Friday, September 11, 2009

Female Rap: The Lost Art

When hip-hop took the world by storm in the late 70's, it was quickly a male dominated art form. However, in the 80's, female rappers began to interject themselves in a way that commanded respect, not just by their male counterparts, but by fans all around the world. Starting with Roxanne Shante, and progressing with Mc Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Salt 'N Pepa. During the 90's, artists like Da Brat, Lil' Kim & Foxy Brown continued the trend of women who could easily stand up lyrically to any male in the game.

Things started to turn a risky corner with the sexuality that Lil' Kim and to a lesser extent, Foxy Brown, exhibited in their lyrics. Nevertheless, the two of them found a way to use their sexuality as another form of empowerment for women, and female rap remained alive and well.

However, female mc's have now become an endangered species. Too many sexual references, too much overcompensating with foul language and street rhetoric. Those ladies who possess skills that do go beyond the normal cliches have been met with a bias in the music industry. In the early days of 80's and 90's hip-hop, fans only cared about who had skills. If you could stand in the ring and go toe-to-toe with other rappers, it didn't matter whether or not you were a man or woman. Now in the days of declining record sales and men barely going gold, ladies are having a hard time holding their own when it comes to getting people to purchase their work.

Skilled rappers like Shawnna, Remy Ma, and even vets like Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown have not been able to get the buzz generated that they saw early in their careers. Lil Kim's risque style has been carbon copied so many times that it has become old, causing her career to be reduced to a lifelong comeback. Remy Ma and Foxy Brown made some legal decisions that hindered their progression in their respective careers. Shawnna, who I've personally seen on stage ripping every dude who stood next to her, wasn't able to pop even with a big label and a hit single.

Nowadays, new female artists are barely able to make an imprint in the game. Artists like Nicki Minaj, Lil' Mama, and Kid Sister have all seen their music backed by either a big name or a hit single, yet none of them have been able to catch on. Record companies have no problem signing talented lady mc's, but without a guaranteed hit single on their hands, the labels won't put enough money behind the project to even get it on the shelves.

The rap game has regressed for women, not just in support from labels and fans, but also in talent. We've gone from "Lyte as a Rock" and "U.N.I.T.Y." to women trying their hardest to rap like men, instead of just being themselves. Because of this female mc's have lost the one thing they could always count on, the support of female consumers.

In a male dominated industry, women came in and commanded that their talents be heard, and that the powers that be give them the same opportunity that men were getting. Now the talent level and the record sales have both declined drastically. Half of the women who rap today care less about earning respect and more about doing whatever it takes to earn a check. They'll let record labels mold them into cliched sex pots, or carbon copies of female mc's who've seen their time pass, in hopes of finding success.

Whether women can return to hip-hop glory remains to be seen. Until then, female mc's have to sit back and watch men dominate this genre of music just as they did in the early days of rap. All of this, while hoping that history will repeat itself, and ladies will be able to open the doors to an industry that keeps hinting that there are no women allowed.


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