Ladies Last?: 8 Reasons the Women of Hip-Hop are Oppressed

Ms. Melodie“If we want to develop and grow to another level, we can’t be guinea pigs for the devil.” – Ms. Melodie, who passed away on July 17, 2012

[Rest in Poetic Peace to Ramona “Ms. Melodie” Parker, best known as the First Lady of Boogie Down Productions and the musical muse of her ex-husband, “The Teacher”, KRS-ONE. Ms. Melodie is Hip-Hop History! And she should be remembered in those regards!]

The Women of Hip-Hop are forever. From Roxanne Shante to MC Lyte, to Monie Love to Queen Latifah to YoYo, The Lady of Rage to Da Brat, and from Lil’ Kim to Foxy Brown and beyond – oh, and can’t forget Lauryn Hill or Rah Digga, Missy Elliot or Eve, Jean Grae or Remy Martin, to Nicki Minaj and every woman of Hip-Hop in between – they are forever. And, they are hurting. They’re stressed. They’re one false move from becoming absolutely voiceless. Oppressed.

In a male-dominated, sex driven industry, women who hope to one day stand center-stage and move the crowd face challenges unbeknownst to their potential fans. Each and every Woman of Hip-Hop has sacrificed something about herself to gain access to a microphone. Some may have sacrificed their bodies. Some may have sacrificed their songwriting. Some were forced to battle it out like gladiators until there was one woman barely standing. Their sacrifices are vast and continue on to this day. Their oppression is systematic. And possibly after you read’s “8 Reasons the Women of Hip-Hop are Oppressed”, you’ll look at a solitary Nicki Minaj a bit differently:

Nicki Minaj8. Pressure of One: The pressure of one…weighs a ton. Say hello to Nicki Minaj. The chosen one, the only one (international females not included). 2012 is a far cry from the late ’90s when the Women of Hip-Hop stood their strongest. If you weren’t into Missy, Left Eye was a dope alternative. Maybe it was Trina, maybe it was Gangsta Boo. The options were there, though. Now, it’s Nicki Minaj, or get out of dodge. You can’t blame Nicki for her circumstances. Everybody wants her to be everything. She can’t rap enough. She can’t rep her hometown enough. She stands next to Foxy Brown, that’s a problem. She sits next to Taylor Swift, that’s a problem. This is what happens when you’re the only thing smoking. And I won’t even delve into the Lil’ Kim fans bashing Nicki. As if Lil’ Kim’s music preached “Staying in School” and “Rapping it Up”. Oppressed.

7. Soul, Sold to a Loser: The icon was once quoted that he could sell water to a whale. Pipe-dreams are also sold. Young women aren’t even making it out of their hometowns without instrumentals and studio time being attached to indecent proposals. What she doesn’t know is none of the samples are cleared. He doesn’t know the difference between Production and Engineering. And she could find better equipment at a karaoke bar. Pedophile studios are set up across the country by men and women. Many dreams will fail before they exit the basement. Oppressed.

Lil Kim6. Their Ghostwriters: Men have used women as vessels to spread a Man’s message to the masses for years. For example, we all know The Notorious B.I.G. was a ghostwriter for Lil’ Kim from time to time. When you account for how sexually potent her lyrics were, you must ask yourself, who did her lyrics truly benefit? Was Lil’ Kim the ’90s symbol of sexual expression, or a subliminal message to women to engage in heightened sexual acts?

Women face certain exile if exposed for hiring ghostwriters. Since there are so few women in the genre, the eggshells they walk on are equipped with C-4. Oppressed.

5. Identity Theft: As the number of women in Rap dwindled down after the turn of the millennium, R&B singers worked their way into the position of ‘tough girl.’ Artists like Beyonce, Melanie Fiona, and Keyshia Cole all have an edge to their brand in terms of presence, slang, and overall message. New rappers shouldn’t have to battle for ‘tough girl’ market share with Beyonce. First of all, they can’t win. Second of all, they can’t win. And finally, hang it up. Oppressed.

