Ladies First: Female Rappers.

22 04 2012

Hip Hop is a massive love of mine. They’re not rappers, they are modern-day poets. Well, some are. Not all. Read the lyrics of Tupac and you will see that it is poetry. Read the lyrics of Soulja Boy and well, maybe not yeah? Maybe not. However, the Hip Hop industry has always seemed to favour men. I don’t know why, you may not know why. Nobody may know why. Thing is, there are SO many female rappers around. Go back to the start of Hip Hop and strong female MCs have ALWAYS been there.

The first ever female rappers I remember hearing were Monie Love and Queen Latifah. They did an amazing track together, Ladies First. Not only was it incredibly produced; it was also (and still is) one of the cleverest Hip Hop tracks written. The way they bounce off each other was probably enough for any female of the early 90s hearing this song, want to rap. More importantly; make a difference.

When I heard Ladies First, I just immediately became aware of how sexist the world was and how society viewed women. I was so young, but after watching the video and hearing the song..I just kept asking my mum so many questions. She just sat me down and said the world and life, was unfair- but I didn’t have to settle for it. Ever. That I shouldn’t be told I couldn’t do something because I’m a girl. The term “Feminist” leaves the tongue of some many like a bitter taste. Like it is a bad thing to want rights for your own gender. But, I firmly believe that you don’t have to have boobies and a vagina to be a Feminist. It’s just called being a decent human being, you know? Any good person wants equality for all. Regardless of age, gender, sexuality, colour, religion, disability or no disability. With so much hate and hurt in the world- we need to come together and be kind. Be gentle and comforting. There is nothing weak about wanting to be held. There is nothing weak about having a kind heart.

A lot of female rappers seem to think, if they talk about having sex with whoever, wearing next to nothing and just selling themselves out-it’ll bring them money. Sure it will, but will it give them respect? I say this, but I really really adore Foxy Brown. She’s always been a favourite of mine. She’s struggled with a hell of a lot. Gets knocked down and ridiculed, but in my eyes- she’s one of the greats. Now, I know she wears hardly anything- but listen to her lyrics (okay maybe not Hot Spot or Candy) but she has some songs that are just mind-blowing. B.K Anthem just tells you about Brooklyn in a way that’s never been done. The Letter (which features THE legend Ron Isley) and Broken Silence are heartbreaking and honest. To put yourself out there in that way, well fuck it, I respect her. I respect anyone who metaphorically rips their heart out and spills their guts out. Admitting to their faults and just being so open- I just admire that. I don’t care who you are, if you’re honest- then that’s all that matters.

Hip Hop is one of the most honest genres of music. It’s real. You believe in every single word. Everyone faces struggle in life. Some every so often, some every single day. Some use Hip Hop as a crutch to just plough on through. To hear songs like those I mentioned by Foxy Brown are enough to make a woman who is feeling utterly low and damaged, to just pull through. She’ll feel comforted by it because another female is expressing those insecurities and has cut herself wide open for all to see and hear.

Then you have the whole, Lil’ Kim vs Foxy Brown thing. It was ugly, and it was brutal- but it made for great entertainment for those voyeuristic blood suckers. Of course it got personal, it always does. It was almost impossible for the Media to state that these two female rappers were both as good as each other. For me, I was always on Team Foxy. I couldn’t really connect to Kim for some reason. Her early stuff was too much, but gradually, I guess she became more grown and easier to listen to. But like I said, Foxy is the one.

If you want to class M.I.A as a rapper, she’s probably the best around right now. She has a message. Maybe it is too political for most, but as far as I’m concerned, Hip Hop has always pointed out all the wrong in the world in order to make it right. That’s what M.I.A does, most of the time.

I want to touch briefly on Nicki Minaj for a second.

