Female MCs and women in hip hop culture

// 26 February 2010

Female MCs are ‘ruling UK clubs again’, according to an article published in The Guardian earlier this week. As with most proclamations that women are now ‘ruling’ a male-dominated arena – be it a music scene, politics, Hollywood – the evidence given actually points to a handful of women making a name for themselves despite the continued sexism in that arena. The idea that we’re now in charge often seems to be a reflection of male anxiety that equality could go “too far”, that we should be content with small inroads into their dominance. Anyways, the article in question features some choice quotes from MCs Dynamite, Stush, Chann and Leshurr on their experiences as women in the urban music scene:

On the sexually explicit lyrics of female rappers in the US:

“Over here, if you came out with that talk, you’d just get people going, ‘Oh, that girl’s a slag, man!’ All the guys would switch on you, you’d get no respect.” (Stush)

On being a mother in the music industry:

“I reckon I did the second album half-­heartedly. I might have been in the studio feeling like I was focused, but my head was actually thinking: I wonder how my son is? So I decided I wasn’t ready to come back to music. […] My record ­company were pretty supportive. I think some of them were genuine, they had kids of their own and they understood. Others were just like, well, we’re not going to get ­anything out of her in this state ­anyway, it’d be a waste of money.” (Dynamite)

On racism and body image:

“I’ve had makeup artists try to make my eyes smaller and lighten my skin. There was a time when I was meant to be in a magazine spread and they said, ‘You’re too dark for the page – we can’t put the right font on you’. That’s the reality, you know? But I want to change all that. Black girls don’t really have many positive role models out there – if we wear our hair natural, we’re told it’s ‘nappy’, our lips are big – girls are made to hate themselves.” (Stush)

On male artists’ use of white dancers in their videos:

“It’s a question of representation – I’m not saying that your leading lady in a video has to be the same race as you. I’m not going to say who this artist is, but if you’ve done four or five videos, all love songs, and all your leading ladies are white – what ­message are you sending to your black fans? That your own race isn’t good enough to be seen on the TV with you?” (Chann)

Jay star Nine’s feminist blog and fanzine B*I*T*C*H*£*S showcases women in hop hop culture, including rappers, all female crews, DJs, MCs and graffiti artists. The zine’s title stands for ‘Bold Individuals That Challenges Hiphop’crisy En Style’:

I choose to use that word for the exact reason, constantly used by some male rappers to put women down, so I thought fuck it, I’m going to make it mean something, hence the break down. Also tend to find when a woman is described as a ‘bitch’ it’s because she doing her own thing and not boasting some man’s ego… (From Can we ever reclaim the word bitch.)

Check it out.

Comments From You

FeminaErecta // Posted 1 March 2010 at 5:29 pm

I like the idea of reclaiming the word ‘bitch’. In my world, bitch has two conotations. 1) if a man calls a woman a bitch it means she is being loud or agressove in her stanch or nature, ‘doing her own thing’ as the quote says above, or being obtuse. 2) If a woman calls a woman a bitch, either to her face or behind her back, then she is accused of being nasty, or spiteful, hurtful, backstabbing or basically breaking the generally accepted yet unwritten rules of the sisterhood. I don’t like being called this sort of bitch, I don’t like the idea of being known to my female friends as a bitch, but I don’t mind being called bi-atch, with the accent on the second syllable as I think this is a compliment almost as a word meaning feisty. It would be interesting to find other interpretations of the word. I like the idea of BITCH£S, but why does the E have to be a pound sign? HipHop doesn’t have to be exclusively associated with capitalism.

I also am reminded of a rhyme we used to sing at school ‘a bitch is a dog, a dog barks, bark is from a tree, a tree is nature and nature is beautiful so thank you for the compliment’.

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