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Gender Representation Matters in Hip Hop

Updated: Nov 15, 2020


Article by Cee Janai


The conversation of women in hip hop has always been a hot topic. The rap world was always seen as being a man's world, but lately, we have been seeing women take the hip hop world by storm and following their own beats. Before 2019, rap was always seen as only capable of having one female resident at a time. For a long time that "queen of rap" was considered Nicki Minaj, whose real name is Onika Naraj, and for good reason. Minaj has earned numerous accolades and sold about 100 million records worldwide. Because of that, she is one of the world's best selling music artists. Besides Nicki Minaj, we have Belcalis Almánzar, more famously known as Cardi B.


Cardi B was first known for her comedic posts on Vine and Instagram, and also for her role on the reality series Love & Hip Hop: New York until she reached commercial success upon the release of her lead single 'Bodak Yellow' in 2017, and her album titled 'Invasion of Privacy" that was released the following year. Cardi's single propelled her to the top almost overnight and she became the second female rapper to reach a number one spot with a solo track, after the coveted but mysterious Lauryn Hill first reached that spot with "Doo Wap (That Thing)" in 1998.


Both Nicki Minaj and Cardi B fell victim to what we can consider one of the most iconic rap beefs of all time, and it is very possible that said beef would keep our next women contenders of the rap game unintentionally behind a veil of ignorance. Finally though, this year we see an exciting surge of women in the rap game such as Rico Nasty, Noname, Saweetie, Mullato, Rapsody, and Megan Thee Stallion to name a few.


Megan Thee Stallion herself commented on this topic during an interview with Billboard:


“Us women have always been talented. But it was a thing where there could only be one woman [rapper] at a time,” Thee Stallion tells Billboard, according to Billboard.com. “You got all these guy rappers out here who ain't really talking about a lot! But we all would commend them, as many as they come. So I was really excited that a lot of women got their shine this year.”


The first statement that Megan says definitely holds its weight! Megan herself, Cardi B, the City Girls duo, and Saweetie all made at least one entry on Billboard's Year End chart for 2019 which beat the 2002 list for the amount of female rappers included (the 2019 list also includes Lizzo, who leads with the no. 13 spot).


The platform that these women have created has impacted millions across the world, from Lizzo with her body-positive attitude and Megan Thee Stallion coining the term "Hot Girl Summer".


There are always some who try to dismiss the idea of women rising in hip hop. According to Billboard, popular producer Jermaine Dupri made a comment about women who rap. He was asked who his favorite female MC was and this was his response:


"I feel they’re all rapping about the same thing," Dupri said during a July interview with People. “I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper. For me, it’s like strippers rapping and as far as rap goes I’m not getting who’s the best rapper.”


His comment did receive some backlash from female MCs, especially Cardi B, who is known for her aggressive lyrics. She said that she raps about her p**** because it's her best friend, and also because it's what people want to hear. Cardi B made a few songs that catered to her audience, like 'Be Careful' and 'Ring' featuring Kehlani, and while she suggested that she didn't mind that at all, she notices what her audience really wants. She also gave critics like Dupri the responsibility to go and find those female MCs who rap about other things. The backlash caused him to clarify what he said, saying that he didn't mean "all female rappers". But still, you don't see anyone saying that male rappers need to rap about something new.


Rico Nasty mentions this in her comment, responding to what Dupri said:

“I felt somewhat insulted [by Jermaine Dupri] because I rap about my p---y all the time. There's a lot of songs where girls don't talk about that,” said Rico. “But if the p---y-popping bangers are what's hitting the clubs, then that's what you're going to hear all the time. You know how many times men rap about the same s--t on more than one song?"


“I think that guys sometimes get upset because they look at us and think it's all glitz and glam,” she continues. “There are some guys out there who risk their lives for this rap s--t and by being around certain people they got no business being around. So when they see a pretty girl shaking her ass and making a whole lot of money, they get mad because they can't do that.”


The hip hop world is branching out to include more women contenders, but the fight for equal representation is far from over, and that includes those who work behind-the-scenes to bring everything we see to life, such as female engineers, A&Rs, publicists, etc.



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