity”. A wayward glance accompanies her self-ironic tone as she adds, “I have actually kept some very close friends from Uni, you know… many are now with my movement and totally support me”.
With a remorseful looking cat tattooed on her lower arm, Cheryl points the endless row of lights and cars as we make our way out of the Jayz afterparty at club 40/40, “There are a lot of people out there with inspiring beats. I’d say my vocals are pretty unique in that listeners can easily identify my style. Let’s face it, there just aren’t too many Scottish female rappers out there”.
Theholyc’s recent decision to veer away from DJ’ing and embarking on a rap career soon evolved into a single - Wildin’, buggin’, trippin featuring Luvaboy TJ - that is slated for immediate release. “I mean, I’ve DJ’d since 17 and done my own productions for years, and have worked on vocals for a while now and this is just a culmination of all the various things I’ve been doing.” With an EP entitled What’s your Thots in the making, the prospect of Cheryl “just doin’ what she’s always been doin’’’ seems to hold promise.
Although questions relating to influences have of late become more of a venue for showing an artist’s eclectic taste and musical erudition, Cheryl greets the question with an unselfconscious air: “Sonically, I’d say Die Antwoord – you know from South Africa …well, for me this duo in Afrikaans convinced me not to be afraid of rapping in my local dialect. I mean, rapping in Scottish brogue is pretty frowned upon at home while in New York it lends one an idiosyncratic edge. And that makes me way more comfortable in being able to be who I am as a performer – not having to affect an inauthentic accent or adapt a façade. In terms of mood, I’d have to say my biggest influence is Biggie. I just love how uplifting his delivery is and when I deliver I really make sure to project my voice and let go of all inhibition. Now when it comes to poetic/lyrical influence… that’s gotta be Ludacris. I just love how many multi-syllables he packs into his bars and that’s kind of why I recently put out a track called ‘Money on My Mind’ – it displays my lyrical ability which I believe is greatly influenced by him. Also it subverts the notion that a white girl rapping has to stick with a certain style of ‘ratchet’ or strip club hip hop rap – and I’m not saying there isn’t that element in my album as well… but it’s certainly not all there is to me”.
When asked to explain about the strip club element, Theholyc admitted that her first show in Brooklyn turned out to be in just such a club, and further that she kind of liked it. “Me and my people we turned up at this dodgy strip joint in Brooklyn and I thought: fair enough… publicity is publicity – at this point anything is welcome. So I step up on stage and before I know it several strippers are up there performing along with me. They were like, how do we say, girls you wouldn’t actually expect not to be fully clothed – let alone, practically naked. So there I am trying my best to concentrate and one girl has her legs extended in the air and I nearly get kicked in the face from what I notice is this enormous transparent heel. Looking back at that experience though, I have to admit it was pretty funny and it did inspire me to make more in the way of ‘strip-club’ records.”
As Gypsy Rose endings are concerned, Cheryl will likely have reason enough to belt out ‘Everything’s coming up roses’ in whatever genre best suits her predilections. When it comes to her Scottish burr - well, to paraphrase the classical musical: ‘you gotta have a gimmick if you’re gonna be a star’. Does this sound like the words of a theholyc-holic? Let’s just say, if Cheryl keeps developing in the manner she has been, I won’t be going to rehab anytime soon.