Monday, November 10, 2008

Last week Jonah Weiner had a story on Slate in which he asks, "Where did all the female rappers go?"

Good question.
Weiner's story gives a crash course in the history of women and hip-hop and a hat tip to artists like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Salt -N- Pepa as well as a nod to emerging stars like Kid Sister. But the fact remains that there are no female MCs dominating the game now and, as Weiner points out, no women were nominated at this year's BET Hip-Hop Awards and VH1 Hip-Hop Honors. What gives?

Weiner offered these thoughts:
Male MCs have long controlled the microphone, so women with rap dreams have faced the steep challenge of attempting self-definition in a genre whose louder, deeper voices have already done much to define them (in narrow and frequently noxious terms, at that). In large part, the story of female hip-hop is the story of that challenge.

Last summer I wrote a story on women and hip-hop and asked some local aspiring female rappers why they thought they were so underrepresented in the industry. Reasons offered ran the gamut. Some of the women I interviewed said music industry execs are more concerned with sexiness than skill while other women said many female rappers give up too easily.
In May I had the opportunity to do a face-to-face interview with MC Lyte when she was in Louisville for a Kentucky Derby weekend concert and I asked her what she thought about women and hip-hop. Here's an exerpt from our talk:

Do you think hip-hop is more welcoming to female MCs now or do you think it's harder for women to break into the business than it used to be?

Lyte: It's definitely harder for female MCs that have something relevant to say. There's no space for them. You've either got to be hyper-sexualized or you have to be Mammy and be foolish.
What do you think can be done to change that?

Lyte: I think challenging some of these male producers that record label executives look to to say, 'You know what, I'm going to get this young black woman who MCs and I'm going to give her the hottest music and nurture that situation.' I think what's happening is a lot of these male producers are finding it's much more lucrative to be behind either white women or women who are not black. Hence you have the Neptunes with Gwen Stefani. You have Timbaland with Nelly Furtado. You've got Wyclef with Shakira. You've got Will.I.Am with Fergie. I just would like for them to take much more of a stand for us.


Why do you think there are so few women in hip-hop?


Who are some of your favorite female MCs of today and from back in the day?



The legendary MC Lyte and yours truly

Posted by in  on 6:00 AM 5 comments

5 comments:

  1. Of course I read both of your articles in Velocity, which were great and right on time. And this debate has gotten really heated online lately..Another blog I read regularly, soulbounce.com, posts about it at least once a week and constantly calls out mainstream media for not putting more of an emphasis on why this is a problem. It is an issue of equality, and it seems that since the Lil' Kim/Foxy era (which glorified the disrespect and misogyny of women in my opinion) respect for real female emcees has vanished, and too many are turning a deaf ear. Females like Jean Grae get nowhere NEAR the recognition they should for their talent. As someone who has never been the biggest hip-hop fan, I still have mad respect for the obvious legends, queen latifah, mc lyte, monie love, salt n pepa..geez I wonder if the industry would even give them the same shine now that they once had..I'm done now LOL

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  2. There are plenty of lesser-known female rappers floating around. Check out Jean Grae.

    But here's the reason there are none on the radio at the moment - the industry is based on imitation. A new woman has to break through the glass ceiling so everyone else will have someone to copy. Why do you think Lil Kim and Foxy Brown emerged at exactly the same time?

    So once someone discovers a female T-Pain, there will be 15 female T-Pains on your radio. Ugh.

    The most underrated female MC is the Lady of Rage. She was a monster! But people will only remember her as the big girl from the Steve Harvey Show. Sad.

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  3. I have great love for the ladies already mentioned. I heart Jean Grae.

    One of my all-time favorites is Bahamadia and I thought Rah Digga's first (only?) album was pretty good.

    I'm also curious about Jane Doe, who I've heard kick down some pretty dope verses on Black Star tunes.

    Edd, agreed on Lady of Rage. I haven't listened to that whole album in ages. I think I'll do that tonight.

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  4. Bahamadia! She ain't winning any beauty contests but that lady had talent.

    Proof of Rage's hotness:

    "They pick me quickly like eenie meenie/I eat MC's like Marie Calendar's creamy tortillini"

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  5. uhhh. i guess i dont have any..oh well.

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