Hey rap fans, to what do you attribute the lack of female emcees? The predicament itself isn't new, nor is the sentiment that it's due in part to rampant misogyny. What is refreshing, however, is that this conundrum is being commented on so candidly (yay alliteration!) by a respected male hip-hop artist. Listen to what Murs has to say about the absence of females on this year's Rock the Bells Tour. Among some of the more choice tidbits is his assertion that "hip-hop is not a positive environment for a young woman...I would walk my daughter fifteen miles away from this place" and "you can't expect a woman to be comfortable in an art form that's just so degrading, so misogynistic." Watch:
So...that being said and watched and witnessed, females who love hip-hop amongst others: let's talk.
Do we have battered woman syndrome, ladies? Why do we continue to love a genre of music that's way too often so hateful of women? Are we at the point where that love has by and large diminished - hence the complete disappearance of jubilant and positive female rappers like Queen Latifah or Yo-Yo? Or is it just a sign of the times? Ain't too many Will Smith or Heavy D-ish male rappers coming to the forefront these days either. And is the "I'm not a bitch or a ho so they're not talking about me anyway" argument logic or naïveté?
A present day roll call of female emcees on the come up runs the gamut: Jean Grae, Kid Sister, Medusa, Psalm One, Bahamadia, Nicki Minaj, and Lil Mama immediately come to mind. And every time this topic comes up, at least one person points out that they know "tons!" of young female rappers in the making, so the claim that there are virtually none is greatly exaggerated if not completely untrue. Now, of course, there are a plethora of talented females doing their thing on open mic nights across the country, on street corners in the BX and in high school cafeterias that aren't put off, intimidated or discouraged by anybody's misogyny. But it's unrealistic to deny their chances of seeing it through are even slimmer than their male counterparts. And how much weight should we really give the ones that aren't actively pursuing a career in hip-hop? There has to be some criteria to determine who should be counted in order to prove or disprove that there are way less female rappers than male. Really it's bigger than hip-hop in many ways. Misogyny is prevalent in general society; females in most job markets still don't get equal pay, respect or consideration. And can we even have this conversation without mentioning the "video vixen" population and what video after video of scantily clad, donkalicious black women may be doing to our youth?
I came up listening to the aforementioned Latifah and Yo-Yo plus Salt n' Pepa, MC Lyte and Monie Love. My high school years saw Da Brat distinguish herself as the very first female hip-hop artist to go platinum, followed by my college fascination with the smutty and shocking but nonetheless talented Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown, who were either an answer to the misogyny or a product of it. Kim and Fox paved the way for Trina, Khia, Jacki-O - it's clear sexually explicit, hardcore female rappers aren't going anywhere. Do they empower by flipping the script? Or are they a part of the problem?
And is it even fair to use so many radio rappers as an example of hip-hop's misogyny when Talib Kweli, Mos Def, Jay Electronica, Lupe Fiasco, The Roots, and Q-Tip are clear examples of a more conscious rap mindset?
My take? It's difficult sometimes to love an artform whose loudest and most publicized participants devalue women way too often. To reconcile love of beats that go hard, complicated rhymes, clever phraseology and dope double entendre, with a prevalent degrading disrespect is an interesting struggle of sorts sometimes. So I can only imagine how hard it might be for the female emcees who are actually trying to break into the hip-hop hierarchy. May they live a blissful dichotomy until they no longer have to.
Which female emcees are you all checking for? Who are the mitigating factors? And how much do you agree or disagree with Murs' assertion that hip-hop is "awful music if you're a woman and you have any kind of self respect"?