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What Happened to All the Female Rappers?

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Once upon a time, not long ago, a hip-hop world existed where more than one female rapper could be a star. Imagine that, a world where female rappers co-existed. They even collaborated – think Ladies Night starring Angie Martinez, Lil Kim, Da Brat, and Missy Elliott with video cameo appearances from Mary J Blige, SWV, Total, Xscape, Queen Latifah; even your girl Rashida from Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta made an appearance.

From the emergence of hip-hop in the early 1980s through to the mid-2000s, women were not only highly visible in hip-hop, but they were crossing over into film (think Lil Kim in She’s All That) and pop (Eve featuring Gwen Stefani on Blow Ya Mind). They were also breaking records (Lauryn Hill was the first female rapper to reach number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – Cardi B has since broken that record, of course). Every crew of rap artist crowned their queen, a rap crew could not survive without their bad bitch – Diamond and Princess of Crime Mob, Mia X of No Limit, Rah Digga of Flipmode Squad, Amil of Rocafella.

Salt & Pepa | PhotoCredit : Janette Beckman/Redferns/ Getty Images

Let’s just take a moment and remember – Salt N Pepa, Oaktown 3.5.7., Yo-Yo, Lady of Rage, MC Lyte, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Remy Ma, Trina, Roxanne Shante, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Shawna, Charli Baltimore, Bahamadia, Gangsta Boo….I could keep going, but there aren’t enough characters.

At some point after Lil Kim came home from jail and people realized she wasn’t going to monopolize on all that newfound street cred, before Eve found love in a White man overseas, after Queen Latifah dropped the Grammy award-winning jazz album, but a little bit before Foxy Brown was fighting the Asian woman in the nail show, the female rap game sort of dried up. Honestly, I have no idea why.

Missy Elliot | Photo Credit: Time

Perhaps the boys at the top shut the door to up and coming female rap artists? Perhaps hip-hop had gotten so misogynistic that it couldn’t sustain women and misogyny? Perhaps music wasn’t selling the same because people were stealing it online through Napster and LimeWire and record labels, as they are prone to do, dropped the least valuable artists first? Or maybe it is a combination of all those things. At the same time, the female rap artists who managed to gain some level of power had moved on to other endeavors – Queen Latifah was hosting a talk show. Missy Elliott was busy writing and producing pretty much every radio hit in every genre – pop, rock, rap, and r&b. Da Brat, well, she was in jail for busting a bottle over someone’s head. What we know for sure is that there was a good stretch of time when female hip-hop artists were completely missing from the game.

Nicki Minaj | Photo Credit: © MICHAEL STEWART/WIREIMAGE

And who should emerge from this lull but Onika Maraj. I remember when I first heard her mixtape, the one with Gucci and Rocko and that crew, I was in a gay club with my main homie. When Beam Me Up Scotty first dropped, all my LGBTQ friends were the only people I knew pumping it. Nicki had us all believing that she was ‘family’ and at the time, it was ground-breaking to have a woman, outwardly identify as something other than heterosexual. I mean, we all speculated about some artist, but no one ever confirmed and affirmed bisexuality/pansexuality in the way Nicki did. Eventually, we would realize it was all a gimmick, but the point is, it was ground-breaking at the time. Nicki joined a rap crew – Young Money – that owned the rap game (Remember, Rocafella fell apart when Jay-Z left and took Kanye and Rihanna with him) Nicki hopped on that empty stage, grabbed the spotlight and did it on ‘em. The girl had it. She had club bangers, she had barz, she had pop bops. She had Beyoncé. She had it all. And then…

Cardi B performs at Coachella Music and Arts Festival |Photo credit: KYLE GRILLOT/AFP/Getty Images

Over the past year, we have seen the emergence of several female rap artists, none more popular than straight-talking, loud ass Belcalis Almanzar, better known as Cardi B who pretty much hasn’t taken her foot off the neck of the hip hop game since Bodak Yellow hit number one — baby, cheating ass n*gga and all. Cardi B’s success coupled with Issa Rae being intentional about the underground musical artists she drags into mainstream through her show Insecure on HBO, I think, has reignited an interest in female rap. It is so many up and coming female rappers that are one radio hit away from breaking into mainstream music. You can feel the shift happening. I know Nicki can feel it. We all know Nicki can feel it.

There are so many up and coming female rappers that are one radio hit away from breaking into mainstream music. You can feel the shift happening. I know Nicki can feel it. We all know Nicki can feel it. Click To Tweet

Creating a hip-hop world that only allows for one female rap artist at a time does a disservice to a musical genre that is situated distinctly in black culture, a genre that is so deeply black, built on the struggle and disenfranchisement of young black people. It especially does a disservice to the female rapper who never had to learn to contend with other women, who never learned how to embrace other women, who never learned how to collaborate with other women, who never understood what it was like to cheer for other women, who never learned to be secure in her own artistry so that her only competition was herself. It fucked Nicki up.

