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Where did my sheroes go?: A Personal Reflection on Women In Hip Hop

KBB Staff April 5, 2013 Pulpit No Comments

It’s hard out here for a female MC. How hard? Recently, rapper and radio personality Monie Love tweeted about her thoughts on the industry and female mc’s:
“Hey, u know what? IM SO SICK of the sexism within this boys club of Hip Hop, and IM EQUALLY SICK of the women that Go Along 2 Get Along! U broads go along with this bull**** *** objectifying of women within hip hop cause he convinced u its the ONLY way to get on professionally.

Go head and keep looking the naked part, keep arguing with other female counterparts, keep popping up on blogs with DCIKS in ya face. Do everything other than master the mutha EFFIN art of EMCEEING!
Shante wasnt battling dudes for her own health, it was to make a man think twice bout pressing her skills in Rhyme. Lyte didn’t move towards a mic concept ready with Brklyn bred raw flow sounding like a boy at first, for women not to be taken seriously. Salt & Pepas THE SHOW STOPPER was a female reply to Dougie Freshs THE SHOW!Women have been fighting for equality in EVERYTHINg inclg HipHop.
I can’t sit here with so much in my heart about the furthers ifs sisters in an art & culture that impacts the world without speakin on it. Many of u are so consumed with your for the moment champagne wishes and caviar dreams that you dnt realize that even if u just wanna … Suck and Eff your way through the ON dudes and be happy with 2nd rate existence in this business,there r women that LIVE for the art of Mc’n And y’all killing it not only for them,but by confirming to the bullish you’re stunting your OWN GROWTH!”

For me it was all about Roxanne Shante. A 14-year-old from Queens who brandished a microphone in the video for her debut single “Roxanne’s Revenge” Shante was just it for me. A battling beast and a master with wit at an amazingly early age, she fueled my love and admiration for hip hop. Not just any hip hop but women in hip hop, a culture that is expressed through music, fashion, art, dance and so much more not just in the US but all over the world; A lifestyle. Now, a time when sex, strippers and gimmicks rock the world of rap, it’s the perfect occasion for reflection and re-evaluation of our contribution to the Industry.

Over the last 30 years, there have been greats: MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt n’ Pepa, and Sha-Rock to name a few. These were our pioneers, our hip hop heroes. They came into the game of rap as women, but they held down their craft as soldiers and demanded to be equal contenders. They weren’t given their respect but they made sure they took it, and they banded together to hold each other down. Their world wasn’t based on seduction or “droppin’ it like it’s hot” or even whose song they were on. It was based on pure, raw rap. They let us know that we could be successful in anything we put our minds to because we were women. Anthems were created along with powerful videos to create a vision for woman of all shapes, ages, colors. I remember the first time I saw “Ladies First” by Queen Latifah and Monie Luv. It made the hairs on the back of my neck stand at the thought that if we women rallied together, we could use our brains and talent to “muscle” our way into anything. It was a mental middle finger – and that sold me.

But in recent years, the women of hip hop have undergone a makeover. Just like music changed, styles changed and new styles emerged. A new type of female rapper was gaining popularity fast. The female rapper got sexier but like the guys in the game, her mouth was a lyrical dart and you didn’t want to be her target. What also came with her talent was a new fashion style. Jeans and a t- shirt were replaced with skimpy bikini’s, fur coats and lingerie. It was almost a competition to see who could expose the most skin. Selling sex became the focus of selling records and the music came second.

The new female MC was also the first lady, often co-signed by major male artists. Biggie had Lil Kim, Jay Z had Foxy Brown and JD had Da Brat. These women were dope on their own. Did they really need a male to get on? The 90’s and 2000’s uncovered some of the greatest female rappers since our beloved pioneers but somewhere along the road to the present there were major changes between women in the hip hop industry. They had gone from banding together to uplift one another to an ugly cycle of “jacking” each other’s styles and creating “beef”. As newer, younger female MC’s entered the industry there was no mentorship. Instead of generating a bond with veteran female rappers, conflict between camps and among rappers increased. No longer was a union important but you would sell out to get to a number one hit. It’s no surprise there is scrutiny over the addition of rappers like Nikki Minaj, Azealia Banks, Iggy Azalea and others who some feel have turned the new female hip hop image into a silicone sporting, gimmick stimulated three ring circus for the next generation. Are these the new role models for the next decade?

So where can we go from here? I wanted to get some feedback from someone that has spent their life around the industry, so I called up Teddy Tedd of the legendary duo the Awesome 2 to get some perspective on why exactly there were so few mainstream female mc’s and what needed to change.

“I think there are women that never get an opportunity to blossom. It’s very hard for a female in this business. I would like to hear more from some creative female artists,” Tedd explains “I would love to hear different kinds of stories in new music, especially from females who I think have a multitude of stories that haven’t been told. I also would like to think that the songs and artists speak for themselves but I think in this day and age it helps, in fact a record company is really leery of signing anyone who is not co-signed by a major artist or has a really big buzz already created.”

Plenty of the women in the hip hop community have done an injustice by the negative images. With the increase in the popularity of songs like 2 Chainz’s “Bands a Make Her Dance” and “Birthday Song” (a song in which the rapper wishes for a “big booty hoe” for his birthday) have taken objectifying women to an all time high, women need find a way back to the foundation our female hip hop founders laid.
Fortunately, some of our legendary ladies of hip hop are doing their part to contribute to the empowerment and education within the industry. MC Lyte created a HipHopSisters.org, a non-profit organization that promotes positive images of women of ethnic diversity and brings leaders of the world of hip hop, the industry and the corporate world together. They provide both national and international support to women and youth around the world and make it their mission to educate on topics like, financial empowerment & health and wellness. Not only is Lyte founder and chairwoman but other board members include Russell Simmons, Malcom Jamal Warner, Jada Pinkett Smith, Yo-Yo and Cheryl “Salt” James.

So I send a salute today, to the women in hip hop who have provided the surface for us to continue building on. Let us support each other, uplift each other and strive to create a positive image for ourselves and for the future of hip hop.

By Shanda Foster (@Shanda7)

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