4. Mainstream Exile: Mainstream success and the Women of Hip-Hop don’t mix well. Not to say that a woman going mainstream isn’t a good thing. It’s a beautiful thing. The question is, is there a home for her in the mainstream as an MC? Will she need to become something she’s not to survive in a larger pond? Will she need to become who she was all along? Will her core fans flip from admiration to rabid wolves the first time she appears next to a Pop star, or the first time she sings instead of raps? Yes, to all of the above. Success is bitter without the sweet. She’s lost in a world where she’s starting over, and the hate from the fans her success left behind is truly real. Oppressed.

Lauryn Hill - Hot 97 Summer Jam 20123. The Lauryn Hill Factor: What happens when an artist with very little Rap content, becomes the consensus favorite Woman of Hip-Hop? Lauryn Hill and her Miseducation album could be looked at as the greatest thing to happen to Hip-Hop for women, or classified as Rap lore. The album has one Rap song – “Lost One”. The rest was pure Hip-Hop/R&B. The album fell under the Mary J. Blige category.

The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill was a turning point in Hip-Hop/R&B. The album was an award-winning powerhouse, catapulting Lauryn instantly into mainstream elite. For all that it’s worth, Lauryn’s impact on Rap music can’t be denied. However, we must take a step back from hailing a mostly singing Lauryn as the end all to be all for female MCs. Oppressed.

2. Broken Egos: Rap music has been competitive since day one. If you wanted the microphone, you competed for it. So what happens when the only female in your crew shines brighter than you? We’ve heard rumblings over the years involving artists like Remy Ma and Rah Digga possibly being oppressed by the men who signed them for that reason. Remy Ma on that “Ante Up” remix, anyone? How about “Lean Back”? Whether you believe the exact situations or not, believe that they happen. Believe that it’s possible. For no man with a big ego is willing to be sliced and diced by a woman. Oppressed.

queenlatifah-61. Lack of U.N.I.T.Y.: In order to grow in any industry, you need sustainability. You need to command positions of power. You must fight politics with sharper politics. The Women of Hip-Hop are fighting an uphill battle through quicksand. By the time one of them makes it to the top, they’re spent. Try telling her, “Now that you’re #1 on the Billboard Charts, become the VP of A&R.” She won’t be too enthused.

But if she was running A&R, she could remove some of the shady and sign a few ladies. As long as she doesn’t turn around and proposition those ladies…herself. Oppressed.

What are your thoughts on the oppressed state of Women in Hip-Hop?

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  • artcryme99

    Listen man….theres a reason Lauryn is the greatest and its inexplicable that youre trying to portray her as an R&B artist when that is so far from the truth. She did a lot of singing on Miseducation but if she did the raps and sung the hook then shes R&B?? Listen to the lyrics on Final Hour or Manifest from fugees and tell me shes not lyrically far above most male lyricists. Everything is everything, forgive them father, list goes on.

    Aside from Lauryn you have Rahdigga/Jean Grae types who try to rap and brag like a man, and you have whores like Lil Kim/Nicki minaj. Thats why everyone loves Lauryn because nobody else has even come CLOSE.

    Mad respect to Ms. Melodie and the old school ladies but like you point out in your article women like her have been shut out in favor of the two types I listed above.

  • Biba Adams

    The image of women in hip-hop as an accessory. Having the lightest one, the “best” one, a foreign one, just like a car doesn’t help female emcees either. Most are forced to perpetuate sexually explicit images and lyrics to get the attention of their male counterparts and executives. Oppressed.

  • Great read…….That’s why I do support Nicki Minaj because she has so many different styles about her, and she is very humble to other females as well…Word in the streets is that Nicki is signing Foxy Brown under her own label so lets see….I have a lot of faith in Nicki Minaj because she seems to understand who the industry works.

