The best in Aboriginal & Torres Strait Islander Music

Hip Hop Women – Miguel D’Souza

This story originally appeared in Deadly Vibe Magazine Issue #5 June, 1997

We have just opened The Vault – all the back stories from old editions – dating back to the 1990s. To know where we are going, it's important to understand where we have been. And that story you can follow in the Deadly Vibe Vault!

Time for a quick Deadly Vibe quiz: and unfortunately there are no prizes for getting these answers. Get a piece of paper and write down the names of all the male rappers you know. Now turn the paper over and write down the name of the all the female rappers you know, Better still go into a record store and try to find albums by male and female rappers or hip hop groups, whichever one you’ll end up with fewer female names than males. Why is this?

Deadly Vibe: last month introduced Trey a female MC with skills and savvy to pay attention to in the near future. While male hip hop artist have always attracted headlines the big record contracts and plenty of star attention and support from record companies, hip hop’s women are only beginning to make their hip hop space in 1997.

Recent albums and tracks by MCs like Bahamadia and Lady of Rage, the west coast crew The conscious Daughters  as well as the success of the Fugees’ Lauryn are the some of the few examples of commercial success that hip hop has to show to date. Others like MC Lyte and Salt’n’Pepa and Roxanne Shante have managed to have long, successful careers  in hip hop but not without changing their style away from pure lyrical hip hop to a commercial r’n’b hip hop style.

The reason for this isn’t because female MC’s lack lyrical skills. The reason women hip hop artists suffer from a lack of attention and props paid for their efforts is as Danyel Smith wrote, “The words double standards are tired but still appropriate; the corner that girl rappers are painted into is a blatant manifestation of sexism.”

In an article called Ain’t a Damn Thing Changed: Why Women Rappers Don’t Sell, Smith points out that female artists haven’t got as much support from their record labels as their male counter-parts, this is just one example or manisfestation as Smith puts it of the sexism that women rappers face.

Hip hop music has also always been dominated by males so it follows that many women would be put off trying their rhymes in an environment where they’re not expected to do well and humiliated because of it. Rapper T-Love from L.A. group Urban Prop once said that ” … I’ve tried to be cute and show some cleavage and it never worked until I started elbowing may way past the motherfuckers. You have to con and connive the shit that I’ve been through to get to the mic … “.

Woman hip hop artists that do succeed are as gifted as males in the same position and have succeeded after overcoming more hurdles.

The really big stars of this year, Foxy Brown and Li’l Kim have sold their lyrical skills hand in hand with their sex appeal to sell to a male audience listening and more importantly buying hip hop music.

Both Foxy Brown and Li’l Kim are rappers with lyrical skills but appear on their record covers dressed in lingerie something few male MC’s would think of doing. Can you imagine KRS-One, Chuck D or The Wu Tang Clan on their album covers, lying on a bear skin rug in silk boxer shorts trying to sell an album of serious rap?

While male rappers can keep their clothes and credibility intact, female artist have to overcome an industry that seems to want to overcome an industry that seems to want to market anything but their intelligence and skills. Melbourne hip hop artist MC Que in an internet magazine called B-Grrrl said that women hip hoppers “… could be more visible. We could be seen you know.

There couldn’t be a kind of girl’s realm of hip-hop. Because it’s inevitable they’re influenced by all the stuff they listen to which is predominantly male. And that’s something that pisses me off as well. You feel like you begin to (copy) what you hear, even the clothes, everything becomes a part of you as a rapper. It’s hard to maintain your own identity as a female in that kind of area.

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