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Desperate to reconnect with her own culture, Kader – a non-practicing Muslim – looked forward to taking the trip back home last November. But after arriving in Jordan, she noticed it wasn't quite like she remembered it from her previous trip seven years ago. "It was disappointing because it was so Westernized," she says. "Every single little teenage girl looks like Avril Lavigne. I mean the hair, black nail polish, extensions. I'm like, 'You have beautiful hair and you're putting in extensions?" With her naturally curly hair, Kader stuck out like a tourist. "They would all be like, 'Welcome, welcome. Come buy!'" And she'd respond in her native tongue, "'Shame on you, I speak Arabic,' or 'I'm a woman of the country,' and they'd be shocked. I don't know how Middle Eastern women carry themselves, but hell, I guess I don't carry it the same way they do."
If her family had its way, Kader would've gone to law school, and possibly be married with kids by now, living a more traditional lifestyle. Instead she graduated from Bauder College with a degree in fashion merchandising, and got bit by the music-industry bug while working her way through school as a waitress at Gladys Knight & Ron Winans' Chicken & Waffles downtown.
Last year, after putting B&B on hiatus and temporarily moving to New York, she flirted with the possibility of starting her own boutique record label. The more she increased Proton's profile, the more her name became synonymous with the next wave of rap stirring in Atlanta. At times, it became hard to distinguish who had the most star potential. "Motherfuckers don't even mention us without saying her name, and she hasn't rapped one goddamned lyric," Baker says jokingly. "That speaks volumes."
Still, navigating her way through the male-dominated industry proved challenging. Kader's driven, decisive style rubbed some the wrong way, and she began to earn a reputation for being a real B-word.
"Cats kinda look down on businesswomen behind the scenes," admits Ford, who still works closely with Kader as co-promoter and host of the revamped, 18-and-over Broke & Boujee parties that take place monthly at the Five Spot. "You could even say the same thing about Hannah Kang, [who] runs [T.I.'s label] Grand Hustle. Everybody calls her a bitch, but when I see her out and about I don't think she's being a bitch. I think she's getting the job done."
During her trip home, Kader hoped to reconcile the two extremes: her business side vs. her nurturing side. She met a woman on the bus ride back from Syria to Jordan who helped her re-evaluate her self-worth. "She was talking about just taking care of myself before I take care of anybody else," says Kader. "You can find happiness in so many other things, it doesn't just have to be in our accomplishments. And that's what I've been basing a lot of my happiness on in life."
Since Kader transformed B&B to an 18-and-up party last September, it lost a bit of its gravitational pull within the scene. But she hopes to address that with a monthly party planned for the Clermont Lounge called Friends with Benefits, featuring visuals by Dosa and DJ Apple Juice. Meanwhile, she hosts her first Broke & Boujee outside Atlanta, in Chicago on Feb. 5.
Since returning home to Atlanta, Kader seems at peace with herself and the scene she turned her back on last year. Both she and Proton – who ended a five-city tour last month – have a newfound appreciation for Hollyweerd after watching them develop over the past year. "I've had conversations with Proton and Fadia, and everyone realizes that the music scene is kinda bigger than us [individually]," says Dreamer. "In order for it to be what it is, we gotta coincide, 'cause us feuding against each other ain't gonna make the overall situation a success."
Kader's hopeful, too. "They loved me in '07, hated me in '08," she says. "I think we're coming together. I think 2009's going to be an amazing year for the scene."
But even her peace treaty comes with stipulations. She still believes that her approach to exploiting talent by focusing on one act at a time and allowing the love to trickle down as interest peaks is the best model for success. She makes a good point, too. The same approach worked last year in Chicago, and resulted in acts such as A-Trak, the Cool Kids and Kid Sister broadening their fan base beyond the city limits by coordinating their efforts.
No matter what happens, she might be wise to take the advice of promoter and friend Ian Ford, who has encouraged her to woman-up in '09.
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