    • Pierre Elliott


      • That applies to EVERY rapper…Why should Nicki be singled-out?

      • CasC

        Nicki does have different styles but how many different Hip-Hop styles does she have? Yes, there is a big hypocritical undertone to marking a Rapper a sell out, but in my opinion that is exactly what Nicki Minaj is. a major sell out … she turned her back towards Hip-Hop in general, towards her culture to gain more money and fame. In my eyes this is like selling your soul to the devil, to some degree. Of course this does sound hyper critical and a little overdone but she sold her artistic vision. No one can tell me that Nicki was running around Queens back in 2007, thinking that she would love to do songs like Starships and Pound the alarm. That just would be ludicrous. and Nicki being furious about her not getting any Grammy nods?! For real? What I do not understand though Dior, is how you can say that Nicki is humble to other females? How many other females did you see her do collaborate with? as in other female Rappers? None! Back in the days Kim, Missy, Left Eye, Da Brat .. they all did songs together. Nicki loves to the only one in the spot light … she has not interest in uplifting the female rap game in general. If so, she would have reached out to Iggy or Banks to help them raise their profile. She is doing NOTHING for female rap apart from harvesting the ripe fruits that have been shined on by a sun that was shining light into the business way before Minaj was even a household name. She also fails to recognize that big time. She acts like she is the first… and the majority of her interviews do show that she has a nasty attitude problem -> The B-Fast club interview. Just saying …

      • Lance

        Why should she have to? When Nicki was on the come-up who reached out to her? Nobody. She collaborated with Trina a couple of times and always mentioned Lauryn Hill, Queen Latifah and Foxy Brown and at award shows she always shouted out Female MCs. Nicki Minaj said in interviews before she became popular was that her goal was to bridge the gap between Pop and Hip-Hop. I’m a fan on Minaj because she’s versatile. I’m one of those people who actually love different Genre’s of music. From Africa to Haiti to UK to US you’ll find Rap, Pop, Indie, Rock, Soul, Metal, Alternative, R&B, Dance, House, Electro, Dubstep and more on my ipod. Pound the Alarm, Super Bass, Starships all had RAP in them but they just had POP Beats. What would be the difference if she got on an african drum beat and Rapped? Nobody said anything when Jay-Z rapped with Linkin Park. Kim fans are upset that Nicki was “throwing shots” during her come up days well in 2008 what female rapper was really making moves? Every female was available to make music but who really was pushing themselves more and making a brand out of their work? NOBODY. Nicki came through and she slaughtered. People are upset because she got like 2 or 3 dance songs but act like Majority of her albums and all her features were her RAPPING. So when Lil Kim got on Lady Marmalade was she a sellout? When Male Rap artist jump on records with Pop stars are they sellouts? I see it as taking Rap music to new markets and especially to markets that have bad reps on RAP music already because of its use of gun and sexual lyrics. The thing about black people or Hip-Hop heads is that they don’t ever want to grow and expand they all love to be tied down to one thing and they wonder why they don’t push pass their “norm”. Bums get offended when Nicki Minaj call them lazy like that make her look bad; how about you sit down and really analyze what she says. This isn’t the 90’s where black and whites have their own genre’s. This is a generation where everyone is growing and learning about each other, experiencing new things, being around different people, eating different, dressing different. It’s deeper than RAP & that’s why people love Minaj. She is a game changing artist and that’s what people love about her. How you say “the majority of her interviews do show that she has a nasty attitude problem” but only list one. Majority is many , there should’ve been more listed. Too bad there isn’t. All she did was gave her own constructive criticism and everyone gets on her back with theirs then when she speaks and tells how she feels all of a sudden she’s a b*tch, she got a nasty attitude, this that and the third. Lionel Richie just did a country album and I heard no one calling him a sellout knowing damn well that album did better than his last R&B release. Where’s his hate? But Nicki raps on a few mainstream hits and OMG she’s selling out to the whites because she’s not sticking to R&B/Hip-Hop. So what. She’s a theatre major to be in theatre you MUST know a little about everything and if you don’t they sure will have you do and learn about it and thats where most of her craft comes from. She was just a girl from the hood who only knew how to put words together about sex. Chicks above mentioned how other rap chicks came together on songs but that was how long after they’ve all established their careers and how many beefs big or small did those artist have? Nicki’s hate gets exaggerated and it’s more of because they fail to do the proper research.

