How A Successful D.C. Rapper Found A Life Cutting Meat

By Ally Schweitzer

Nonchalant, a formerly well-known rapper, now works as a butcher at a D.C. grocery store.
Nonchalant, a formerly well-known rapper, now works as a butcher at a D.C. grocery store.

A story on last week’s Metro Connection opened like this:

It’s a nippy 40 degrees in the meat-cutting room of the Save-A-Lot grocery store on Rhode Island Avenue NE. Butcher Tonya Pointer is making quick work of a side of pork, slicing the meat into evenly sized chops.

It’s a segment about a butcher, yes, but that butcher is also a former chart-topping hip-hop artist. In 1996, Pointer made one of D.C.’s most famous hip-hop songs ever, the socially conscious “5 O’Clock.” As Metro Connection’s Lauren Ober reports:

“5 O’Clock” was an undeniable hit. It landed on many Billboard charts that year and eventually reached the number one spot on the Hot Rap Singles list. Nonchalant was in good company—LL Cool J, Busta Rhymes and 2Pac also had hits on the chart that year.

But “5 O’Clock” wasn’t just a catchy song; it also had a powerful message.

“I had to be at work really, really early in the morning and I would see young guys out on the corner selling drugs. You knew what they were doing. Rain, sleet, shine, snow, they were there,” she said. “And I was just like, ‘God, I hope I never see one of my nephews out there.’”

But while the song was a hit, Nonchalant’s career sputtered in the single’s wake, Ober reports. Pointer attempted a comeback, but it never came together. Now, she finds happiness at her day job, but also as a DJ on a mission to help young women rap, spin, and produce hip-hop.

Read and listen to Ober’s story on Metro Connection.