Hip-Hop Reform: Women in Hip-Hop

Edited by Sha’ahn Williams First of all, I’d like to apologize for what I am about to do. Weird, I know. But I want to apologize to every woman that loves Rap with all her heart and soul, and is tired of hearing why the female emcee is endangered, yet no one has given a solid solution as to how she may be resurrected. Today, that changes. This is Hip-Hop Reform. Refer back to The Record Spill for more on what Hip-Hop Reform is all about. In this segment, the filters are off. It is importance that we open up an adult forum to get down to the bottom of a cultural tragedy that took place under our watch. What’s happened to the Women in Hip-Hop, which makes it possible for only one emcee to shine at a time? What’s happened to the Women in Hip-Hop, to make the industry turn its back on the thought of signing a woman, let alone placing an entire label on her shoulders?  Let’s begin in the local Elementary School sandbox. As children, there was an unspoken gender divide on the playground. While the boys played ‘Two-Hand Touch Football’ the girls played ‘Double Dutch’. The line between these games was thick. If you ever caught a boy playing Double Dutch, he was either turning the rope trying to be fresh or he was jumping in the rope, which ostracized him from the other boys. If a girl played football with the boys, she was labeled one of the boys, i.e, a tomboy. And like lightning, you never saw two tomboys in the same place.  In Hip-Hop, the tomboy grew up to become the “First Lady”; the only female in her crew. She was the softer edge that balanced out the testosterone (yes, it only takes one woman to balance out a room full of men). And she played a valuable part in the bottom line.  Suburban teenagers own a substantial piece of the pie in terms of buying records. After suburban teenagers, you have young women between the ages of 13 – 18. This being said, the female emcee becomes a business decision. Let’s apply this. A label like “The Ruff Ryders” benefited greatly by the signing of Eve. Don’t get me wrong, she was talented; possessing all the lyrical tools to make an impact. As a business decision, she was eye candy for male fans and a role model for female fans. Eve’s fans admired her strength and how she could hold her own with her lyrical counterparts. As a result, her fans paid more attention to the men she rhymed with (for example, if Eve hung out with the Lox, the young women that looked up to her, listened to the Lox). If you look at it this way, since the beginning, female acceptance in Rap was a business decision, not an equality decision. Money, Power, Respect and Sex No filters… let’s talk about sex. Ladies, I know you face this issue at every showcase, every executive you speak to, and every beat-maker who runs a studio in his mother’s basement. You want people to take you seriously, but all he wants to do is take you to his sofa. And just when you think the women in the industry got your back one of them tries to get you on your back. Taking it a step further… For women on the come up, the first time you don’t have the money to record, (for production, for engineering, whatever it might be) sex is reared as a trade off. Power becomes the case upon meeting someone in the industry that can smell the blood in the water. Mr. Rapper will tell you that he loves your style and wants to sign you. That comes before he tells you sex with him will influence his decision. You could be forced to respect someone if you give in. After your dignity has been stripped, you are left with the stigma of sleeping your way to the top. You have no choice but to respect the person that holds your secret.  Take this how you must, but the women that are strong enough to turn down these propositions, hardly make it out of the regional or underground circuits to mainstream status. I am proud of these women for putting their soul before their goal. But it has to torment some of them. What if she got down with the executive four years ago? What if she got on her knees to that platinum-selling artist last month? Would she be a superstar by now? Would she have her own sneaker and clothing line? Would she be an actress on Broadway? It is easy to become haunted by ‘what ifs’. But it’s harder to make the right decision for the right reason. Once again, I salute every woman out there with her dignity still in tact. Your Enemy is closer than you think Every emcee possesses a unique level of ego which drives their brand. Male artists are in direct and indirect competition at all times. But once the ‘beefs’ became choreographed; they lost their touch (I am not complaining). Men may compete often, but women are naturally more competitive. From hair, to nails, to shoes, to clothing, to lyrics and beyond, women are in constant competition to be the baddest. So they compete, even in a limited field; they compete, even if the battle could end both careers; and they compete, failing to realize who their enemies are. While most of my examples