      • CasC

        Your message in general shows that you can not look at Nicki’s career from a unbiased perspective. I could list an an answer to every single statement that you made but honestly, do not have the time and energy. When Kim did Lady Marmelade, she rapped! Different story … and yes, male Rappers are sell outs too, when they jump on the pop wagon. Thing is, they do not do pop, because they LOVE the music. They do pop to expand their fame and to make more money. Everybody who compromises their artistic vision to such a degree, is in my opinion a sell out… and btw, Nicki does have a major attitude problem in general. That is a fact … you should know best, as you are a fan of hers!

      • Pierre Elliott

        because of the subject matter or her music. the lack of respect of BIG people in the industry. you dont diss Stevie Nicks of Fleetwood Mac and think your careers gonna be still rocking.

  • That_N

    Good read, but give Kim props for writing her own ish. BIG died soon after her first cd was released, so how much of her ish did he really write?

  • Reblogged this on The Music Business Revisionist.

  • Pierre Elliott


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  • official1987

    Nicki minaj is a big reason to why female rappers arent going anywhere eve did just fine just being her

  • Jay Roc

    The reason Lauryn Hill is the top female isn’t because of her catalog/discography or her sales. It’s because she was the finest balance of a TERRIBLE (in a good way) MC. She had the lyrics, she had the flow, she had the swagger/finesse…BUT, in addition to that, she had the vocabulary that you couldn’t just listen to once and be done with it. You had to go back and play that part again and listen to the deep metaphors that tied in to the previous or next metaphor. The allusions and reference were phenomenal. I mean, her verse on “How Many Mics” was UNTOUCHABLE-

    “I get Inner Visions like Stevie

    See me, ascend from the chalice like the weed be

    Indeed be like Khalil Muhammad

    MC’s make me vomit

    I get controversial

    Freak your style with no rehearsal

    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 pelequo

    Or Coleco-Vision

    My mind makes incisions in your anatomy

    And I’ll back this with Deuteronomy

    Or Leviticus, God made this word

    You can’t get with this

    Sweet like licorice

    Dangerous like syphillis, yeah”

    That verse (in part) was like DAMN!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

    Lauryn Hill is BEAST….that’s why she’s one of the G.O.A.T!

  • hoeyuno

    Theres one reason. Majority of hip hop headz are male and just dont care for female mc’s. And the other is because woman just cant get along. Mc Lite is the queen of female mc’s in my books.

  • YaMamasFavoriteDj

    please – until NM bears a credit, that only has her own name, then we in!!!

  • fun


    • Deshair

      It’s a wake up call. We all know the impact Lil’ Kim can still have on this culture of music. Lauryn Hill sold more records and won more awards. But Lil’ Kim had the popular vote. And my apologies for any errors in this article. But hey, when we look for something wrong hard enough, we could find anything.

      • seriously?

        no there was a clear bias against lil kim in this article, im sorry but only a few female rappers truely made an impact and lil kim is one of them thats bottom line. All the rappers you mentioned stayed true to who they were nicki is a damn sell out, she doesnt know who or what she wants to be, she lies, she contradicts herself, i have no respect for her or what she does. Instead of bashing lil kim for dissing nicki why not listen to the stuff nicki has wrote that bashed lil kim BEFORE she ever started dissing nicki. Instead of fueling a fire you should have done an article showing why black females in teh rap game feel the need to have be pitted against each other like some glorified mud fight with strippers…..and you built right into that with this garbage article

