Saturday, April 5, 2008

Wake Up! (My Constant Battle)

I've said it before, and I will say it again and again, as long as it's relevant. What is up with female rappers?

Who told them that they either have to whores or lesbians to get on the mic? It's giving us all a bad name. I googled "female rappers" and this is the first image that popped up.

Now, I'm speaking generally here. I'm a female. I am not a whore. I am not a lesbian. I rap. But going to various shows, poking around online, and from my own knowledge of history-- I'm kinda an anomaly. And not the cool kind, like NeYo in the Matrix. Think about the female emcees that you know who were not using either sex as a weapon (or as validation) or who are not gay. Having a hard time, huh? The list, sadly, is very short.

If you look at female rappers as a microcosm of black women, the same way that often Hip Hop is looked at as a reflection of the young black experience, the implications are even worse. That's why I can't allow myself to do that. The alternative implication is just as depressing to me as a music lover, because it suggests that the average woman doesn't really involve herself in Hip Hop. And if Hip Hop is a culture and the tell-tale vehicle for the young black experience, or this agent of freedom and expression, and women are not really becomes warped, one-sided and eventually, untruthful.

Ask the average, thinking female who her favorite rapper is right now and I'll bet my red sport Neon that she says, Common and/or Lil Wayne (sometimes in reverse order). Common because after he appeared on Oprah he magically, instantly, moved out of the underground realm and into the forefront of what many critics and casual observers believe Hip Hop "should" be. This is all almost 15 years after he started his career, but who's counting?
Common is a safe bet. He's good looking, doesn't degrade women, but doesn't come off as overly soft of gay himself. Most guys think he's dope, so he's validated that way, and he's in movies now, so that doesn't hurt either. He's commercial but authentic. Kind of like Mos Def (which is why white people love him), but I digress.

Lil Wayne is a favorite because he's force fed to mainstream radio, tv and magazines--this of course, came after dudes gave him the final ok when the Carter dropped. Wayne expresses a certain vulnerability that women, no matter how silly it seems, are always attracted to. He's renegade sexy, but clearly still has some issues/problems, that most women are itching to "solve." Plus, he publicly dates women and then doesn't bash them when the relationship is finished like 50. He's always searching for a good woman-- and that directly goes against the "homies over hoes" motto that pervaded mainstream rap for years. Wayne makes women feel wanted by him for more than only sex (and yes, I'm aware of, and have seen, his lovely "P-ssy" song performed live). I'm just giving you what the perception is. He's the guy that you know is a good dude and has a "good heart," but just can't seem to meet the right woman to fully bring that side out of him... making him an ideal fantasy man. It's complicated, I know.

I said all that to say that, women for the past 12 years or so, have been excluded in many ways from Hip Hop and the two artists that I mentioned above have done a decent job of making them feel involved. Now, I got into a discussion with one of my boys who does marketing for a major. He suggested that women don't go out of their way to find rap music that speaks to them, and that it's therefore their fault that they say there isn't any good, non-degrading music to listen to. I disagree. As a woman, why would you go out of your way to find "good" Hip Hop, when the genre (meaning the folks who operate it) has done everything in it's power to isolate you from it? From the misogyny-- and that includes subtle misogyny-- to the utter male domination (including engineers, executives, rappers, writers, editors, producers, etc.), what incentive does the average woman have to go searching for this hidden treasure of "good" Hip Hop? Especially when she can turn her head a little to left and find soul/R&B artists like Raphael Saadiq, Van Hunt, Anthony Hamilton, Trey Songz, Mario, Usher, Maxwell and whoever else who have no problem making her a musical priority? She has none.

Which brings us back to the initial point- with the bulk of women completely shut out of, or disinterested in Hip Hop, what remains are an influx of female emcees who are either badly scarred and searching from a man's validation through their sexuality and women who feel connected to Hip Hop because in some ways, due to it's own against-the-grain nature, rap music embraces their non-conformist identity. So what happens to the few of us who either neither searching for a man's validation and don't love Hip Hop mostly because it soothes our dissent from mainstream? I'll tell you what-- We're told that no one "gets" us. Or, we're told that we don't exist.

And this is my constant battle.


FireBrand said...

Nice. A few things, though:

1. You are very pretty. If you were to break through, I'm sure that a label would try to play up your "appeal". If you are a Jean Grae, what do you do in that situation? Comprimise? Is your message enough to overcome the "packaging" a label might subject you to?

2. I totally agree with what you are saying in this piece about the objectivication of our women. I would be lying if I said I don't contribute in some ways, though. The Lowest Common Demoniator always seems to win out, doesn't it? I think that's less about Hip Hop and more about America.

3. If American culture is misogynistic at it's core, what women that are in popular culture don't have to play up sex appeal at all? Are they any? Does Oprah's sexual preferences not even come into question? What about commercials on tv? I know Hip Hop is "our" community, but with Hip Hop being global, popular, ubiqutous, how do we address "community" issues therein that affect the whole?

Monk said...

Unfortunately labels haven't seen positive results in promoting a female emcee since the mid-90's and since the labels are primarily ran by dudes, if a chick ain't got a sexed up image, she doesn't stand a chance of getting signed, better yet promoted and marketed.

Not to mention, the game is just fucked up on so many levels as it is already. Only thing that's promoted is niggas trickin' on hoes or slangin' crack to other blacks. Maybe if a female rapper shot someone, then people will buy her CD's. Hold up...that didn't work, huh?

southpeezy said...

as easy as it would be to say "niggas is gay" as to why female rappers get no love...its easier to yell it "NIGGAS IS GAY"...and I don't necessarily mean that in the actual gay gay....but in the they dont like women way...did that make sense, probably not...but, a dislike (or fear) of women has to be the only reason left as to why the Female rapper ratio and population is the way it is...i might have borrowed this thought from you, but if folks aren't careful Hip Hop is about to end up like the Civil Rights movements of old...meaning that keeping women at the back is going to kill it in the long run...i dunno man, sorry. just felt like i needed to apologize because i know that sub-consciously ive contributed to the problem somewhere in the equation....

Dollarado Jae said...

J, I gotta agree with you on this, and it's pretty damn sad that it has not only come to this but has BEEN like this for years. As a man, I'm positive I've fucked around and played a part in the problem. But before i take too much blame.. let me say this "wack is wack regardless of sex" and there happens to be a handful of wack females in the game, just like men. So I would say, that also doesn't help the situation.

If you look at these magazines, its soo easy to see how low in the bucket the outlook on women has gone.. We damn near praise the strippers and any model trying to get in the business is almost only taking photos with her back turned to the camera, so we can see her ass, not her face.. I love black womens bodies just like any other brotha, but i gotta admit .. its waaayyy outta hand nowadays.. and booty has taken over.

My question is, if its soo easy for me to see how wrong this is, who are the people making these decisions to keep doing it?...I guess maybe thats due to the lack of females in power behind these outlets.

Anyway back to the music, this is what I recommend you do... Shoot as many music videos as possible and take it straight to the web.. if the powers that be wont change how female emcees are portrayed... over load the scene with what it really is homie...

intelsis said...
well stated and articulated. how i would have loved for you to called into my radio feature 'women in hip hop' that i do annually for women's history month.
besides running my trap i wax poetic on the state of estrogen in hip hop + play the dopest/most lyrical/unheard of femcees that are out there...

here's a tracklist of what i spun during the show:

anyway so then with that being stated what are the next steps?

4 Cryin Out Loud said...

women have to take control of their identities in hip hop and not be afraid to do so, in every facet of this business... that will take a lot of work...

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