She’s probably hated as she is loved. Some claim she’s a gimmick, some see she’s for real. The only person who knows what she is about is, well, her. Personally? I love her. I’ve been a fan since 2008 when I was listening to some of her old mixtapes I heard online. I just became obsessed with what I was hearing. Sure it was a bit vulgar and overly sexual, but her honesty well, was admirable. To have the guts to be as open and nasty as some male rappers- well fuck it, she was playing them at their game. And she was winning. Now look at her. Her second record, Roman Reloaded is free of those topics. I can’t find fault in it. And I’ll admit, I do get pissed when people slag her off. They seem to ignore her background. They seem to think she just came from nowhere and became a star overnight. Bullshit. She’s always been a star, she was just busy in the background working hard to get to this point. She’s frequently laid into because she is apparently a gimmick. Some dressing up and not going by her real name/creating alter egos has never been done before? Sure..I mean, Ziggy Stardust was real wasn’t it? It isn’t cool to be someone who gets off on being disrespectful to others. If you want to slag her off, go ahead. But it just makes you seem pretty childish. Are you on stage every night pouring your heart out? Nope. So shush your noise, and go put your hate into being frustrated at the state of the world instead. Maybe I care too much, or maybe I just don’t get why anyone would care that you hate someone you do not know? I mean, it does seem pretty stupid to hate someone you do not know doesn’t it? Maybe I’m alone in that. Maybe..maybe.

I think females have a long way to go in the Hip Hop industry, and Music in general. There’s still blatant sexism floating about. Not just in Music, but everywhere in life. It’s like, “Oh she’s a female rapper, she must be a lesbian.” Oh please do fuck off. kd lang’s a lesbian and she doesn’t rap. You don’t need to dress like a tramp to be taken seriously and to be heard. Kids aren’t inspired by that- they need something real. Something they can hold onto for life. Something that teaches.

One of the first female rappers I really admired was MC Trouble. She sadly passed away in her sleep during the production of her second record. She may not have been around for long, but she’s easily as influential as the likes of Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Roxanne Shante etc.

I cannot mention female rappers without mentioning the one who had THE most distinctive voices ever in Hip Hop, and was part of one of THE most influential female groups ever. Lisa Lopes aka Left Eye from TLC was just so perfect and pure with her words, and the way she rapped. She totally owned the mic and every stage she stood on. Her small frame didn’t stop her from being so great and highly influential. I remember when she died (10 years on Tuesday) I just broke down. It was a shock, it always is. A truly heartbreaking moment in music. Maybe the standard of female rappers slipped when she passed. I have no idea. I don’t know. All I know is that she had something that will now always be missed. She was such a strong character. She taught girls how to be strong and utterly fearless. My love for her is totally different piece altogether. Maybe one day when it stops being a sore subject, I’ll get it out.

Hip Hop will always be a huge love of mine, and a vital part of my life. I do believe female rappers have a long way to go, but we’re getting there. You don’t need to be half-naked to be sexy. You don’t need to have a vulgar tongue to be heard. Be strong, stand up and say something that hasn’t been said before.





What Hip Hop Means To Me.

12 08 2011

As I write this, I am watching How Hip Hop Changed The World on Channel 4. I also have a migraine and I’m unsure if I’m going to pass out from pain or throw up. I’m also fighting off sleep like a stubborn toddler.

This programme is bringing back a lot of memories for me, and it’s got me thinking- what does Hip Hop mean to me?

I grew up on so many kinds of music. Everything from Billie Holiday to Bob Dylan to Blondie. I heard everything. It all inspired me in so many ways.

When I went to secondary school, I didn’t exactly have the time of my life there. To say it was hell is a massive understatement- but that’s not for here. Never for here. I remember walking down the corridor in my second year of secondary school playing Eric B & Rakim’s album Don’t Sweat The Technique  on my Walkman. Tape Walkman that is. I loved Eric B & Rakim so much. I thought Rakim was the best thing since hiding in the library to escape everything and everyone.

I adored bands such as De La Soul, Naughty By Nature, A Tribe Called Quest, Salt n Pepa. I loved them all so much. I felt like nothing could touch me as I walked through school. The reality was, I just couldn’t hear anything due to having my music blaring in my ears ridiculously loud.

I never liked the songs that degraded women or bragged about the amount of money so and so had. I loved the fun lyrics and the in depth lyrics.

