Here’s the thing, we really don’t care about our female veterans. And no, I don’t mean our actual women who have served in any type of public force, even though veterans overall are treated like shit and we need to work on that. But no, I’m talking about the women in hip-hop who have paved the way for not only their female peers but also for their male counterparts as well. And it’s pretty fucked up.
Excuse the language, but let’s be real. It’s angering. After writing my last hot take, a friend and colleague of mine pointed out that there weren’t much talk of the women in the game in their prime. I find that to be a total blunder on my part, but I now notice that overall, there is a lack of respect overall for women “past their prime”. We don’t even let all women get to that point.
They say behind every great man is a great woman, but why is there the need for her to be behind them. Most of the women in the game had to either be ushered in or big upped by another male artist. Lil Kim had Biggie, Foxy Brown had Jay-Z, even Lauryn Hill had The Fugees before her solo career took off. Modernly, we’ve seen Nicki Minaj succeed with Lil Wayne and Cardi B be associated with the Migos. Often these women have outshined their associates, but there is still this need to be seen with the men or constantly asked about men – not even necessarily the person they are associated with. We don’t let them stand on their own when they obviously can and have.
We get our yearly tributes every now and then with the BET Awards but rarely do we see them brought to the forefront. Salt-N-Pepa had their tribute a few years ago but what about them? Do we give them their props truly? MC Lyte helps with the awards, but the fact I have to hear “who is she anyway” after she introduces herself is sad. Recently, there was an outpouring of love for Missy Elliott for the VMAs and the lack of recognition for her contribution to the music video game. But that’s the thing, it’s just online. There’s no real traction to the love that we supposedly show her or any of the other women in the culture. She is a boss amongst bosses and needs that recognition.
When we bring up the rapper-actor transition, we always bring up Common, Ice-T, or Ice Cube, but how can we forget and fail to mention Queen Latifah? The actress set herself apart early in the classic, Set It Off. Her star grew and rose to such astrological fame that we forget her hip-hop roots. Having a steady career and returned to music in 2016 with the Hamilton mixtape. If not the content of her verses, she spat them with the precision of anyone still in the game,with probably one of the cleanest of transitions.
With all this talk, the question does turn to why we don’t put these women on a pedestal? What’s stopping them? What are the factors? I have a few answers, although I don’t like them. For some women, there is this factor of desirability among male fans. The female MC has to be PERFECT…to them. She has to be able to rap, tell us how sexual she can be with you or your homie, have a backing from other male rappers, and to top it all off, look sexy while doing it. There’s this box that they have to check off. Sex sells in any industry, but is very important among the male fans in hip-hop. The men obviously don’t have to do all this to stay relevant. Of course, we have women who will check off some of the boxes but won’t sell or play up the sex ,who are amazing but won’t always be recognized.
Now this goes to say that there isn’t anything wrong with that. Women owning their sexuality and how much they use it is their choice and they shouldn’t be judged for it. The reality is that fans do and the toxicity of it is oozing. The comments made after Lil Kim’s plastic surgery are disgusting to say the least and because of them, she lost one of the desirability factors for her relevance. It’s unfair. Only now, people are realizing Missy was also explicit in her lyrics, but they didn’t want to recognize her femininity in the first place. A woman’s definition of femininity is their own and so is how they choose to display it. The audience are able to make their own assessments about it too, because their thoughts are their own, but shouldn’t they also step back and ask why they thinking that way in the first place?
Other times it is more complicated. We’ve seen fans and the media pit two women against each other simply to create beef. The beef between Cardi and Nicki was never there until there was this need to have only 1 female at the top. While they could’ve made friends and brought each other up, we’ve seen them tear each other down. And from it, we might see it cause damage each other’s career. The same happened with Foxy and Kim. It’s a repeated cycle.
Then there is the ‘cancel’ concept. We can seem to cancel any woman under the sun, but a male artist who has done the same or worse can stay in relevancy. Now that isn’t to be said that toxic or problematic behavior shown by the artist themselves shouldn’t be called out, but while it may cause a little speed bump for males, the female artist will have a full halt to theirs. The gender bias is displayed again.
We can only see who has come before us and thank them. Because all the women who have contributed to hip-hop had something to offer. And more to what meets the eye. Whether it is through business, media, music, or anything else, we can and should let them thrive. As we see this new class and diversity of female rappers like Noname, Cardi B, Rapsody, Rico Nasty, etc., hopefully we give them a benefit of the doubt and don’t let their names fall through the cracks once they do age in the game. The pantheon of modern hip-hop legends doesn’t have to be a boys club forever. There is more than what meets the eye, so let’s keep it around enough to see that.