Inquiring Minds Want to Know, Where are the Women in Hip Hop?
On Thursday, October 23, hip hop fans will tune into the BET Hip-Hop Awards. They will watch Lil Wayne battle it out with Jay-Z and Kanye West for winning the most awards. Viewers will also see performances by Young Jeezy, Ciara, T-Pain, Keyshia Cole, and Nas, among others. What hip hop afficiandos won't see, however, are awards for female artists. Despite the success of British artists M.I.A. and Estelle, no women were nominated for a BET Hip-Hop Award, just as there were no women honored with awards at VH1's Hip-Hop Honors on October 6. We probably won't see any female emcees at the Grammys, either, as Margeaux Watson reports that "the Recording Academy nixed its category for Best Female Rap Solo Performance in 2005."
MC Lyte is campaigning for the reinstatement of the Best Female Rap Solo Performance in the Grammys. She told Watson, "'I think it destroys [hip-hop] culture to not have the perspective of a woman. It's like our story is not necessary, our point of view isn't mandatory." While BET isn't offering any awards to women this year, they are including a tribute to female rappers at the show. Stephen Hill, BET's VP of entertainment, music, and programming, told Watson that the tribute "hopefully will remind people of how great it can be when women rock a mic," so at least the network acknowledges that women have voices and that they need to be heard.
On her blog, Margeaux's Mix, Watson reports that BET took umbrage at her charges that they were dissing female hip hop artisists, and invited her to the show. She wrote:
Just because I think it’s wack that Estelle, M.I.A., and Jean Grae were overlooked by the nominating committee doesn’t mean frontrunners Lil’ Wayne, Kanye West, and Jay-Z don’t deserve to be celebrated for their achievements... But before I pack my bags, I want to hear from you: Are you looking forward to the BET Hip-Hop Awards? Will you watch when the show airs on Oct. 23? Who are you rooting for? Are you as annoyed as I am that female rappers -- few as there may be -- were snubbed this year? Or is the era of female rappers dead and ovah?
Necole Bitchie ("Life's a Bitch and then You Blog") attended the show this weekend. Of the tribute to female rappers, she said:
Veterans MC Lyte, Yo Yo, Lady of Rage and Salt -n- Pepa killed it! *stomps feet* killed it I tell ya!!! I had just asked last week “Where are the Women In Hip Hop” and BET responds back with this!! Insane. MC Lyte came out to “Rough Neck” and I somehow managed to remember every single word! Yo Yo was definitely trying to bring sexy back when she came on stage. I think her performance single handedly killed Lil Kim’s swag. Salt n Pepa performed Shoop, Push It and “What a Man” while images of Barack and Michelle Obama flashed across the screen.
After noting the abysmal situation with the awards shows, Constantina at After Ellen packs a whallop in her assessment of the situation:
This problem is way bigger than hip-hop; because we live in a racist and sexist culture, there are limited spaces for black women in pop culture across the board. It's unsurprising that the music industry is not clamoring for female rappers — hip-hop as a genre prizes aggression and a quick wit. Put these qualities together in a black woman and it's way too threatening to a white supremacist patriarchy. Black women have and will continue to push through anyway, but it's not for lack of obstacles.
So if the mainstream won't promote female emcess, then it is up to women and our allies on the ground. As is often the case, other women are working overtime to make up for the disadvantages that women face when we want our voices to be heard. Nanci O at Nanci O is Hip Hop promotes women in hip hop every March as part of Women's History Month:
Where have all the female emcees gone? Either Hollywood or Underground.
We know the overgound reggies--Queen Latifah, Lil Mama, Trina, Lil Kim, Khia (don't snicker, chick was on a reality TV show so at least heads know who she is), Fox Boogie (album sales not withstanding)--are doing it, but let us not forget that there are many other female rappers, lyricists, producers, and DJs out here getting it in.
From Cali's The SIS(TEM) and EyeASage, to NY's Jean Grae and Amanda Diva, Tenn-A-Key's La Chat (yes I fukx with Chat), Chi-Town's Shayla G and Kid Sister, to NC's own Mica Swain and Shelly B + a gang of others the female undergound hip hop railroad is alive and poppin
And don't forget Nicki Minaj. Even though chickie was last seen selling ass in the pages of King Magazine homegirl can spit.
The point of this post?
It's obvious the mainstream doesn't give a f*ck about female emcees.
I do and in March 2009 we're going to put on for those with Estrogen + flava + a grind hard mentality rockin' the mic.
Be sure to stay tuned for:
The Women Of Hip Hop Radio Show, Concert, Honors & Afterparty March 2009...
So far, there are two events: a radio show on March 5, 2009, and a live show on March 12, 2009 in Raleigh, NC. See the Women of Hip Hop Official MySpace Page for more details.
Another important online resource for female MCs is The Fembassy blog. Organized by Chimere (who also blogs at Substance & Style) and blogger/freelance writer Glennisha Morgan, The Fembassy promotes female emcees looking for exposure. At a time when mainstream labels do not want to launch new female hip hop talent because, "The grooming cost to break a female rapper versus male is 10 times as much per appearance," as an industry source told Watson, this networking is more critical than ever.
We know that musicians have used the internet to launch careers. I hope that sources like the Nanci O Show and The Fembassy can prove the mainstream music industry wrong. People want to hear what female rappers have to say.