In Her Words

Check the rhyme with a local poet/hip-hop artist


"My name, 5th Elament, is a reference to spirit. There’s the four natural elements of earth, wind, fire and water. But there’s a fifth element that’s unseen, like oxygen. It’s the thread that ties us all together. My name symbolizes the spirit and women being a conduit for the spirit and for that spiritual awakening. That’s why I always say, I am the fifth element and so are you.

"Hip-hop is meant to bring us back to self awareness and consciousness. One of my lyrics says, 'Hip-hop is everyone, everywhere and everything.' I see myself as an alternative kind of hip-hop that also allows us to take the first step in a very feminist type of hip-hop. I’m not trying to find my place in the hip-hop of today. I want to make a new place! I want to make my place. My place is that I’m a suburban girl from Narragansett. Do you know how many of us suburban girls are out there?

"To me, feminism is about more than just girl power. It is about the empowerment of women in order to empower and heal men. As a girl, I watched the women in my family literally having to take on both male and female roles. However, I noticed that when the women were strong, they enabled men to be strong. This idea has been very dynamic for me.

"In the history of feminism, there has been a lot of exclusion of men and people of color. Coming from a community of color, I can see that the beliefs unique to communities of color can help communities in general. We already have a collective consciousness in an individualistic society. That’s what we bring to the table. If men are oppressed, women are oppressed. If women are oppressed, so are men. Our goal is to get us all free.

"Something people don’t usually realize is that hip-hop has always been very geographically informed. It’s very much about place and location and the stories that are in those places and locations. For me: I’m a nature girl. You can always find me by the woods or the water. It’s a huge piece of who I am, and a huge piece of southern Rhode Islanders. It’s a big thing we have right here to be in touch with nature, with this world that’s trying to pull us into technology. We who are by the water and woods can remind the world about that connection.

"But, there’s a bigger piece here: if you think about colonization and the beginning of this country, Rhode Island had a hand in that. We’re a home location of slavery! Part of the story of this place for me as a Native American is also formed by this sense of constantly fighting for your indigenous culture to fit into this mainstream society. That’s not to say that Rhode Island is a negative place, but that this is part of our reality.

"I get a large mix of emotions when my set comes on. There are women who love me and women who hate me. There are men who love me and men who leave the room when I start to perform. But I think I can change people’s idea of what hip-hop is supposed to be. I always succeed in altering someone’s prior perception.

"When I grab the mic, it is just the beginning of the dialogue. It’s the start of a larger conversation. I grew up in Narragansett. I was raised by a single mom after my father passed away when I was seven. Both of my parents were educators, artists and activists. Both of them had a deep sense of justice. They were passionate mostly about civil rights and race-related issues. My father Arthur Hardge marched with Dr. King during the Civil Rights era. He was arrested in Florida for his activism and spent some time in jail.

"My mom Lorraine Champlain was also involved in women’s rights. She always taught me that my gender shouldn’t have the power to put a glass ceiling on me. She was very free-spirited. She had this sense about her that she just couldn’t be contained. She was often seen as one of those wild women, like she runs with wolves. I think she tried to instill in me the sense that I could always be my own wild woman.

"When I was little, I wanted to be a teacher, doctor, or rock star. I always wanted to be in some kind of performance capacity! When I first went to college, I didn’t really like it. This has always been an important piece about me for people to know. By the time I was 21, I was an alcoholic. Getting drunk was my major. I didn’t return to college until I was 27 years old. By then, I’d earned a Ph.D from the School of Hard Knocks.

"When I decided to major in Communication Studies, I vowed I would change the world through my words. As an undergrad, I did my first thesis on hip-hop, capitalism and modern day slavery. I was always reflecting on the culture I was a part of.

"I realized words have this tremendous power. They alter our perception and therefore change our reality. I looked at how hip-hop was making a commentary on society while also changing society. I earned a BA in Communications Studies from URI in 2008 and went right into their Masters program in Communications. During this time, I also started working on my first album, Thru the Muck. I realized that we have these amazing stories to tell as women, and we are just sleeping on them.

"I think that my academic side has informed my feminist voice. But it was my journey through recovery from alcoholism that really informed my artistic voice. The School of Hard Knocks was far more important than my degree. That teaches you the human experience. Once you do the work on yourself and you connect your own pieces, you begin to see that nothing is separate.

"I’m working on my third album right now, called Diary of a Supa-Heroine. It’s from the perspective of a graphic novel and is about what happens when the cape comes off. What would happen if we saw her at the end of the day? What’s really going on inside of that heroine? This is who we really are, a part of ourselves that doesn’t get shown.

"When we limit ourselves to one role, it robs us of the multi-facetedness of our being. This world is in chaos because we as individuals are fragmented. Owning all of our pieces makes us whole and that’s what will heal the current position of society."