Females In Rap? -- by Kendra Desrosiers, October 2006
Light contacts, long hair and a skin tone shades lighter than we had remembered her, during her affair with the late Biggie Smalls. This shows to say what a big record deal, insecurity, mainstream influence, and a few hundred years of conditioning can buy you.
She's dropped several albums, one even to an impressive double platinum status and her most recent piece, "The Naked Truth," has even broken boundaries as the first album by a female artist to be given the accredited "5 mic" rating by The Source magazine. By industry standards, she is the culmination of Hip Hop's female evolution. She is our…strong Black female.
There she stands. The future of Rap for women across the country, Lil Kim. Accompanied by the likes of Trina, Remy Ma, Foxy Brown and Jackie-O, Lil Kim has symbolized the result of a misogynistic Rap game, an oversexed mainstream and a void of talent unmatched by any female in the industry since Lauryn Hill. If it wasn't a sex icon rapper it was the masculine females like MC Lyte or Queen Latifah who earned little respect for their street-like appeal or contributions to Hip Hop. But let us not forget the confused artists like Missy Elliott and Da Brat, who limboed between the two artist molds as the trends changed to work in their favor.
It's just as the author of Can't Stop Won't Stop, Jeff Chang, said; every female artist has either filled the mold of a "boy toy" or a tomboy. Because Rap is such a male dominated genre, female artists are either emulating the male artists' definitions of masculinity by using a tomboy image, or using sex appeal to set themselves apart. The "boy toys" are viewed as nothing more than "pieces of ass" and the tomboys are pushed aside as "one of the guys." Both however, do not receive any respect or acclaim from their male counterparts or the media.
Where are our strong females?
We last saw one at the Grammys, where she won an unprecedented 8 awards in 1999. Lauryn Hill was the epitome of a strong Black female and a jack of all trades. Her lyrical ability paralleled that of some of Rap's greatests and her voice, production and songwriting capabilities made her a well rounded commodity, yet today we see no one of the like.
Has Hip Hop become so naïve that we've allowed corporate America and pop culture trends to transcend our women from queens to soft porn stars? It's literally embarrassing to remain speechless when music enthusiasts ask who are today's female movers and shakers, simply because the only viable responses are insulting. Who are our children's role models, because it is evident that R&B holds no hope in that realm when our chart toppers, Cassie and Beyonce lay scantily clad in their videos asking the audience "tell me how you like it" and to "check up on it" respectively. Women have made significant strides in the workforce so the backwards sprint in music is quite frankly, sad and appalling.
Like in the "conscious" vs. the "gangster" rap debate, many argue that it's just music. Simply entertainment made to pass the time and give listeners something to dance and shoot the breeze to; But when that entertainment just enforces racial profiling and discourages fathers from birthing daughters, in fear that they might discover their "S.E.X." sooner than they would expect, is it still just entertainment? Like Black Ice says, "music is potent it goes straight to the soul so it's much more addictive than crack is." Dead Prez argues that we "can't sell dope forever" but in essence we can. Hip Hop has been dealt into one of the most influential cultural epidemics but like crack, Hip Hop constituents will be left dead, broke and forgotten if we let it get out of hand.
So the next time you hear that oversexed, beat driven club banger from Remy Ma or Kim, hesitate to nod your head in agreement, because our "strong Black female" might be the first Rap element to disappear.