While the Colorlines article brought up some very good points, there was one I disagreed with. The article quotes the criticism of writer Bene Viera at Clutch:
It's ironic how a White girl mimicking Black culture has been viewed as quirky, cute, and interesting in the past. But sisters who fashionably rock bamboo earrings, gold nameplate necklaces, and blonde streaked weaves will inevitably be considered "ghetto" by society. It's equally problematic that every female emcee post Queen Latifah and MC Lyte who has massive mainstream success all had to sell sex. Kreayshawn, on the other hand, is able to avoid an over sexualized image because of her whiteness.
|Lil Mama. Image via Jive Records|
|Missy Elliott. Image via Photo Gallery Actress.|
|Lauryn Hill. Image via Nhojj Cafe.|
As for the claim that black female emcees post MC Lyte and Queen Latifah had to "sell sex" to become successful, what about Ms. Lauryn Hill? Her 1998 hit album The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill (now regarded as a classic) was selling female empowerment, if anything. Hill won six Grammy awards, including Best New Artist and Album of the Year. I'd consider that mainstream success.
|Eve. Image via Chris Vizzello/AP|
|Medusa. Image via thegangstagoddess.com|
But let's face it: Hip hop, like most other music forms that in the mainstream limelight, is subject to the interests of business and corporate control. The music becomes even more exciting once you step off the beaten path. One artist who has always held things down for the underground is the legendary Medusa. The Los Angeles based rapper has been a fixture on the underground hip hop scene and has been called L.A.'s "best kept secret."
Another talented underground emcee is Sa-Roc, a rapper who hails from Washington, D.C. and is now based in Atlanta. Sa-Roc's sound and lyrical content are other-worldly (she samples jazz artist Sun Ra, the video for her song Supernova opens with the pouring of libations for the ancestors). She brings a fresh perspective to the hip hop scene.
There's a whole universe of female emcees of every race, and from many different backgrounds. It's important to view them as individuals. Everyone makes different choices about their image and how they wish to be portrayed. Some of them find mainstream success, while others find their success in the underground. While it is tough to be a woman in the male dominated world of hip hop, let's not lose sight of the achievements and the diverse voices of women within the genre.