of what’s choking out Women in Hip-Hop may be male-oriented, there is one element never factored in. I call it the “Lauryn Hill Factor”. Lauryn Hill, even to this day, is loved and admired for the impact she made on Hip-Hop. She was the future of music at one time. Lyrically, she was precise and intelligent. Her delivery had the accuracy of a sniper. And Lauryn’s cadence made sweet love to the eardrums. When “The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill”  hit the scene, people debated about Lauryn’s strong point, her rapping or singing. Singing won; and the proof came a few years later when Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot guarded Lauryn’s torch. This brings us to today. The female emcee isn’t endangered. She evolved into an R&B singer. The demographic that supported the female emcee since the late 80’s now looks up to Keyshia Cole, Beyonce, and Alicia Keys, to name a few. You never thought of Beyonce as an emcee have you? You should. The moment she appeared alongside Jay-Z, it was set in stone. Research her catalog since Bonnie and Clyde ’03. Listen to ‘Upgrade You’ for a quick example. Beyonce has the swagger of an emcee with operatic vocal skills. Artists such as Keyshia Cole and Alicia Keys have the personality of the streets; the same personality that Rah Digga, Jean Grae and Remy Ma’ have. I’m not saying that Nicki Minaj and Beyonce should go at it. The point I want to make is female emcee’s shouldn’t battle one another. However, what they should be doing is studying in an effort to top R&B artists’ content, presence and charisma. Then go on from there. You got beat by a girl On those very same elementary playgrounds, a little boy getting beat by a girl was mocked. Your friends wouldn’t let you slide one bit. If you lost a race to a girl, somebody just might beat you to a pulp for it. So when you hear in corporate America, men being paid more than women for the same job specifications, guess who probably lost to a girl in a push-up competition back in the day?  Rap is a male-dominated industry. Women are a constant subject matter in lyrics. And as long as there isn’t a strong presence of women in Hip-Hop, the subject matter in male lyrics can’t be answered. But how can he better himself in the face of a woman grabbing the microphone? He can write for her. She can be his lyrics in flesh. She’ll rhyme about what she wears and how good her sex is (setting the women movement back several years). Sound familiar? It should. It’s been done a few times. You tell me where these women are now. This is a business, right? Business should never become personal. I’ll tell you when it happens in Rap. When a man realizes the woman he signed as a business decision, outshines him. You want to witness jealousy? Let a woman lyrically destroy a track that a man is on, especially if he signed her. Suddenly, there is some type of “fallout”. It’s disappointing. The woman makes it. She exceeds expectations and then suddenly, the label doesn’t know how to work her project?! Stop pushing the album back, that’s how you work it. In Closing Rap music needs balance. We will fail to reach that balance by trying to save something that doesn’t need a hero. Rap music needs women. Our music is the voice of the culture. Rap can’t grow in monotone. Our music thrives in stereo sound. An MC Lyte for every LL Cool J andSalt n’ Pepa for every Naughty by Nature ; Lauryn Hill for every Andre 3000 and Missy Elliot for every Nelly. You catch my drift? An ‘I Wanna Be Down (Remix)’ for every ‘Flava In Ya’ Ear (Remix). Rap music needs balance. This balance begins when we put a moratorium on saying the female emcee is endangered. You can’t keep a good woman down. She evolves with the times and she looks out for her sisters. This love is needed from modern day R&B singers who evolved from the female emcee. Ladies, support one another. Don’t allow your label mates or the media to manipulate you into believing you must confront the closest woman in your path. Think about this. It has been said that Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim had ghostwriters at the beginning of their careers. Jay-Z was linked to Foxy Brown and The Notorious B.I.G. was linked to Lil’ Kim. All of them were from Brooklyn. Jay-Z and B.I.G. were good friends. So why the **** were Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim at each other’s necks? You would think they’d coexist and do business. But it was their lyrics that bumped heads. Both Foxy and Lil’ Kim had to be #1, until there was no one. Who won? Whoever owned the publishing to the hit records they put out during that era. Imagine what could’ve been for the women of Brooklyn and abroad if these two ladies stuck together. We at AllHipHop.com need your help. Take this opportunity to talk about your favorite woman in Hip-Hop. Let us know what some of your favorite songs and moments. Let’s lift up the Women in Hip-Hop, for Rap’s sake. 

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