In honor of International Women’s Day, here’s an article I wrote for the ladies in the game.
From the beginning of time, women have always deemed to fit certain societal expectations. Most of those focused on how they’re percieved physically, regardless of how sharp their minds might be. Hip-hop is still a primarily male-dominated subculture of music, even 25 years after MC Lyte shocked the world with “Ruffneck”, a song that would essentially an anthem that would be in the list of the greatest of all time, regardless of her gender.
Then comes Queen Latifah‘s Grammy winning “U.N.I.T.Y“, the quintessential hip-hop feminist anthem where Latifah touches subjects that women constantly go through that never get light from hip-hop in general, like domestic violence and cat-calling. 25 years later and this song still is very relevant since it touches sensitive issues.
The world was shocked when the 90s came about and women felt the freedom to express and embrace sexual identity. While it was quite risque as it challenged society’s views on how women should perceive themselves, it was the start of female sexual liberation after being shunned down even though men like Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre were dropping misogynist tracks after tracks.
After doing tracks with the likes of Keith Sweat and Warren G, Adina Howard decided it was time come open about her wants and needs in “Freak Like Me“, a sexually liberating anthem. Lil Kim shocked the world with “Hardcore” and a fresh faced, 16 year old Foxy Brown “I’ll Be” with their sexually explicit subject matter. We cannot be singing along to Snoop’s “Aint no Fun”, widely praise if we’re placing double standards on Lil Kim and Foxy.
With all of that being said, the classic “We Can Do It!” poster was embraced by hip-hop’s hardcore Rosie the Riveters. Yoyo proved that whatever you can do, she can do better on “You Can’t Play with my Yoyo” approved by the one and only Ice Cube.Warren G embraced the ladies on the much overlooked “Runnin’ with no Breaks” and “Super Soul Sis” on his west coast staple anthem “Regulate…G Funk Era” where women were toting guns and stoppin’ foos like bloodclots.
When I was 13 years old, South Central Cartel‘s “South Central Madness” had something I had never heard before, a ruthless, unapologetic lady rapping about “gaming on the niggas who think they could step to a lady“. She wasn’t the only shotcaller in the rap game, however, Lady of Rage changed the game completely with “Afro Puffs” which might be the go-to example of raw, rugged rhymes over a classic Death Row-esque beat. E-40 brought along his sister Suga T on “Sprinkle Me” and Da Brat was “Funkdafied” and ready to “Give it 2 U” over 90s house party friendly beats accompanied by a laidback, funky flow. The Conscious Daughters broke gender roles on “Funky Expedition“, a funky cruising anthem for all of the hardcore ladies. Gangsta Boo of Three 6 Mafia asked “Where Them Dollaz At?” for the female hustlers, and J.V, the “Naybahood Queen” from Downey was the first Latina to ever release a full length album, and paved the way for the likes of Shortienomass and Hurricane G on Delinquent Habits’ “Underground Connection“. Snoop Dogg recently showcased some of Long Beach’s toughest, unapologetic femmes on “Beach City 2” from his LBC Movement.
While all of the sexually liberating and hardcore hip-hop feminists had their share of raw rhymes, there were and are still the lyricists, such as Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes‘ iconic verse on “Waterfalls” about drug addiction. Now there is a new generation of hip-hop femmes, such as Highland Park’s graffiti aficionado Reverie who recently signed to Murs’ label, the young Echo Park native Klassy recently featured on Bambu’s Party Worker breaking stereotypes as a Filipina MC, and 626 representative, Vel the Wonder, the funky metropolitan cat who skateboards and does graffiti.
Even though times are changed and everyday more women are challenging stereotypes and breaking cultural norms, such as Nicki Minaj, there is still much work to be done.