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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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Alexandra Shipp Doesn’t Understand Colorism and It Shows

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Alexandra Shipp is suffering from the same light-skin plight that Tinashe claimed stifled her career two years ago. Oh well…

After hearing that KiKi Layne was in talks to step into her queendom as Storm, Alexandra Shipp wasted no time chiming in on Twitter. Her hot garbage take has since sparked yet another conversation about colorism in Hollywood. Alexandra stated, in so many words, that Black people aren’t supporting her because of her skin tone. Proving she, like so many, does not understand colorism as a system of oppression, Alexandra makes it clear there’s still work to be done.

You see, Alexandra, no one is attacking you for having light skin. They’re simply expressing joy over the much-anticipated portrayal of Storm as she was intended — a dark-skin, beautiful Black woman. This was a monumental opportunity for you to offer praise. Instead, you chose self-pity because a skilled actress is taking a role you aren’t entitled to. Let’s look at receipts, shall we?

KiKi Layne has been nominated for:

  • The Alliance of Women Film Journalists Award for Best Breakthrough Performance
  • The Gotham Independent Film Award for Breakthrough Actor
  • The Washington D.C. Area Film Critics Association Award for Best Ensemble.

You, Alexandra, have been nominated for a Teen Choice Award and a Nickelodeon Kids’ Choice Award.

Because you, and others who look like you, have not had to search for representation to feel included, you may not know how to respond to this. I get it, You think you worked hard, earned that role, did it justice. Sorry, baby, but you thought wrong. The one-time wife of T’Challa deserves to be a dark-skin queen and there’s nothing you should do about it.

It’s bigger than you.

For two decades, we have waited for the mantle of Storm to be assumed by a woman who truly looks like her. For once, little Black children who share that skin-tone would feel seen as they look upon their favorite superhero. Imagine children looking at Storm the way they knew her and the way they thought they could be; strong, beautiful, dark-skinned, and more talented than you.

Furthermore, your conflict with the change in the cast should not be conflated with other pressing issues. Don’t weaponize Black Lives Matter to represent losing a job because you’re talentless. Where is your grace, queen? You’ve been coasting on mediocrity in an industry that has made you proud of your light-skin privilege. Now that dark-skin is profitable, the industry is accepting of some actresses with melanin more popping than yours, and you want to play the victim? Ms. “90 percent of the racism I’ve experienced in my lifetime has been at the hands of fellow Black people.”

Girl, bye.

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Protests Ensue Over Death of Jameek Lowery

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Jameek Lowery streamed his final moments as he sought assistance from officers in a Paterson, New Jersey station. Having passed in police custody, community members and family want answers.

Scared and Alone

Jameek Lowery was disoriented, foaming at the mouth, and shoeless. Asking for water and visibly unsettled, 27-year-old Jameek admitted he’d taken ecstasy just moments earlier. Hoping officers would help him find proper care, Jameek trusted them with his life.

Police say they called an ambulance and accompanied him to St. Joseph’s Hospital, but what happened during transport is unclear. The Passaic County Prosecutor claims although hospital records do not indicate acute trauma, Jameek suffered physical force and compliance holds during the ride. While transport took between five and twelve minutes, the prosecutor alleges that Jameek was unresponsive upon arrival. Jamir King, Jameek’s brother, says Lowery suffered a fractured eye socket and broken cheekbone after the recording.

We want answers now!

Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale maintains everything that could be done to help Jameek was.

 “They will do the autopsy, everything will come up and then we’ll know where we stand, and the answers will be given to you. I want you to have those answers. Right or wrong, I want you to have those answers.”

Jerry Speziale, Paterson Police Director

Unhappy with what Paterson Police have provided since Jameek’s death Saturday, protests have ensued. Hawk Newsome of Black Lives Matter attended the Tuesday night protest, providing his support to the family and commenting on what he knew so far.

“He was extremely paranoid, he was terrified, and he had no shoes on. What I did notice was his face looked good and within a few hours he was dead.”

