Rappers (Who Happen to be Girls) and Why They Matter

You are all liars if you claim that there is absolutely NO rap song you enjoy, not even in the slightest. There is at least one Lil Jon, guilty pleasure track in your head that is DYING to be blasted on your speakers. So what's telling you no? 

Rap degrades women. It glorifies violence (including violence against women) and uses crude language, etc. 

Sure, but so do the majority of things that occupy our culture - we have major movie companies churning out film after film that fail to pass the Bechdel test (A Million Ways to Die in the West, for example) that are just as "crude" and "violent" as American rap culture. It’s nearly impossible to find something in our mainstream culture that hasn’t been soaked in a heavy coat of cultural misogyny - it’s just that the rap world is more explicit

For the majority of my high school years, reconciling my love of rap and my feminist beliefs was tough. Mindlessly rapping “Because you know I love it young, fresh and green / with no hair in between, know what I mean?” a la Biggie Smalls made me embarrassed for myself; I was very anxious I was going to be called out by the Gloria Steinem police sooner or later.

However, I’ve always found comfort in the lyrics and beats of rappers who just happen to be female. If they’ve found a way to navigate the verbals bullets of labels like “bitch” and “slut” to make a career for themselves, I can find a way to enjoy rap music too. Missy Elliot taught me that I am in control of my sex life AND I don’t have to be in an exclusive relationship to enjoy it either (as many young girls are taught). Kelis’s “Bossy” taught me that when I took control of a situation, people “did not have to like me, but will respect me.” Brooke Candy helped me take back the word slut, because it’s “now a compliment / a sexy-ass female who running shit and confident”

The internet has proven to be the perfect platform to allow non-mainstream lady rappers flourish, rejecting cookie cutter pop expectations. As a fan of M.I.A., I learned that rap isn’t just the soundtrack for binge drinking vodka and embracing sexuality (though she has great songs for both of those activities). M.I.A.’s raps try to expand your social awareness to the violence that plague other countries, like her home country Sri Lanka. Recently, she just remixed Queen B’s feminist anthem, ***Flawless, into the very appropriately-M.I.A. titled “Baddygirl 2”, singing that it is “for the women, and of course, Beyoncé”.

Kitty, another rapper birthed from the internet, empowers girls in more relatable ways. Her raps read more like the conversations my friends and I have with each other - sarcastic and full of teenage girl realities (“[I] wanna punch em in their stupid face / but I’m busy rapping Super Bass”, anyone?). She just released a short EP, “Impatiens”, with accompanying videos. One of my favorites is “brb!!!!!!!!”, a video compilation of her fans lip-synching to the song and getting sexy to their webcam. It’s nice to see artists turn the camera on who is actually listening to their words and how it affects them; in this case, these girls are feeling are empowered to move beyond the censorship of their sexual selves on their own terms. 

And it's not just these ladies  either - there's Salt-N-Pepa, Azealia Banks, and so many more. What I’m really getting at here is that we shouldn’t pigeonhole rappers into this gendered, two dimensional boys-only club. Clearly these women are leaving a mark on the industry which indicates change is coming, and hopefully one day the Top 40 countdown will see just as many women popping bottles in the club as men are. For feminism, of course. 

EDIT: Iggy Azalea's mention in this blog post has been removed due to her problematic, racist tweets. This is definitely not something I want to promote.

Images via brecorder.com, brookenipar.com 

Tagged in: rappers, rap music, hip hop, girls who rap, feminist music, female musicians   

The opinions expressed on the BUST blog are those of the authors themselves and do not necessarily reflect the position of BUST Magazine or its staff.

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