"A lot of men call me a man-basher, but I consider those the guys who really need to listen to me instead of being angry at me," says Qing Qi (pronounced King Key), taking a break behind her desk in the small office of Horizons Unlimited, a nonprofit that offers job training and support groups to under-served San Francisco youth.
In rap and in life, Qing Qi doesn't censor herself. With her combed-out Afro, giant hoop earrings and visible neck tattoo, she comes to her day job as she is—and gets respect for it. As senior program coordinator, she oversees a cohort of 34 teens, supporting them through job searches, school and life's ups and downs. In fact, nine years ago, Qing Qi was one of these kids: she came to Horizons after becoming pregnant at 14, and she credits the nonprofit for helping her find stability for herself and her son.
Raised in East Palo Alto and based in Oakland, Qing Qi recently rose to local acclaim with her outspoken January mixtape, If a N-ggah Ain't Sh-t, Play This for his B-tch (IANASPTFHB), a 14-track manifesto that airs out resentments about the state of hetero dating in 2018, calling out guys who rely on women for financial support without picking up the slack—emotionally, sexually, domestically or elsewhere.
"When I came up with the idea, I was thinking of my friends," she says. "The three closest women in my life were with trifflin' ass dudes, and it made me so mad because men are not necessary. Men are an option. You don't need a man to be happy."