The Miseducation Of The Woman In Hip Hop
Gender inequality has been the ongoing war in today’s society. The antiquated and prolonged stigma that women are incapable to fight or strategize just as a man would has perpetuated the woman’s struggle to prove otherwise. Even as hip hop has spent many years objectifying its women, exploiting our lady parts and deprecating a woman’s worth by hanging us up as sexual imagery or simply a quick lyrical filler on the next track, females have done their part to spark the genres’ many evolutions. No doubt, the ladies whom have entered this male-dominated industry have encountered grappling obstacles. And they have have persisted, however, overcoming hurdles, kicking down doors for the next generation of femcees, or changing the game entirely, like our ladies Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, and Foxy Brown did.
As a woman, a good portion of your growing years will become entangled with self-judgement, doubt, and a whole lot of reassessing. Growing up in the suburbs, a majority of my life was spent with peers whom I was unable to culturally identify with. That’s all cool when you know exactly who you are and where you come from, but I found out pretty quickly things can get very confusing. Erykah Badu has stood out to me and many others as an example of what it is and what it looks like to embrace who you are and love every bit of it without having to strip down to garner some attention. Badu didn’t acclaim fame through obnoxious twitter rants; Erykah has been one of the few women who have taken hold of the reigns when it comes to speaking on issues regarding strength, social issues, and finding a heightened consciousness within ourselves and the world we are living in. More than just a musician, Badu is an activist who has no qualms about bestowing knowledge upon anyone watching or listening. When Badu stripped butt naked on the visuals for “Window Seat”, she received more flack than understanding. Erykah later sat down to explain- shedding off her layers of clothing was defined as stripping back layers of ideas or misunderstanding toward one another in society.
“I have some food for thought since knowledge is infinite and it has infinitely fell on me”
– Erykah Badu “Appeltree”
A more notable reference to female empowerment in hip hop, however, might be Miss Lauryn Hill winning five Grammy’s for her first and only studio album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, an album primarily built on winning and losing love, female empowerment and social issues like racism. In particular, there’s something about Lauryn’s power that has been so radiating and resonant to me; the way you can spin a track like “Doo Wop” and relate to every lyric even ten years after its initial release. Lauryn always had a way in which she can address issues by telling stories of herself but relate it to her audience. Even though these many topics were created for her female listeners, Lauryn’s music is still able to transcend gender as well as time. Queen Latifah, TLC, Salt N Peppah, and the list goes on; all of these women, in some way or another, have embodied strength and individuality in hip hop. More importantly they have given us a voice, a reaffirmation of our worth in a community that often seems unapologetically misogynistic.
The biggest hurdle for a woman in the industry is to break into a business managed completely by male figures. When Lil Kim entered the music industry under Junior Mafia, her presentation was enough to shock the crowd at a time where the image of female emcees were still heavily masculine. Kim’s half naked persona was an endorsement by B.I.G to get her feet in the door.
Kim came to break the double standard. If a male was able to rap about sex, money, cars, clothes, and getting out the hood, then she was doing it too. Whether Kim’s image is positive or not is irrelevant, she’s had a great effect on many upcoming emcees along with granting acceptance to the sexual image that has become heavily associated with females in hip hop.
Artists like Angel Haze have also spoke on the male influence that sometimes affects the women in hip hop. After her fiery Twitter feud with Harlem rapper Azalea Banks, Haze cleared things up during an interview with BBC radio:
“Certain people don’t know how to market women without putting them against each other, they’ll sign you and be like, she’s your competition- what are you going to do to beat her.”
Lately, it seems like the newest generation of female emcees has taken to beefing rather than building camaraderie. Between the rise of social media use and the need to instantly discredit each other female rappers like Azalea Banks have capitalized on her internet use. After the success of “212” and “1991” Banks was outraged after the bodacious Australian rapper, Iggy Azalea, made XXL’s freshman list. Instead of commending Iggy, being the only female on the cover, she quickly made her argument racial, tweeting, “why would you endorse a white woman who called herself a runaway slave master.”
Even with this influx of new female emcees utilizing their open door, very few have used their voices for good measure. Other than feuding each other we have continued to subdue to this war in hip hop that has mulled over the voice of women for some time now. My question, is who will be the voice of our generation to overcome that?