Women rappers stay under the radar


Queen Latifah has noticed a serious decline in female voices in the rap world these days, and, being the Queen MC that she is, plans on doing something about it.

We have discussed issues of homophobia in rap music, before, but when it comes to the mainstream rap world these days, there appears to be yet another problem: The boys club has even more members while the ladies are almost nowhere to be found.

CNN, of all media outlets, noticed the trend recently and published an article last week asking, “Where have all the successful female rappers gone?” The article points out that the days of putting out new female rappers seem to be non-existent, mostly due to a “marketability” issue.

Lil’ Kim

“It’s a lot of women trying to get into it, but most young women don’t know what direction to take,” Alonzo Williams, founding member of the popular ’80s rap group the World Class Wreckin’ Cru told CNN. “They don’t know whether to be a gun moll for a gangster or a mother and they are confused as to what role they should take.”

Because, clearly, when a woman gets into rap, she better know whether to be a “gun moll” or a “mother.” Sigh.

Sadly, rapper MC Lyte, who became popular in the late ’80s when many female rappers were coming up, agrees.

“When you have this major business that has been kind of taken over by corporate hands, it’s like, how necessary is the black woman’s perspective?” MC Lyte told CNN. “Not unless she is talking about being that kingpin’s main girl and she’s wearing next to nothing and she’s talking about nothing that is really going to nurture the people the way we are known innately as black women being able to do, there’s really no space for that type.”

The article made me wonder whether women were avoiding the mainstream rap game by choice, and finding comfort in an underground scene that allows them to show off their talent without selling their souls. It also points out that women are seeing success in R&B and pop music, but the “sexism and inequality” that has always been present in mainstream rap may have finally taken its toll.

Missy Elliott

“There are not enough female rappers out there right now,” Queen Latifah said. “The voice of the female is not strong enough in the game at all right now. It’s almost nonexistent.”

Even Williams, with his “gun moll” and “mother” analogy, agrees, saying that the sexual double standard within the industry creates an issue between street marketability and radio marketability.


With Latifah’s shift back to rap music in her latest album, Persona, she hopes to inspire a new breed of female rappers by taking the grass roots approach — kind of.

Latifah, along with Cover Girl (which is why I said “kind of”) is sponsoring a contest called “Ignite Your Persona,” which will allow contestants to submit brief videos of themselves rapping, singing, dancing or performing along with an essay. The winners, which will be chosen from each city, will open for Latifah on her tour.

It’s a small step that will hopefully land a label for some up-and-coming artists, but the real problem here is the marketability problem. A woman should not have to choose to be a “good girl” or “bad girl” in the rap world, just like she shouldn’t in the real world. It’s time these record companies and radio stations realize that.

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