Situated 40 miles south of Cleveland, and just a couple hours drive east of Columbus, recognition sometimes escapes the city of Akron, Ohio. Star NBA players Lebron James and Steph Curry were both born in Akron, though Cleveland gets the bragging rights since it houses the team. While Columbus birthed country juggernaut Rascal Flatts, as well as underground legends Copywrite and Camu Tao, Akron perhaps holds the trump card for being the site where The Black Keys formed.
Born in Akron, Penelope Dolla$ is part of a rising generation of artists in the region. Though she moved to Columbus when she was three-years-old, she returned nines year later, where she has lived ever since. Equally adept singing and rapping, Penelope draws inspirations from hip-hop heavyweights of the 90's like Wu-Tang Clan and Digable Planets, while charting paths set by some of the genre's recently revered idols such as Kanye West and Cleveland native Kid Cudi.
While Penelope credits Columbus as the place that taught her “how to fight back and not be afraid of anyone,” and that admittedly, “I did a lot of wild shit in Columbus,” she learned to be comfortable being a self-described oddball. While southern trap rap dominated most of her friends' playlists in middle school, she favored bands that fused multiple genres. “I was always attracted to music by The Gorillaz, Coldplay and Gym Class heroes,” she reveals, “I never really shared that with my friends.”
Encouraged by a family of musicians – her mother rapped, while her dad, grandparents and aunts sang – she formed her own rap duo with schoolmate Wavy, called Planet Rech. Though the songs may never see the light of day, including her first song dedicated to a high school crush, she felt an endearing sense of pride. The recording process was “liberating because I waited three years to do so.” With this newfound confidence, she had plans to make her mark on hip-hop with Wavy by her side.
In late 2011, the two had a falling out. “We ended up getting into a petty argument,” Penelope recalls, due to stark differences: while Penelope had intentions of pursuing a music career, Wavy had her eyes set on college.
Suddenly a solo artist, she settled on the name “Penelope Dolla$,” a combination of her love for classic names and imagery, with her own entrepreneurial spirit. On Y2K, her second solo project, she sings raps her signature bravado over classic instrumentals from Shyne, Busta Rhymes, Bun B and Ashanti.
With aspirations of breaking into the markets in Atlanta and Los Angeles, winning a Grammy and becoming an entrepreneur, she is not content on resting on her laurels. Akron, she stresses, is a city full of “hidden treasures that are about to be revealed.” With at least three projects on the way, including a second compilation with her Blak Klan collective, a collaboration with Cleveland's St. Clair and her own solo album, she is determined to lead the wave of breakout artists in the Midwest.