City Girls | Photo Credit: Rolling Stone

Yes, much of the blame for the marginalization of Black women in hip-hop can be placed firmly on the doorsteps of men (Black men included) who are the primary gatekeepers in this industry. Maybe they’re scared, because the female rappers, all of them, are better than the boys – Young M.A., Resha and J.T., Rico Nasty, Kash Doll, Megan thee Stallion, Doja Cat, all y’all. We see you, we need you.  

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For The Culture

#MyWhitePrivilege Spotlights Further Racial Disparities

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#MyWhitePrivilege

Employing the hashtag #MyWhitePrivilege, Twitter users have shed light on the various ways they’ve survived interactions that frequently claim the lives of Black or brown people.

Everyone knows that the justice system unfairly prosecutes Black and brown people at a rate far harsher than their white counterparts. But the extent to which white people avoid experiencing the treatment people of color face in America is vast. One user described their experience growing up in a small town with no Black population:

“Growing up in a small town with no Black folks meant that the poor were often scapegoated. Anytime something happened or went missing, the cops were at our house looking for my brother. We survived all of those interactions though.”

As unsurprising as their experience was, they continued with details that truly highlight disparity in racial treatment with regard to the prison industrial complex. Not only did their brother evade prison, they received rehabilitation, therapy to deal with their traumas, and suffered no loss of education or employment opportunities. Throughout the thread of tweets, other users shared similar experiences with the law where despite their behavior or knowledge of their criminal history, they avoided punishment.

As Black Twitter users read the replies, some were struck with awe and others reflected on the struggles they faced. Many lamented over the difficult conversations they prepared to have with their children. The nearly 20K replies contain experiences with law enforcement through local authorities, TSA, Immigration officers, and even school police.

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Not On Our Watch! Howard Uni President Bans Campus Colonizers

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As a response to student reports of unauthorized use of The Yard, Howard University President, Wayne A.I. Frederick has released a statement demanding pet owners respect the campus.

An email sent to Howard University staff and students notified them of the President’s decision to mark the private institution’s grounds off limits. Calling the quad a “treasured site”, Frederick affirmed the community’s desire to keep the area “pristine and symbolic of all that Howard University represents.” Acknowledging the history of residents’ visitation to the campus, Frederick referenced the community relationship before making a formal decision.

“At the beginning of my presidency we held regular meetings that included students, faculty and members of the Advisory Neighborhood Committees to cultivate a town and gown relationship. I recently reached out to our local ANC and Councilwoman to engage in a dialogue. We recognize that service animals are a necessary aspect of modern-day life and we will accommodate them as needed. We appreciate pet owners respecting out campus by not bringing pets onto the private areas.”

Last week, reports of residents from gentrified surrounding areas mistreating the northwest Washington D.C. school made waves on social media. Insensitive comments regarding who was privileged to access the campus sparked public outrage among those who wanted to protect Howard’s 152-year legacy.

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Keep Walking, Colonizer! Howard University Students Say Neighbors are Disrespecting The Yard

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White people’s sense of entitlement knows no bounds and has now extended to the campus of famed HBCU, Howard University. The 152-year-old private educational institution located in D.C. has been misused by residents who believe The Yard should be accessible to them as a dog park or outdoor gym.

Students of Howard University have taken offense to colonizers and gentrifiers in northwest Washington D.C in recent years. As wealthy, White residents continue to flood areas surrounding the university, they take liberties they have neither earned nor deserve on the school grounds. Students say they “find it very disrespectful” and have noted a marked increase of such behavior throughout their attendance.

Where students would have seen one or two out-of-place dog walkers on campus in a week, they see two each day. Graduating senior, Briana Littlejohn, spoke with The DCist, about the residents’ use of the campus, stating, “You know this is a university. You know this is a historically Black university. And you feel so entitled that you’re just going to walk your dog there?” Many other attendees feel the same, but their outrage has recently been met with unreasonable alternatives by residents.

Speaking with Fox 5 correspondent, Tisha Lewis, Sean Grubbs-Robishaw who lives in the Bloomingdale neighborhood said the following:

“So, they’re in part of D.C. so they have to work within D.C. If they don’t want to be within D.C., then they can move the campus. I think we just need to work together and I don’t think it should be a he or there or here…It’s our community and that’s how it should be.”

Sean Grubbs-Robishaw,

Grubbs-Robishaw admits to using the grounds as a shortcut to get to the McMillan Reservoir, a popular spot for walking/running. But his argument conveniently glosses over the fact that Howard University is a private institution while also disregarding its status as a historically Black university.

The campus has been mistreated by those new to the area as a location for picnics and other abuses. The university has yet to directly state that such activities are prohibited by residents, Alonda Thomas, a spokesperson, has said there is no policy prohibiting dogs and that the campus is “open”, meaning anyone has access to it.

Do you think the disrespect that Howard University campus is receiving is related in any way to the #DontMuteDC protest? Do you think the campus should be closed to the public?

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