Feature Article: Female Emcee’s…What Happen To You
Hip Hop is a culture that was birth in the 1970′s. Consisting of several elements rapping, breaking, graffiti, and entrepreneurship; Hip Hop was the social vehicle for self expression that spoke about the daily life of urban America. Women have always played a role in the construction of the Hip Hop culture. However the male dominance and misogynistic thinking kept women in the background. It wasn’t until the late 80’s early 90’s that women in Hip Hop were gaining recognition, from within and outside of the culture. More than ever before, women were challenging male rappers’ sexist lyrics and using rap lyrics to define an independent black female identity. Women were being looked upon as respectable artists, business woman and trendsetters in the Hip Hop industry.
These women used powerful lyrics in order to dispute traditional gender roles prevalent in American society. The power, content and bravado of the lyrics heard in female rap music can be traced back to the genre of women’s blues. African-American women blues singers used themselves as sexual subjects through song, as a means of empowerment. The lyrics of many early female blues songs subverted the fact that female sexuality was only the object of the male desire. Instead, female sexuality was used to serve other females with a positive and empowered image of them.
Women have proven that they can be as lyrical as men but they still stay in there gender performance role of what a female rapper is suppose to be. When Hip Hop became “big business” the ranges of female rappers images and voices became limited. For female rappers the focus was less on their lyrical skill and more focused on the “package”. In this environment the over hypersexual women was given the most media attention. Women were supposed to play the gender role of this materialistic, bad bitch that based her music on sex.
Since some women choose to conform to these roles, women have remained in the muted group. Female rappers have a public arena where they can express their discontent with misogyny and sexism, yet fail to use this space productively as a liberating tool. Those who try to are silence by the dominant group. Since women are all ready in the non-dominant group many change their artistry to reflect what the dominant group deems fit. Therefore issues such as: domestic violence, sexual abuse of women, unemployment, drugs, increased incarceration, high rates of various diseases and other community ills remain to be acknowledged because there is no financial come up with such topics.
There are so many strategies female rappers could do to refuse the command performance that is laid out before them. Yet, many do not. It seems as though the 21stcentury female emcees are comfortable with not stepping outside the box, or challenging the standards of what it means to be a “female rapper” in Hip Hop culture. There used to be a balance of female images in the mainstream; when I was growing up I had Lil Kim and Lauren Hill. I also heard songs that embrace black female empowerment like “Ladies First” songs about safe sex practices like Salt N Pepa’s “Let’s talk about Sex’ and songs against calling female bitches like Queen Latifah “U.N.I.T.Y”. These women demanded respect not only for their people but for Black women. They open the door to speak on such issues now it seems that all their hard work was done in vain. Oh female rapper how has thy forsaken me.
Written by Civ Jones
The Hip Hop Advocate and On-Air Personality for Baltimore’s Magic 95.9
Join her on her social network @CivJones
Keys, CL. (2006) Empowering self, making choices, creating spaces black female identity via rap music performances. Retrieved from http://www.nepteir.com/2006Author/Cheryl_L_Keyes_files/Empower.pdf
Mangual, A. (2011) Materialism and Consumerism in the Hip Hop Culture Retrieved from http://amangual323.blogspot.com/2011/12/materialism-and-consumerism-in-hip-hop.html
Marshall, W. (2007) “Kool Herc.” In Icons of Hip Hop: An Encyclopedia of the Movement, Music, and Culture, ed. Mickey Hess, 1-26.Westport,CT: Greenwood