  • Lauryn Hill buss harder than most women mentioned, even though she sings. And she has an actual message. She is still reading/writing new poetry (Black Rage) & it was dope to hear new material from her, saw her concert last week w/ Nas. She aint lost 1 iota of spittin & her singing also had a message. And why the hate on Kim? No, she wasn’t a conscious rapper but she did come w/ her own style/swag. I don’t see how u can spend an article biggin up somebody who stole & ran w/ another artist whole style & speak bad on the person who gave them their style. Kim was no Lauryn but at least I can recall lines like “And I got all my sistas wit me” fr Ladies Night. I have no recollection of Kim running around in blond wigs callin Black girls Nappy-Headed hoes & thinkin her wigs made her above Black women. Nor did she market herself to children. I understood in my young age I wasn’t supposed 2 be listening to Kim & she didn’t try to appeal to little girls. Nicki marketing herself to lil girls, rappin about “I got all these pussies poppin” & bringin dildos out at her stage show. She’s a devil, fam, she did a song w/ Britney Spears & Kesha (two white girls) and her first line was “Chimpanzees be hatin but I take it all in stride, put her in the jungle w/ bananas on the side.” I wish I WOULD have went to HS or sum w/ a broad callin Black girls chimpanzees w/ a blonde weave, she’da got that shit snatched off her head & humbled. If anything, SHE’S become the oppressor, or the voice of. This is deeper than rap

  • did a lil mixtape song addressin that “nappy-headed hoe” ish she be talkn..called “Paradoxical Diss”, look it up, it’s worth a listen. Black woman’s revenge 🙂

  • While some valid points
    are made in historical reference… Honestly, its articles like this

    that perpetuate the bullshit. The shallow pool of referenced artist
    only goes to show that the writer isn’t really watching the scene and
    how the ladies are moving out there… cause y’know all Nitty Scott,
    Raphsody, Angel Haze, Azelia Bank’s, Jean Grae do all day is bitch
    talk about each other and post their oppressed sex raps on twitter
    all day… Get the F* outta her with your regressive oppressive
    journalistic opinion piece… Just my opinion

    Peace and Love xx

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  • InnaLeigh

    Great article…

  • sweetpeach0711

    I totally disagree with this article. This just goes to show the sad state of hip-hop today. You started out grand quoting Miss Melodie whom which I had much respect for but by the end of this article I was sick on my stomach. First and foremost Nicki sucks! She bit her style from Lil Kim and everyone knows this but to add insult to injury she started this beef with Kim because Kim simply wanted her to at least pay some homage. Nicki has called black women all kind of nappy headed hoes, chimpanzees, bum bitches, the list goes on and on. When she does collabo’s it has NEVER been with another femcee but she compares herself to Jesus dying on the cross in reference to thanking her for opening doors. The fact is that if she had opened any door for anyone she would not be standing alone as you put it. You did not give Laryn Hill the credit she deserved and you had the audacity to throw a cheap shot at Latifah. At least Latifah uplifted and empowered women. She gave opportunities to other femcees (Moni Love). Do some research. Get off of Minaj’s nutsacks! I don’t even know why she is still being categorized as a hip-hop artist after Starship anyway! She is black girl who turned into a blonde white woman in the span of two years. All of these trailblazers that she NEVER wants to give any credit or opportunity to and you want us to feel that she is opressed? GTFOHWDBS! She would rather cover that one eye up, keep those legs open, sport those stupid blonde wigs, fake teeth, fake boobs, fake arse ,newly found white skin and continue to sell out. Also have you seen her documentary? Her attitude is garbage! I was raised in hip-hop and I am truly offended by your article. This pure and utter ignorance, my friend, is why femcees are opressed. People in this same mindstate made it that way.

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  • Reggie Schultz

    Article clearly written by a Nicki stan – the shade and the dick riding is obvious

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