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