SHE has spent her majority of her career in conflict – facing off against racism, sexism and harmful expectations on how she should behave. The system has been in place long before she arrived and will likely persist long after she has gone. But in the meantime, she's not going to make it comfortable for those who try to keep her down.

Edinburgh rapper SweeTs has been on the scene since her teenage years and toured the world, sharing stages with household names in the process.

She has always found herself going against the grain, whether by choice or circumstance. While rapping in her Scottish accent she faced racial abuse in backlash; as the first female Scottish MC, she was belittled and marginalised in the male-dominated scene. She refuses to use sexuality in the same fashion as many do in the industry, making her less marketable by a genre and an industry stuck recycling all those tired stereotypes.

Through it all, her attitude has stayed the same – sell your talent, not your body; be seen for you ability, not your gender; and don't follow the same harmful trends that have been used to exploit rappers in the past.

She tells The Weekender: "In hip-hop, it is always important that talent comes first and looks second. That might sound like a dainty thing to say, but it's not because it comes from all the pain and suffering I have had. I have been marginalised for not buying into the hyper sexualisation of women.

"Hip-hop is just one big long competition that was going nowhere. Even when you were as good, men still dominated and they were still at the top of everything. That's not how it should be."

For now, SweeTs has gone back to where she started – working to help develop the latest crop of young people who could use the art of rap as an outlet for creative and an escape from the harsh realities of working-class life.

Under the banner of LOTOS (Last of the Old School), a collective of rappers based around the country, and previous iterations, she has been able to reach out to dozens of youngsters and give them the opportunity she didn't have growing up.

She says: "I first started making music, back in the day, growing up in Wester Hailes, in Edinburgh. It's changed a lot, but back then there was nothing to do in the area – no park, no community centre… nothing. And, so, the band was formed to make sure young people in the area had something that was theirs.

"It was a collective that formed to support the local community and the first half of my career was submerged in doing just that. We had a lot of young boys from Edinburgh and Glasgow that were part of the crew and it really did transform their lives. Some stayed with the band; some went onto to college or university. But it really was a vehicle to take them away from really severe social, economic and environmental issues.

"One of the issues in hip-hop is that you have these massive figures like 50 Cent and Jay-Z who openly admit that they sold Class A drugs to get the money to start their career. Commercial hip-hop took over and glamourised that gangster lifestyle; the labels really fed that and moved away from rap that was political and challenged authority.

"It was a bit of death culture in the end – meaning they weren't promoting music that was going to transform lives and give anyone inspiration to get away from the trappings. It was just promoting materialism, the love of money and hyper sexualisation of women. That was picture through the 90s.

"But our philosophy was demonstrating that you could make it music without doing all that – without being a dealer or buying into all those types of things. And over the years we've mentored loads of young people, including Young Fathers.

"We need to see more art and craftmanship – not just every single song about women's bodies. My entire career has been about trying to create real conscious hip-hop that isn't about sex or about competing with other rappers."

SweeTs was a trailblazer for female MCs in Scotland and made her mark down south and across the pond. She shared a stage with Nas, Wu-Tang, The Game, Mos Def, Klashnekoff, Coolio and dozens more. Her group at the time was the very first hip-hop act to play Glastonbury.

But despite all the in-roads she had made, she never felt the playing field was level. She had to battle against sexism and colourism in the industry from day one.

"At the time I was making hip-hop, there was hardly any rappers and no female rappers. And there was no real support – there was more support from the people than there was from the industry. Scotland was looked down upon and just seen as being 'not known for rap' even know we were on Tim Westwood and one of the first ever hip-hop bands in the UK to play Glastonbury."

After a stint in London, she then embarked on a number of tours including shows in America before coming back home. But the same problems persisted.

"It was so male-dominated," she recalled. "I just got so drained from constantly having to battle men and prove myself to them. One of the hardest things about being a female MC is that even when you are good you still don't get the same support.

"And it's worse for dark-skinned female rappers. In fact, dark-skinned female artists, period, are under-supported and under-represented in the industry, even though it is our sound and our music, going back to jazz and blues, that inspired in the entire industry.

"The music industry has a big problem in promoting dark-skinned women – but then it's the exact same thing in every other industry. It's a particular concern for dark-skinned women who refuse to sexualise themselves."

Such was the battling nature of the genre, SweeTs stepped into other genres to work with different kinds of artists – while continuing to rap to those different styles.

She adds: "It was there that I found real happiness that I hadn't had in hip-hop for a long time. I found music when I toured with the Jamaican and reggae artists. I found people that encouraged me to develop my own style, whereas when I am around some the new scene – which is all about how fast you can rap, or how hard can you sound? But I'm just not here to compete; I'm sure to make music and help transform people's lives. That means you have try new things.

"From time-to-time, I will put out an EP like Checkmate or I will put out an album like Renaissance – just to prove what I can do."

Today she stands by her Last of the Old School moniker, having paved the way for the new school coming through. However, she is hoping more of the new blood will begin to recognise the sacrifices of those who came before and understand the full weight of their choice to operate in the hip-hop scene.

Her experiences in the industry over the last few years have also been filled with frustration given the lack of understanding among those in positions of power.

SweeTs added: "There are a lot of new female rappers coming through in Scotland and that's brilliant. I'd never want to criticise them. But if I wasn't biased and not supporting them, I would have to agree with what the average female rapper in London is going to say: why are you, as a female artist, not aware of colourism? Why are you not aware of how badly black women have been treated and how our cultural artefacts are exploited? They put their hair in cornrows and don't even understand that it's wrong.

"It's a problem in hip-hop, right across the UK. Too many of the cultural commentators, award runners and reviewers don't actually understand hip-hop. They think it's just like pop or any other genre, and it's not. You wouldn't just take the bagpipes or Scottish dancing, renaming it and giving no respect to the history of Scotland.

"Hip-hop has been hijacked in that way. And it's one of the reasons that I stepped away from the Scottish and UK scene because I was just encountering a lot of the new school rappers who have no concept of the history of hip-hop or how it relates to Afro-Caribbean people. I just think if you're going to take music like hip-hop and practice then you should have an understanding of the history, but that just doesn't seem to exist.

"There is a greater focus on social media – and we have artists who have never even left Scotland winning top awards, but they've never even been on tour. That'd never happen in any other genre because there is a standard there that everyone knows. There are too many people judging in hip-hop that don't have a clue and won't admit that they don't have a clue.

"I get that we are trying to diversify but at the same we can't make these young people think they are better than they are. They are not able to compete with other rappers their age in England or America – they will not be able to deliver to that standard. It's great being able to get on TV and win an award but that's not music.

"And we shouldn't blame those artists, we should blame those who are putting them up there."

LOTOS – Renaissance is available now to buy and to stream