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The changing faces of female MCs

by Samantha Maine. Published Tue 10 Jan 2012 18:34, last updated: 03/09/12

As Azealia Banks begins to grace the covers of the music and hipster press, the ‘new Nicki Minaj’ has been propelled onto the tips of tongues everywhere.

Many are quick to categorise her in the same section as Miss. Minaj but what everyone seems to forget is that girls were doing it for themselves before these two were even born.

‘Feisty,’ ‘Brash’ and ‘Sassy’ are just some of the adjectives chucked at the MC of the moment, thanks to her foul-mouthed antics on and off the mic.

The attention on Azealia and especially her song '212' has spawned a mad dash to the Internet, with eyes averting to the likes of fellow young’uns Kreayshawn and Dominique Young Unique.

With all this fresh focus on the women of hip-hop, it’s important to remember the women that started it all. Although, its evolution may alienate some fans.

While many a folk will think that Nicki has led the way for this pack of new breeds, it’s safe to say that she in no way started it. And with all that pink to get through, it’s tough to see the feminist in her at all.

If we go back to the 1984 hip hop trio U.T.F.O released a single ‘Hanging Out’ with an accompanying B Side ‘Roxanne, Roxanne.’ This B Side proved most popular, and spawned a reel of call and response records from some spritely young things.

Lolita Shante Gooden, then only 14 years of age, recorded ‘Roxanne’s Revenge’ in wake of the record. Taking on the persona of Roxanne Shante, produced by Marley Marl and with the backing of radio DJ Mr. Magic, the song was an instant hit, selling over 250,000 copies.

No doubt, the trio were pretty upset at the success of the record and proceeded to answer Shante with their own Roxanne. Elease Jack took the reigns as The Real Roxanne, and years of answer-back records continued.

Whilst the happenings of the Roxannes may not seem prolific in the female MC history, it was the stripped back, raw talent of young Shante that caught the attention of hip hop fans and opened to gates for more and more women to take the mic.

One of the first all-female rap crews was formed in 1985 and consisted of Cheryl Renee James, Sandra Denton and Deidra Roper. Together they were Salt n’ Pepa and created decades of successful female hip-hop that gave women of rap the right of way.

In 1988, Lana Moorer a.k.a. ‘MC Lyte’ was the first solo female rapper to release a full album. This was a milestone in the quest for a takeover and Miss Moorer has forever held her grace with women in industry, such as Brandy and Janet Jackson.

Queen Latifah took the reins towards the end of the 80’s with her refreshing rhymes and bolshy take on the music industry. It’s interesting to compare the stance of Latifah with that of her modern descendants.

Whilst Nicki is busy pushing her bust up to her chin and Azealia is calling herself all sorts of obscenities, Latifah’s opening line in ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ – ‘Who you callin’ a b****?’ resonates just how much of a step back the ladies of today have taken.

Was the somewhat feminist push of the earlier female MC’s all for nothing?

However, as we look to the 90’s, and Kimberly ‘Lil’ Kim’ Jones, you could say that Nicki and co have learnt from the best.

With everything out for everyone to see, Lil’ Kim wasn’t afraid to let her hair down and be one of the boys.

Whilst the hair, the make-up and the scandals could have clouded Lil’ Kim’s talent, her affiliations with a certain Mr B.IG. certainly didn’t. Like her or not, Lil’ Kim was the first of her kind and she did it well.

So, it’s with a heavy heart that we look at the female MC’s of today. Apart from a select few, such as the undeniable, award winning talents of Speech Debelle; young ‘feisty’ female MCs of today seem to be more interested with their hair and cranking up some hipster bass in their chorus’.

Gone is the lyrical integrity of Jean Grae and Empress Stahhr and instead we are faced with a mirage of X Factor bred ‘rappers,’ whole songs based on well-known fashion labels and the media excitably calling the hottest female rapper ‘the black Gaga.’

It’s fantastic what Azealia and co are striving for, but they may want to look to their predecessors for some real inspiration.


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"peace and love. i appreciate the mention. " stahhr, earth around 7 years, 4 months ago