Sunday, 12 April 2009

Say My Name - Women In Hip Hop Documentary

I came across this today, featuring MC Lyte, Remy Ma, Rah Digga, Jean Grae, Monie Love, Estelle and newcomers Chocolate Thai, Invincible and Miz Korona...

There are a couple of things that irk me about this video - the perpetual dilution of the image of the female in hip hop (why is there a cut away of Erykah Badu in this clip? In a documentary about men in hip hop would you splice in D'Angelo and have John Legend sing something pretty at the end?). There is a reason that recognized MCs such as Miss Dynamite, Estelle, and recently Queen Latifah?! have started singing despite the fact that they can't - and the fact that Estelle is featured in this video at all will probably confuse an American audience who never heard 1980. Why the assumption females are supposed to sing and rap, but men aren't really supposed to (unless you're Phonte and you're just amazing at both)? Not every woman can or should be expected to be the new *Lauryn Hill because they most likely will not live up to it and will be seen as commercially unviable/ failures.

The second thing that got to me was the overly emotive Monie Love talking about women wanting to be taken seriously as lyricists. Preceded by clips of L'il Kim looking like a pneumatic black Barbie gone horribly wrong (as though she were the route of all evil - instead of a product of it). I could be wrong but the way I see it is this - female rappers need to understand and accept that who they are should be enough. If you don't have the talent to be yourself, maintain your honesty & integrity and still find a way to be successful - that's a shame but you should really go and get another job. If you have to dress like a lesbian/ prostitute, have a man ghost write your rhymes, sleep your way to the top, get your entire body rebuilt with plastic, rap about things you don't believe in, develop an uncharacteristically passive/ aggressive personna, turn your album in to a porn soundtrack etc etc then no one will take you seriously as a lyricist and they will be less likely to respect other (talented) female MCs.

I'm not saying there is equality for women in the hip hop industry and it's all their own fault because obviously that isn't the case. I'm saying that women achieved greater equality in other industries by addressing the issues holding them back and fighting long and hard for their rights. If you're really good at what you do then no one can say otherwise and you should fight for what you want and force people to take you seriously through your actions - as Jean Grae said "the most beautiful music comes from pain and struggle, and if this is really really what you want to do - then it's gonna suck, it's gonna hurt". If so, women should really be making the best hip hop out there. I look forward to seeing the film.


*Heads up Lauryn Hill fans - Lauryn will be playing as part of the obscenely good line up at the Montreux Jazz Festival this year. Check out the full line up HERE

1 comment:

  1. Amelia,

    Noticed you already caught onto D-Nice's 'Homeless MC' video, check this one with Monie Love:

    http://www.d-nice.com/journal/2009/1/27/true-hip-hop-stories-monie-love.html

    In fact, watch all of them. Great stuff.

    Thanks for the link,

    Dan

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