Saturday, April 17, 2010

The Miss-Education of the Female MC

"And I say what's tight, cause a sista write rhymes all day and all night.
Dwellin' South of the Hudson, New Jerusalem, in seclusion, using fake pseudonyms."
Rah Digga

Women and hip-hop music have always had a strange relationship. For a woman to be a successful rapper she has to navigate between representing for the ladies while commanding the respect of the men. Over the years there have been women who could do both. But, recently it seems as if finding a respectable female emcee is about as difficult as finding gas for under $2.00. It's a thing of the past. This subject has been on my mind for awhile, but I wasn't sure how to approach it. I figured out that I'm looking at hip-hop like there is something missing. I don't even want to speculate on what percentage of rap music is bought by women, but I'm sure it's well over 50%. But where is the voice that speaks directly to (or comes directly from) that group? That seems to be a huge problem for numerous reasons which include but are not limited to: the self-confidence of young, primarily African-American girls, the communication between those girls and their male counterparts as they grow older, and the balance of power within the genre in general. I don't think this trend has to continue as things have not always been this way......

"Outside of me you try to picture me, young and black, that ain't no mystery.
But inside runs deep like an ocean, you couldn't understand if I spoke in slow motion"
- MC Lyte

The 80's were a great time for hip-hop. The music was still fresh and ideas were still original. From the gangsta rap of N.W.A. to the "Daisy Age" of De La Soul there seemed to be something for everyone. What ladies like Roxanne Shante and Sha Rock started, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Salt-n-Pepa took to the next level. They represented strength, ability, and sexiness without any raunch. There was a sense that they could hold their own in a cypher and there was a sense that they weren't about to be any body's plaything. They had an understanding of what it meant to speak for women. For instance "Let's Talk About Sex" by S&P almost served as a Public Service Announcement in the wake of the recent hike in AIDS cases. It wasn't something their PR people told them to do, but it was how they felt they could help. On the creative side, MC Lyte's hit "Poor Georgie" still holds up as one of the best stories ever told by a rapper. She painted a great picture of a man out of control and how his choices affected him and those around him. These ladies were still able to have commercial success without compromising who they were. Queen Latifah still remains as the best example of a female emcee using her music as a stepping stone to further her career in other areas, a la Will Smith and Ice Cube. That's success.....

"Sippin' Zinfandels, up in Chippendales, shop in Bloomingdale's for Prada bags.
Female Don Dada has no problems splittin' cream with my team"
- Lil' Kim

Ah yes, the 90's. Generally regarded as the crossroads in rap music. It was the rise of bottle poppin', booty shakin', ice rockin', and......lyricism? I've always contended that outside of Rakim, KRS-ONE, and a few others lyrics in the 80's weren't too intricate. The 90's had rappers trying to step up their lyrical game which, in turn, made for a very entertaining decade. Three of the biggest names during the 90's were responsible in one way or another for two of the biggest female rappers we have ever seen. Biggie gave us Lil' Kim. Jay and Nas (and to some extent LL) gave us Foxy Brown. General thought is that this is the time when it started to get bad for the ladies. Kim and Foxy were thought to have been way too sexual, way too crass, and were accused (and rightfully so) of having ghostwriters. The success of Kim and Foxy caused some female listeners to try and take control of their own sexuality as they saw it as liberating. Other listeners were turned off and looked to artists like Lauryn Hill, Bahamadia, and Rah Digga to be their voice. Other popular artists like Eve, Mia X, and Da Brat were somewhat in the middle. "Love Is Blind" shows that not everything we had in the 80's is gone now. Something I think gets lost in this whole mix is the lyrical side of the argument. Lauryn(my favorite female emcee ever), Da Brat, Digga, and Eve can all rap. I mean really rap. Foxy and Kim have done enough in their careers to prove that they can write really well and not just recite what Big or Jay tell them to. For every year some of these ladies set women back in terms of respect, they advanced the lyrical ability of the female emcee as a whole.......

"Au contraire mon frere, don't you even go there, me without a mic is like a beat without a snare.
I dare to tear into your ego, we go, way back like some ganja and palequo or ColecoVision.
My mind make incisions in your anatomy and I back this with Deuteronomy or Leviticus,
God made this word, you can't get with this, sweet like licorice, dangerous like syphilis."
- Ms. Lauryn Hill

So where are we now? For me personally I haven't bought an album from a female rapper in about 5 years (Lil' Kim's The Naked Truth) and I only liked about half of those songs. And I can't see myself buying anything in the near future from another one. We've had Amil, Sole, Trina, Shawnna (who is terribly underrated), Diamond, Princess, Rasheeda, Remy Ma (who can rap), Charli Baltimore, Vita, Gangsta Boo, Jacki-O, Khia, Lady Sovereign, Queen Pen, and a bunch of others I try to forget. This looks too much like a "Where Are They Now" list. The only active female emcee that I really want to hear from is Jean Grae. She is better than about 90% of the men rapping and has the ability to make really good songs. If you haven't yet, check out anything by her, especially This Week. I also have hope for Eternia. She may be a force in the future, but it's yet to be determined. The future. And that brings me to Nicki Minaj. She seems to keep wanting to invade my speakers in one way or another. I don't want to knock any one's hustle, but if this is the direction it's going, I'm done. This chick cannot be the only female getting radio/video play, can she? Oh well. I'm hoping this comes full circle and we can get some variety. Because she has the right to make music if there is a demand for it. It's a free country. But, a yin to her yang is greatly needed.


DMack said...

I don't know, Khia just released a new video, so there's that.

somecallmeadreamer said...

Jean Grae

T-Smitty said...

Khia should not make videos. It can only hurt her cause, lol. Jean Grae is that truth!!

Anonymous said...

EXCELLENT POST, T-Smitty - I'll have to agree with you on all points, and I'm proud that there was no mention of one Nikki Minaj...Kudos, sir...

A. Reezie