The Hip Hop industry has presented women in several ways, both derogatory and powerful. Women have been hyper sexualized through their roles in the counterparts’ music. The misogyny and oppression of woman was repeated throughout music but in the process giving woman the boost to come out as their own acts in the subculture. Female rappers such as Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Lil’ Kim, Salt N Pepa, and Missy Elliot were some very popular artists ranging from the 80s-90s empowering woman and freely expressing their sexuality.
Within the last 10-15 years there has been the rise of female rappers such as Nicki Minaj, Remy Ma, Lauryn Hill, and Dej Loaf being more current in the industry with different styles and approaches to the rap game, but all of the artists listed have made their names known throughout the rise of Hip Hop. Female artists in hip hop put forth the idea of self-worth, independence, and the rejection of women being more than objects to be depreciated. Rap music lacked the female perspective but never seemed to come up short in the objectifying of woman and their bodies.
That’s what the artists looked to change, even though they all had different types and purposes of their music as the years began o progress to the present era of hip hop. The analysis of female MCs in Hip Hop always was constantly under question considering the roles in which women as they are portrayed in music and society. How could women fit into Hip Hop when they were still fighting to find their place in the community? The women of Hip Hop rapped about the defaming, oppression, devaluing, and etcetera of women during the times.
They highlighted the problems within the community such as the AIDS virus, sex safety, and several other movements that needed to be presented to not only young females, but the male opulation as well. Queen Latifah was born as Dana Owens in Newark, New Jersey. Queen came into hip hop during an era when women were still searching to find their place in the industry. One of her break out songs that caught people’s attention was U. N. I. T. Y which won her a Grammy spoke about the domestic violence, harassment, along with the negative terms used against women in hip hop music, and the disrespect of woman in the society.
The song Ladies First also sparked controversy stating the need for women to support themselves and demand the equal treatment from others. The record was ot a soft, mellow sounds but had a loud somewhat brass and jazzy sound to it, it made you listen. Her intolerance of the inequality towards women is what created her platform as an artist. Latifah’s main purpose of her music and lyrics were to show woman the importance of empowerment. Lana Morer also known as MC Lyte was born and raised in Brooklyn, New York. She began to get into music at an early age, with a song she recorded called, I Cram to Understand You.
The song focused on the uprising epidemic of crack addiction and their effects on the person’s personal relationships. In her songs she disputed the expectations of women and their femininity, it was also said that she herself would downplay her beauty to portray the idea of not having to flaunt yourself physically to get that attention, but to have an identity outside of it all. In the song Paper Thin she talks about the gender roles and disparaging of the woman. Her lyrics always spoke of the possibilities of women and the boundaries that they could reach and surpass in the male dominated world.
Cheryl James and Sandra Denton more famously known as Salt-N-Pepa were raised in Queens, New York. They were the first all-female rap group of their time. They entered hip hop when it was thought be somewhat of a phase that would pass within time. They made it known that they were not afraid to talk about sex, their sexuality, and gender freedom. They never hid their sexuality nor ignored it. Pepa was one of the only female artists to become pregnant and publicize it. The song “Let’s Talk about Sex” became the anthem for the world’s aids crisis.
Their songs were not constructed for everyone, they empowered woman and preached the importance of self-love and pro feminists characterizations. Born in Bed- Stuy, New York, Kimberly Jones, also known as Lil’ Kim came in contact with music whilst in the streets as an adolescent. She was inspired by rapper such as MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. Despite being influenced by those artists, her approach to music was completely different. Kim’s style of music was at times very vulgar and sexual in context. She made herself known after debuting with the rap group Junior Mafia.
Kim explored many territories as a female rapper that had been dominated by the men of the industry including the very explicit and hardcore emphasis she put on her music. Many women during the time of her rise in publicity found her music very empowering, and liberating. Her larger than life lyrics and voice not only gave females the urge to openly express their sexuality but subjected males to the same form of objectification heard throughout their music. Melissa Elliot, better known as her stage name, Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot was born in Portsmouth, Virginia.
Elliot experienced many forms of trauma throughout her childhood in which it lead her to the type of music she began to create as a young lady. As all other female artists, she knew she would need something a little more extra” to survive in the male dominated territory. Missy used her creativity and ability to express herself towards the ideas of feminism in her music. She was and still is the blue print that a lot of artists used while still young to make their acts what they are now, including Beyonce, Lady Gaga, and Nicki Minaj.
Her messages stayed very clear throughout her music, which was woman and men are equal in every way thinkable. Regardless of how they are sent into the society to conform to the social norms and gender binaries, they are just as important as the men of the world. Missy was an ace of all trades and showed it in all her endeavors, from acting, to dancing, to song writing she encouraged young girls to go after the dreams they may have, but see distant because of the boundaries that were put up or reserved by men in the industry.
Her lyrics constantly touched on feminism, misogyny, and bigotry of the women mind and body. She took no prisoners when it came to the reality of having female autonomy which showed throughout the themes and lyrics put in her music and videos. Elliot stressed the importance of being free to openly express your artistry while not conforming. In songs such as, The Rain (Supa Dupa Fly) she wore the inflatable shiny suits, instead of a skin tight dress that showed off her body.
Your personal style and confidence was what she favored and put at the front post of her music while being able to break the rules of feministic aesthetic. Growing up in the projects of Bronx, New York, Reminisce Martin experienced many forms of hardships, from seeing her family in the drug scene, to having to take care of her younger siblings while her parents were not present. While dealing with the trauma of what she faced in life Remy turned to poetry to etreat from her issues. In her music, Remy was very confident and somewhat in your face.