I loved (and still do) Talib Kweli, Mos Def and Common. Those three were the ones I constantly played. Black on Both Sides by Mos Def still remains one of my favourite albums ever. I loved LL Cool J’s early stuff. I challenge you to listen to Mamma Said Knock You Out and not feel like you were the most important person ever. It just held you so high, you felt like you could do anything.

I was obsessed with Tupac. I’ve still got all his albums, all the books, his poetry book, videos- that’s right, I’ve got VHS’ of Tupac, all the films he was in, bootleg tapes and CDs. I just adored him. I still do. I loved his honesty, his brutal lyrics, his loving lyrics. I still can’t listen to Dear Mamma without crying. It still tugs at my heartstrings. I’m also still angry that they never caught his or Biggie’s killer. I know everyone was its either Tupac or Biggie- you couldn’t like both. I thought both were brilliant. Biggie’s Ready To Die is a phenomenal debut album. The way Tupac could break your heart then instantly make you laugh with his wordplay just blew me away. First and foremost, he was a poet. He made you see the world how he saw it with his words. He made you change how you saw the world with his words.

I could write so many words on why I love him and what he means to me. I probably will soon, I can feel some kind of essay about Tupac coming on if I don’t move onto a different part of Hip Hop.

There’s always been a lack of females in Hip Hop. Those that ever got anywhere were usually half naked on stage and being ever so vulgar with their words. For some reason, I loved Foxy Brown. I loved her deep voice, the way she didn’t care about what she said and how she said it- she wasn’t afraid. That for me just made me love her music. I was never a fan of Lil’Kim. I don’t know why, I just didn’t really care about her music as much as I cared for Foxy Brown’s.

Does anyone remember MC Trouble? No? Well, she was amazing. But she died before anyone really knew of her. MC Lyte, Roxanne Shante, Queen Latifah, Missy and my favourite- Monie Love. They were all strong female rappers. Ones worth looking up to.

Many argue about who and where Hip Hop started- I’ll always say it started with DJ Kool Herc. Always. But obviously there is no way you can deny that Grandmaster Flash played an equally vital role as Herc did. I guess I’d say, they both started it.

Kurtis Blow, Rakim and Big Daddy Kane are three of my favourites ever. EVER. There is no denying that those three flow so smoothly over beats. Their wordplay hypnotised you and made you want to rap. I was just in so much awe of them when I first heard them. I still am now. There’s never been anyone else like them, there never will be.

One rapper that I adored and was massively upset when he was killed was Big L. The Big Picture is up there with one of the best hip hop albums ever. I’d safely place it in my list of favourite albums of all time too. His song. Ebonics educated you on street slang. The Freestyle on the album blew you away. His duet with Tupac, Deadly Combination was just stunning. It’s just a perfect Hip Hop album.

So, what does Hip Hop mean to me? Well, I personally feel it has that Punk vibe to it. Don’t care what anyone thinks about you or says about you- just be yourself and express yourself. It’s an art-form. A way of life. Pop music isn’t a way of life or a state of mind. It’s just empty words over repetitive sounds. Hip Hop on the other hand educates. It’s a state of mind. Just listen to Public Enemy if you want to be educated in a way you never thought you could be taught.

For me, Punk rock and Hip Hop go hand in hand within the music industry. They went against everything you were told you listen to. It was rebellious at best and dangerous at worst.

What still pisses me off is the way people are always going on about how it degrades women and is mindless.

Those that say this are listening to the kind if Hip Hop that doesn’t deserve to be called Hip Hop. They are ignoring the songs that hold depth and lessons.

Go listen to Public Enemy, go listen to Jurassic 5, go listen to Dilated Peoples. There is more to Hip Hop than what the media rams down your neck.

Not every rapper carries a gun and a wad of money in their back pocket. Open your mind and go listen to the true essence of Hip Hop.

There will always be rivalry in Hip Hop. The media will always blow it out of proportion and make Hip Hop out to be the bad guy- when really, it isn’t. Hip Hop speaks to people; it’s a form of art and a way of life that has undoubtedly saved lives.

Remember, “It ain’t where you from, it’s where you at.”