“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 AllHipHop.com's "8 Reasons the Women of Hip-Hop are Oppressed", you’ll look at a solitary Nicki Minaj a bit differently:
8. 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.
6. 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.
3. 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.
1. 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?