Female Empowerment is Missing in Modern Hip Hop

I have a hard time believing and supporting female rappers in hip hop today. While I applaud the attempt to break into a male-dominated industry, as a listener I feel forgotten, degraded and misclassified by most women releasing music.

My relationship with rap began with Bone Thugs N Harmony, Nas and countless others detailing the struggle of men from inner cities battling violence, societal conflicts and racism. Those topics not only resonated with me because of the realness from songs like “I Gave You The Power” or “EST 1999 (CLE forever), but also because the content took off my rose colored glasses my parents so proudly taught me to wear.

As a child of the 1990s, music platforms barely existed and unless artists were mainstream, it was hard to explore the vast mixtapes being produced in cities across America. So in all honesty, women in hip hop didn’t exist to me until about 2005 when I started listening to the likes of Mary J. Blige and Missy Elliot. But even now, I mainly turn to female artists for my heartbreak music, which is completely unfortunate but that’s the truth.

It’s no secret that women in hip hop are continuing to break through the industry in different ways, but some rappers like Saweetie, are taking advantage of what’s already been done, spitting “basic raps” in order to get into the club. And we celebrate these artists simply because they can do 44 bars.

Throughout hip hop’s history we’ve seen women (like Elliot or Lil’ Kim) who have embodied the male persona into their music, trying to go harder in their attitudes, lyrics and fashion to break into the scene. Today though, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B have taken that a step farther, adding in the degradation of fellow women to build their empire. While aspiring female artists have applauded the toughness and non-shit taking attitude these women have made millions off of, I’m completely turned off by these tracks and the women creating them.

In “Trust None“, Detroit’s Molly Brazy classifies all women as a problem and focuses the single around not understanding why “bitches hate me” even though she states she’ll single-handedly pistol whip a female for “talk[ing] behind yo back and then smil[ing] up in yo face”. While comments like these are traditional of gangsta rap, Brazy tried to diminish her disliking for others in an interview with Donna Claire, by saying she supports the Detroit scene and believes everyone from the city can came up together to succeed.

Even when we take away this “gangsta rap” style out of the mix, artists like Rihanna, Kehlani or Lauryn Hill mostly discuss about their personal come up or breakups, missing the opportunity to focus on larger issues like violence. Additionally, when we see female artists in public, they are mostly alone or with men – and then in turn blame the media for saying women are being played against each other. Especially in 2018, it seems that male rappers are supporting women in hip hop than our own gender is. 

Maybe Drake is a bad example because he’s always celebrating women working hard for what they want. But “Nice For What is a fun reminder that strong women are not stressing over ex’s and are noticeably making jumps to the top. There is absolutely nothing wrong with being a strong, independent woman. But ladies, we need to stop using it against each other and acting like we’re the only one grinding day and night. 

I believe in celebrating equality and supporting anyone’s accomplishments, even if I don’t receive the same. For hip hop, I’d love to say that there is equality among those of the same gender but I haven’t witnessed it yet. We have to get over the shock that women are writers, poets, freestylers and performers in a male generated genre. The saying goes “anything a boy can do, women can do better” so let’s step away from being mediocre storytellers to get into the industry and actually break barriers for future generations to aspire from.

Photo | Johnny Nunez, Beats Party 2018

Writer & Visual Storyteller | I think mumble rap is like disco, a bad phase.

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