Hank Newsome, Black Lives Matter of Greater New York

City Council members were also present during the protests, providing comfort to the family as they begged for answers. Lowery’s sister Jamilia Laurie said, “My heart hurts, I can’t explain how I feel because I don’t know how I feel. I can’t go to sleep at night. I’ve been up since this happened. I cannot sleep.”

Justice for Jameek

Late into the evening, things came to a head as protestors clashed with police on the street, spilling out of City Hall where the rally took place. Holding cell phones to record the officers, police lined up on the other side, equipped with mace. People began chanting “Justice for Jameek,” “Black Lives Matter”, and “No justice, no peace”. Police fired upon the crowd with mace and a large crowd was seen fleeing the Paterson Public Safety Complex building, shielding their faces and coughing.

Wana Fulcher, a protestor on the scene commented on the frightening state of police relations in Paterson.

“I have four sons myself and this is very scary. Your child can’t even walk down to the store without being harassed by an officer. Who can we run to?”

Wana Fulcher, protestor

Community leaders and Paterson Mayor Andre Sayegh are supporting the investigation into what happened to Jameek. Several news outlets have attempted to reach Paterson Police Director Jerry Speziale for further comment with no success.

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On the Subject of R. Kelly

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I was 14 years old when R. Kelly was indicted on 21 counts of child pornography. It was 2002. TP-2 had been out for a while and everyone was vibing to “Fiesta” and “Feelin’ On Yo Booty”. He was preparing to perform at the opening ceremony for the Winter Olympics in Salt Lake City when the story broke. A videotape had surfaced, allegedly showing R. Kelly urinating on an underage girl. The Black community was silent.

I overheard my adult cousins discuss the tape at family gatherings. Everyone that had seen it seemed to agree. Without a shadow of a doubt, they all knew they were watching Robert Kelly, the pied piper of R&B. Yet there was no outrage, no public outcry or demands for justice. It was sickening. At the time, I lived in Detroit, Michigan, home to DSA. DSA was known as The Detroit High School for the Fine and Performing Arts, but it was famous for birthing the princess of R&B, Aaliyah Dana Haughton.

Buried

When Aaliyah married R. Kelly in 1994 in that secret ceremony with forged documents, Detroit knew. When conversation surrounding the nature of their artist-protégé relationship was questioned, Detroit knew. In televised interviews and radio segments when their voices and body language could be dissected, the truth was bare and as a community we denied it. For the second time, I watched a city turn a blind eye to R. Kelly’s predatory behavior for the love of his music. For what? Because it was more difficult to hold one man accountable for his hebephilia than sacrifice music to bump to? We collectively did ourselves a disservice, the same disservice we do to little Black girls and boys who are preyed on by family and religious figures.

Ignoring the presence of sexual deviance in the Black community does not make the trauma survivors battle daily disappear. I couldn’t understand why people made excuses for rapists or held victims accountable for their pain. “Just separate the art from the artist.” How? Why? The artist is using his status and artistry to directly engage, lure, and abuse Black girls. R. Kelly isn’t the only person to do this. Many celebs have used the promise of fame for sexual favors. Hell, employers use this exact same tactic. In the working environment, people in positions of power will dangle promotion and incentive to bargain sexual favors and people excuse it.

Second Chances

As a community, we must demand better. From the moment those 21 counts of child pornography surfaced following the release of the infamous tape, R. Kelly’s career should have been over. But it wasn’t. He went on to release the Chocolate Factory album, selling more than 3 million copies and going platinum. With the help of a delayed trial, he worked diligently, released gospel music to clean his image. By the time he went to trial in 2008, the Black community had two-stepped his depravity out of their memory. He was found not guilty.

People use twisted language like “Those girls were fast. Where were their parents?” Working long hours to clothe and feed that child. No parent is in all places at all times so save that bullsh*t. Such rhetoric does absolutely nothing to absolve sexual predators of the reality that they took advantage of naive adolescents or starry-eyed adults. Just call it what it is. Or are you afraid that acknowledging his deviance means calling out the same evil in those around you?

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