She made it known that her presence would not be ignored. For example, her song “Im Conceited”, served as a anthem for many females around the world, showing them that it’s okay to be conceited or love themselves as much as the next person without a reason. Martin demanded respect in every point that she made about herself through her music. Not only was she a hard New York female rapper, but she could hang with the fellas and still get the same utmost respect that was required. Lauryn Hill was orn in East Orange, New Jersey.
She is better known for membership in the Hip Hop group The Fugees even though she has one single album up under her belt. The one album that Hill did release won her 5 Grammys on top of the several accomplishments of her group with noted Wyclef Jean. Lauryn looked to make her music acceptable to all generations, even people that weren’t born during the time that Hip Hop was becoming more than a phase the country was enduring. She spoke openly of the beauty of love and self-worth in her music. While exuding the idea of self-awareness of the culture of Hip
Hop and in which young people were growing up, she strived to be the vessel in between the music eras. Lauryn was still actively making music when she founded her foundation, The Refugee Camp Youth Project. The project served for inner city, underprivileged youth that wanted to go to summer camp and to help change the views, notions, and/or lifestyles of the youth of the communities in which she served. Also, she helped raise money to help Haitian refugees. Lauryn constantly spoke on the importance of being who you are, while being true to yourself during the pressures of the time she was actively recording music.
Although she was criticized for doing so, she openly spoke on the subject of love, relationships, self- empowerment, and self-defense in her music. She made it okay for young girls and even young males to express themselves openly without having the hard exterior as expected by the public. Hill challenged the issues of Blacks voting, and the importance of education amongst the community through her music and through her activist actions. Throughout the evolution of Hip Hop to what it is now known as regarding female MCs and artist has been the wide spread phenomenon of what it is to be a “Bad Bitch”.
The artists that I will lastly analyze is known for the term, Onika Maraj, better known as Nicki Minaj. The criticism of whether that is a picture that should be portrayed to young girls is an ongoing argument amongst the female Hip Hop generation when compared to artists that referred to themselves as Queens such as Queen Latifah and Mc Lyte. Onika Maraj was born in Saint James, Trinidad and Tobago but raised in Queens, New York. She had a tumultuous upbringing consisting of her father being on drugs, watching her mother defend herself against her father while still attempting to protect her children.
Nicki attended a music and arts high school, where she always had the dreams of being able to empower women and show her mother that she too could be strong against the events taking place in their lives. The difference in Minaj’s music versus some of the early pioneers of female MCs in the industry is the way she promoted women empowerment. How could someone that called themselves a “Bad Bitch”, or freely showing her body and the assets given be a figure for young girls to look up to? Nicki’s song, “Monster” has a very good example of how she planned on showing her views on female empowerment and place in society.
In one of her verses, she says. “You can be the king, but watch the queen conquer”, which for me shows her mindset on giving the man his domain to roam while she still continues to be an individual that had a way to assert her dominance. Similar to the ways of Lil’ Kim, Nicki never shyed away from showing her true self through her music. There are plenty of songs where she seems to be somewhat of a man eater, or someone who does what was and still is prevalent in the Hip Hop world, objectify. The only difference is this time the roles are turned and she looking at men in the same light shown.
The public takes Nicki Minaj’s appearance and views to some extent as a contradiction considering the way she branded herself when she first appeared on the scene. On several occasions, Minaj exposed herself in risque attire or with vulgar lyrics, but in the same breath expressed how important it is to work hard and get an education. Despite the amusable context that some people saw her music and performances as, Nicki released albums that talked more about the hardships she’s had to overcome in life and her life lessons such as Pink Friday and her more recent album The Pinkprint.
No matter the views given of her music, Nicki definitely does exude the empowerment of women through her music as does her predecessors. She shows all of the similar interests and movements that were given in early female Hip Hop if that is female empowerment, or self-love and worth it can be seen in this more contemporary artist. In conclusion, the female context, flow, approach and imagery of Hip Hop has changed dramatically within the last three decades. Though in recent years the industry has said that it is thought to have gone backwards with the artists, of today.
Feminism is and always will be a relevant message used amongst female rappers and now being intertwined within the recent views of male rappers as well. The music of female rappers then and now collectively still have the same messages engraved in them, messages such as the empowerment of self, the ways to be an individual in a male dominated society that just sees the appearance, and how to be a strong woman in a world that is engulfed in the term of being a “bad bitch”. The term of intersectionality played a very prominent role in how black women and women in general were portrayed in music.
The reasoning of how the women used their talents emerged from the oppression, discrimination, and sexism of women. The defiance of the male specimen role in female success is what ignited the fire within the woman of the time, their talents just made it easier to fight against the prejudice that was being forced upon them. Although their lyrical content has changed throughout the years, the background and subject matter has stayed the same amongst the female population with the main principles being, empowerment and equality amongst genders.
Nevertheless, the avenues given to travel by the male counterpart did not hasten the women of the prior industry but pushed them to pave the way for the artists such as Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Beyonce, and more recently artists such as Azalea Banks. Despite the ways in which some artists do portray themselves, one thing that can never be denied about women in the industry is that they have all worked hard to make a change amongst not only the people they work closely with but the public in which their music is sold, particularly including the youth of the world.