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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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Is T.I. Ok?

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Summer Walker Says We Don’t Deserve Her…And She’s Right

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Summer Walker’s recent Instagram post aims to remind us all to step away from the superficiality of social media and remember we’re only human.

In an age where people exploit “Love, Light, and Positivity” through discussions involving mental health and support, toxicity toward those affected has never seemed more prevalent. Conversations regarding self-care, emotional maturity, and navigating anxiety or depression seem to flood social media in ways that both normalize and trivialize the conditions. While the public perception of mental health is changing for the better, it seems our behavior does not match.

Social media has allowed us to become more accessible to one another but over time we forget there’s a living, breathing, feeling entity on the other end. We become crass, callous, and act without regard for another individual. In that ignorance, we forget that access to each other is a privilege and not a right. For someone like Summer Walker, who has reached their limit with public criticism, denying others access is no massive effort.

“Y’all Can Have The Music & Imma Just Head Out”

Summer Walker has always been candid about mental health. During her concerts, she often pauses to address her social anxiety while encouraging others to push toward their goals. Although she’s continuing to navigate the music industry and face her challenges head on, she recently made the decision that her first tour will be her last – partly due to social media criticism. Saying, “I’ve decided y’all don’t deserve me” Walker intends to distance herself from the public’s gaze upon the conclusion of her tour.

Following immense criticism for her Tiny Desk performance and hygiene practices, Summer penned a caption on Instagram in an effort to remind people she’s “just a regular person.” Believing people’s values are skewed, Summer said public expectations of her are too high and she has no desire to be in constant competition with the world. “Everyday/everything isn’t a Miss America bad b*tch contest and I don’t feel the need to put others down to stay relevant.” Adding that people are really disconnected, she said we’re hiding behind apps, filters, clothes, and other things that distract us from who we truly are. Imploring others to apply equal effort in enhancing their spiritual appearance along with their physical, Summer exposed the lack of self-acceptance and performative empathy that has affected so many.

Girls Need Love

It’s great to place so much emphasis on the importance of mental health care and showing up for your “strong friend”. But it isn’t truly being applied when your solidarity is so visible in theory but not in practice. People who experience social anxiety are not exempt from what causes it through the use of social media. For creatives, the irony of their work providing so much happiness while they often struggle with mental health issues is not lost. While Summer’s fans are hoping she does not refrain from producing music in the future, she’s made it pretty clear she has no obligation to shrink her emotional boundaries to please anyone besides herself.

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Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Toxic Black Capitalism

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Jay-Z’s recent decision to align himself with the NFL has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And for good reason. Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for 897 days. With no sign of him returning, despite maintaining a rigorous fitness regime, many are wondering why Jay-Z did not consult Kaepernick before signing on.

Five am workouts five days a week for three long years. Colin Kaepernick has been waiting in the wings since the NFL colluded to bar him from playing amidst player protests. Eric Reid, who stood beside Kaep in solidarity, has been subjected to excessive random drug tests for just as long. As season after season dredges on, Eric says he has no desire to refrain from protesting and has pledged to kneel during the national anthem this year as well. With NFL viewership in steady decline due to boycotts within the Black community, the league has reached out to an unlikely partner to repair their image and boost their ratings, Jay-Z.

Turncoat

A one-time supporter of the national anthem protests that brought awareness to blatant police brutality, Jay-Z has decided that there’s no time like the present to profit from his brother’s struggle. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z has brokered a deal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Roc Nation mogul is now positioned to serve as a gatekeeper, deciding who’s worthy to take the stage as a Super Bowl halftime act. As the internet reflects on Jay’s very vocal criticism of the NFL and recent Super Bowl Halftime Show performers, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation is lost on no one.

“Don’t Do This”

When news of Travis Scott’s participation in the 2019 Halftime Show reached Jay-Z’s ears, he was quick to ask the “Sicko Mode” rapper not to perform. Citing the poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick as the league turned a blind eye to police brutality, Jay-Z urged Travis to change his stance. But now, the “4:44” rapper is the one that’s turned the other cheek. Stating, “we’re past the point of kneeling”, Jay has all but embraced the ideals of his peers. Considering this partnership an opportunity to change the beast from the inside, Jay said in a recent interview that “this is the next phase.”

“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?”

Ever the capitalist, Jay-Z has turned the ostracism of Kaepernick and scrutiny of Reid into a means of personal profit. While preaching Black solidarity, he cradles the all-mighty dollar. To onlookers, this poses a moral dilemma, but we forget billionaires often lack morals and have questionable ethics. While it is unlikely that Kaepernick will respond with his thoughts on the matter, his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and Eric Reid have made their thoughts known.

You can’t trust a man who cheated on Beyoncé to make good life choices

Eric Reid took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to chastise Jay-Z for his decision. Stating, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community,” Reid says the fight is on. He believes that it is “unjust” that the NFL is now “championing” social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing his former teammate. What Nessa has to say was much more scathing.

Sharing a video on Instagram of her boyfriend, Colin Kaepernick, training with his ally, former 49er Eric Reid, Nessa included a lengthy statement regarding Jay-Z’s decision.

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We will never turn our backs on @kaepernick7 because your idols decided to work with the same organization that is actively keeping Colin unemployed all because he peacefully protested against social injustice in black and brown communities, specifically police brutality. So really, how can Jay-Z and the NFL utter social justice in their partnership while keeping Colin unemployed because of his social justice work? • • It’s typical for the NFL to buy different PR looks to cover up their dirt-that’s nothing new. But what is disgusting and disappointing is Jay-Z let them use him. Whether Jay-Z knew it or not (I don’t doubt his intelligence-so I would think he knew) he helped the NFL bury who he said is an iconic figure, Colin Kaepernick. • • Don’t tell me there’s a “master plan and wait for it” because the ONLY reason anything would ever change is because THE PEOPLE are loud and clear and won’t let the league buy their loyalty with their disingenuous moves. The people are letting the league and anyone who works with them know that they aren’t buying the bs. • • Thank you all so much for showing Colin so much support and love. I know for myself, I can’t thank y’all enough for loving my family. • #imwithkap #nokapnonfl ❤️❤️❤️ • • #RP: @kaepernick7: ‪You never turned your back on me or the people, even when the nfl tried to silence your voice & the movement. You’ve never flinched or wavered. I love you Brother! Let’s get it! @E_Reid35‬ ‪ And to the people – I see you, I hear you and I love you! Thank you for having my back!!!✊🏾‬ • • 🎥: @relrelrelrel @djtonedef

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Knowing that Jay-Z is helping the NFL rebrand itself is disheartening but predictable. After all, he is a prominent figure in the Black community. It was inevitable that the league would reach out to a “respected” rapper to leverage his image to increase viewership. In fact, it’s the same strategy they used when they reached out to Travis Scott. The only difference here is that Jay-Z is well within the ranks of the wealthy, privy to those dubious politics, and versed in the manipulation of exploiting his own community for financial gain.

Do you believe that Jay-Z’s efforts will lead to further dissension in the NFL? Or will his position as a gatekeeper lead to a fitting resolution? Do you think his relationship with Robert Kraft influenced his decision?

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