Take a stroll through the music aisles at your local Best Buy, Target, or music store. Or scan the Hip Hop/Rap section on iTunes. You’ll find the latest from Drake, Jay-Z, Kanye West, J. Cole, and several others, which you can purchase with ease online or at the register in the store.
But where’s latest from the women rappers? And where can you find their music?
Nicki Minaj has been busy on American Idol, many would say. Yet, she isn’t the only current female rapper out there, despite what radio stations, iTunes features lists, and music store shelves would have us believe. Several female emcees released albums, singles, and mixtapes during the summer and this fall, but haven’t received the same amount of attention as their male counterparts. Because they are women in an industry that is often viewed as a boy’s club, few female artists are widely recognized. Occasionally, women are allowed to hold the spotlight, though in recent years, that fame has been contingent upon how these lucky few present their sexuality.
For women in hip hop, sex plus booty translates to more attention from record labels and radio stations. Because of this, in order to reach mainstream success, female emcees must fit a hypersexual mold, meaning: ultra-provocative dancing, revealing clothing, and lyrics referencing her pussy every other line.
No, I’m not shaming on a sex-positive, slut-friendly site. We need sexy rappers. In a genre known to treat women’s bodies as objects upon which to exert force, women rappers should be sexually empowered and proud of it.
Yet, sexual empowerment quickly becomes sexual oppression when artists must adhere to a cookie-cutter version of sexy and are confined to rapping about sex. The industry makes the topic of sex an inescapable prison when female artists must be overtly sexual in their lyrics and appearance whenever they take the stage. Their lyrics then become about as empowering as those classic Carl’s Jr. commercials that feature models as human props, lying on their backs, eating hamburgers bigger than their waists.
Every time a Nicki Minaj song comes on the radio I’m like, “Yes Nicki, you have a huge ass and a lot of sex, we get it—move on!”
But she can’t move on to other topics. She has to fit the brand that commercial hip hop requires of her. For decades the genre has reduced women to walking vaginas, and as the current poster child for women rappers, Nicki Minaj is simply continuing the dialogue she has entered into (Interestingly, many fans argue that before her first album, on her early mixtapes, Nicki had more to say. As she moved from underground to mainstream, the music shifted more focus on her hypersexual image than on her talent).
When being overtly sexual is necessary for a record deal with a major label, countless voices are silenced. Nicki Minaj is not the problem; she can be who she is and we can love and/or hate her for it. The problem is that because other female artists do not portray commercial hip hop’s version of sexy, they don’t receive as much attention from music corporations and radio stations. Consequently, the industry presents a dangerously narrow image of womanhood (and a hackneyed, commercialized, stereotypical depiction of Black womanhood). The female emcees who go against the usual ideas hip hop prescribes about women, who don’t have quite as much silicone and sex appeal as their pink-wigged contemporary—are routinely ignored and shut out.
Yet, we need those voices from lyricists like Eternia, Angel Haze, and Genesis Be to present diverse ideas about sexuality. More female rappers in the spotlight widens the discourse of sexuality in hip hop to one that is more dynamic and realistic—one that comes from the minds of women, and not from the mouths of music distribution company CEOs or sexist male rappers.
Finding these authentic voices of women rappers takes a bit of effort. Searching beyond the radio stations, music stores, and iTunes lists is a must. After asking around, digging on the internet, and listening to tons of new music, I’ve saved you the time and compiled a list of awesome artists to add to your playlists. The music on the list ranges from conscious hip hop to twerking music. Coming soon to Slutist.