The term “female HIP-hops” was first coined in 1985 by a music writer named Muhammad Yunus. He did not use the term “female HIP-hops” to refer to female underground artists but rather to describe female underground musicians that he felt represented the struggles of women in that time and place. Although today female hip-hop artists face sexism head-on, with plenty of hateful comments made against them, they still have continually emerged as powerful, multifaceted and resilient artists who continue to carry the legacy of the ones that came before them. They are continuously making groundbreaking records and laying down music that is vital to helping women break through the confines of society. When I think of “Hip-hops”, I think of the late Dr. T, the groundbreaking soul album that helped pave the way for the hip hop movement.
Dr. T’s self-taught work ethic and his determination to make music in the streets instead of sitting in the studio helped pave the way for many female hip-hop artists including Big Daddy Kane, Soul Machine, Rakim and Run DMC. In her book “Sonic Youth: An Oral History of the Feminine Revolution,” Collective Mind writer bell hooks recalls how Dr. T encouraged her and the other participants in the group to write openly about the political issues of the day. She recalls him telling them that it would help them draw more attention to issues that were being neglected at that time.
Young women likeweet andious remembered Dr. T fondly as a mentor and their political speeches inspired them to continue making music. Rakim told the story of how he went from being a drug addict and petty thief to becoming one of the most successful rappers of all time. According to him, producers in the hip-hop industry had disregarded him and he was repeatedly denied music deals. He said a producer told him, “You’re not cool. People don’t want your kind in their band.”
Two legendary female rappers of hip-hop royalty, Big Daddy Kane and Queen Latifah, have experienced the bitterness of being shut out from major record deals. However, despite their bitter experience with the music industry, they continued carving out their own place in the cultural landscape. They released well-received solo albums and gained additional success with their collaborations with other artists. Queen Latifah famously went on to receive five Grammys, but was shut out of the Best Music Awards after she incorrectly submitted her acceptance speech.
Soulja Boy said that being one of the first female rappers to achieve success with an underground mestyle songwriting crew led to the successful development of his career. According to him, this particular group of artists provided him with musical ideas and he was able to channel these into songs. Talib Kwali said that despite being a minority in hip-hop, black women continue to be the mainstay of the industry. He shared that hip-hop’s story continues to grow as more young women realize their possibilities and join the ranks of recording producers, artists, and MCs.
Busta Rhymes was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Rap Song but lost out to The Beatles’ Abbey Road. Many attributed the loss to a clash of styles between the urban revivalists and traditional hip-hop producers. Yet others believed the award was a shot in the arm for female rap artists. Wu-Tang Clan’s RZA said in an interview with MTV that he felt RZA’s group achieved success because of their perseverance and loyalty.
While not all female rappers have achieved success in the music industry, many have. Pink Friday, who is one of the most popular female rappers of all time, broke barriers and created new avenues for female artists. Pink Friday, along with Lil Kim and Oprah Winfrey, helped make the female voice heard through the hip-hop community. Wu-Tang Clan member Ginger Muhammad rose from obscurity to fame to solidify a place in the hip-hop landscape. Each of these female lyricists helped break down gender roles and changed the face of hip hop music.
In the end, female rap artists are just as talented as their male counterparts. They are, however, given the chance to shine because they are a part of a growing musical movement that is not centered on white men. These female rappers like Megan Shane Stallone have the same potential that male rappers like Eminem or Rihanna have. Their words can inspire entire cities to embrace hip-hop culture and break down barriers of race, gender, and class.