EDITORIAL:Where My Ladies Of Hip Hop At?
Where My Ladies At?
The early nineties were a good time for women in rap, with lots of female artists breaking into the scene from the likes of Salt n Peppa and Foxy Brown, to Queen Latifa and Lil’ Kim. However since then, there
has been a noticeable decline in the number of female artists on the hip hop scene. The few female
artists that have managed to build a following aren’t racking up hits the way the boys are. While hip
hop music still rules the airwaves and dominates the charts, a female presence hasn’t been felt in a long
time. The last song by a female rapper to make it to the top was Missy Elliot’s “Work It” from almost
a decade ago. In fact the dearth of female artists has been so noticeable that in 2005 the Grammy’s
dropped the Best Female Rap Category from their line up of awards. So just what has happened to the
ladies of hip hop?
Looking back at the initial boom of female artists that took the industry by storm, we see that many like
Foxy Brown and Lil’ Kim went on to build successful careers that were based heavily on their very sexy
images. Lil’ Kim in particular has made a career out of wearing highly provocative clothes. Many suggest
that this created a situation in which female rappers felt pressured to conform to the trend and felt like
they had to market a sexy image to sell records, in the same way that pop stars like Britney Spears did.
This overtly sexy image, while it worked for Brown and Lil’ Kim, was generally not favored by most
female MC’s and rappers who preferred their track suits and powerful lyrics as their representation. Artists who had overtly
sexy images were seen as more marketable and consequently were more likely to get signed.
Some people from within the industry say that female rappers simply haven’t stepped it up the way
their male counterparts have. For instance among male artists in hip hop and its sub-genres, there is a
great deal of diversity from gangster rap to dance hall anthems and the fresh sounds of new artists like
Drake. Insiders say that there simply isn’t this rich diversity among female artists.
Others are more open is admitting that it isn’t so much an issue of a lack of diversity as it is the fact
that female rappers are harder to market. Record companies pretty much steer clear of female rappers
nowadays because finding a niche audience can be more difficult. Without a sexy image, successfully
marketing an artist like Missy Elliot, can be tricky. I’m sure you’d agree that there aren’t many females in
hip hop like Missy Elliot.
In recent times, the major exception to the decline of female voices in hip hop has been the breakout
star, Nicki Minaj who has topped the charts and fared well in record sales. Minaj herself has spoken out
against the way women are given fewer chances by the industry. With the current state of the music
industry and the way hip hop is ferociously marketed to make as much of a buck as possible, it seems
unlikely that we are going to see a resurgence of women in hip hop anytime soon.