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Popularizing Female Rap: Who Is Your Top 5 Dead or Alive?

So many female rappers have been creating music today and since the birth of hip hop. Still, a lot of people don’t mention a woman in their top five favorites or even have a favorite female rapper.

Jermaine Dupri voiced his opinion on the current state of female rap during an interview with People TV, opening up a social media wide discussion on the topic. He stated that most rappers are “like strippers rapping”, and basically rap about the same thing. He continued to say he does not have a favorite female rapper and presumably will not until someone ‘breaks the mold’ and then continued by acknowledging his artist, Da Brat, for doing that in the ’90s.

The metaphorical mold that Dupri tip-toes around is presumably one of sexuality and raunch. Yet, this is not a new phenomenon. Since the “Golden Age” of hip hop, women have been assuming the role of prideful sexuality. Names like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and Trina ring out when you think about sexy gangstress rap. These women topped the charts in the ’90s and 2000s and have paved the way for rappers today like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion to do the same. The success these women achieve creates a paradox. They can top the charts, gain fame and revenue, but are still criticized for their explicit content. It is a double standard that men can talk about whatever they like including their sexual exploits and whatever braggadocious couplets come to mind, then walk away unscathed. God forbid a woman does the same, cue the uproar. In entertainment, women are often subjected to judgment based on their level of attraction and sex appeal instead of their talent or skill. This is what typically sells the most or receives the most attention. Why is it that once a woman takes advantage of their sexuality it is discouraged?

Sexuality is not the only topic that female rappers bring to the mic, though it is considerably the most popular. If you don’t like listening to someone rap about something, don’t listen. Find something that you like. The options are by no means limited. Yet, some are putting in limited effort to find it. If I can find numerous women rapping with various flows, topics, and styles, surely a seasoned rapper, producer, and record executive like Jermaine Dupri can.

Just as Lil Kim and Foxy were present during the 90s, so were artists like Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, and Da Brat. We are all complex individuals (women included). There is something out there for literally everyone. People can like gangster rap, getting money, shaking their ass, having sex, uplifting their peers, and manifesting their dreams – or a combination of them all. Men can enter a space and do as they please without their looks being a primary factor in their reception. They are more likely to be judged on their performance because patriarchy is alive and well, my friends. Rather than be a part of the subjection and unfair treatment of women, music enthusiasts can do something with their power, their minds, their ears, and do the work. In reaction to Dupri’s comments, rappers and artists alike took to social media to list their favorite female rappers that haven’t gotten the recognition they deserve.

This conversation, outrage, and response should have been deaded from its inception simply because of the timing. Icon and female rapper, Nicki Minaj started the #MegatronChallenge right before this, prompting fans, male and female, to show off their rapping skills over her Megatron beat. If the slew of women who posted their videos did not show the diversity in female rap, surely the recent XXL Freshman List should have. Rappers Megan Thee Stallion, Rico Nasty, and Tierra Whack graced the list – and with the exception of DaBaby and YBN Cordae, they demolished the men in their Freshman Cyphers. This year’s issue has the most women on the cover since its creation in 2007. This list and challenge should have already shown whoever is sleeping on female rap, that now is a good time to wake up.

Even the vocabulary we use in entertainment is strange. We add the word ‘female’ before any title or occupation, allowing room for immediate bias and discrimination. Not that being female is anything to be ashamed of, it just makes people pay attention to gender identity first as if it is indicative of the performance they will have on the job. We only adhere to this vocabulary rule with women- female athlete or female rapper. Being male is not a prerequisite for rapping, so including the ‘female’ before rapper already indicates a subconscious difference, and creates a separation. If you are going to acknowledge that a rapper is a woman, use that vocabulary to make it a title of power, strength, and all that encompasses womanhood, not the title of an outcast.

The rap industry, much like the world, is male-centered. This does not mean dominated or that women are completely abused and powerless at all times. It just means that in most cases regardless of talent or skill, men are in the foreground while women play the back. If you love music or are interested in it in any capacity, make an effort to acknowledge and discover talent that is under the radar. Just because it isn’t popular, does not mean it is not there.

By Lindi Bobb