Hip Hop/Rap has always been a man's sport. While there have been significant female contributions to the art of emceeing, the roots of what is termed today as the "femcee", go largely unacknowledged.
As my cousin Tu Tu (an educated black woman) told me, women have been part of hip hop from the start. Probably the most well known of the female pioneers is Sha Rock, the only female member of the early 80's group The Funky Four Plus 1. If you've ever heard "It's The Joint" you know who I'm talkin' about.
Then there's the first hip hop girl group, "The Sequence". The trio, consisting of group members Angie B. (now known as the singer/songwriter Angie Stone) Cheryl The Pearl and Blondy, had a pretty big hit in the 80's called "Funk You Up".
Of course there was Roxanne Shante and The 'Real' Roxanne, with the famous Roxanne battle records (literally everybody and their grandma was involved). After that however, it was pretty quiet until Salt-n-Pepa kicked the doors back open.
Suddenly there were more females than you could shake a....stick at. Most notably M.C. Lyte, Queen Latifah and Sweet Tee. These ladies had taken the spotlight and couldn't be denied. One of the most polarizing issues of the female rapper is their image. They are either so hardcore hip hop, that they come off masculine. Or they're so sexually charged, that they borderline on stripper/pornstar.
You had Rah Digga and The Lady of Rage on one end, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown on the other. The exception to almost every rule is Lauryn Hill. She managed to be a superior lyricist, very feminine and sexy without being sexual.
In all actuality, the female emcee has never gone anywhere. But despite their achievements; grammies, multi-platinum albums and accolades, they've always had to fight for their respect. I don't know why they don't get more support from other women (maybe you ladies can tell me), I can only speak from the male perspective.
As far as men are concerned we just don't identify. I mean, if the music is good, best believe we're gonna listen. But rap is a sing along type of music, and most of what comes out of a female rappers mouth, we can't and don't want to repeat.
Despite what mainstream media has led the masses to believe, Nicki Minaj is not the sole female rapper in the universe. Speaking of Ms. Minaj, I'm not as critical of her rapping (or reciting) ability as some are. I do think she my be a bit overhyped though, just a bit.
The fact of the matter is most femcees are as dope (and in some instances doper) than their male counterparts, and they've earned the respect that they don't get, and then some. So I'd like to take this time to give them their due, and since this is specifically a Chicago music blog, let me single out some the femme fatales that represent the Go.
You may or may not have heard of Shawnna (formerly of local girl duo Infamous Syndicate) shame on you though if you haven't. She had one of the hugest singles of the summer of 2000 with Ludacris called "What's Your Fantasy". She also had solo success with her own single "Gettin' Some Head".
Now that I've touched on the more famous of Chi-Town's estrogen producing rappers, here's a glimpse at some of the other ones.
There's Nikki Lynette, she's what the industry would classify as a complete artist. Sex appeal and pop sensabilities merged with records of substance. She seems destined and bound to break all the rules and make new one's.
Then there's Psalm One, completely female but more of an emcee than a femcee. Lyrically sharp, with a couple of albums under her skirt, she focuses on pointing out the ironies and inconsistencies of life and art.
One of the most lyrically ferocious females is Devilla The Duchezz. She's like your home girl, looks good in a pair of jeans, but will likely steal on you if you get out of pocket. She rocks hard over 100% hip hop tracks and bows down to no man.
If you like it hood as f#&%, you have to peep gheddo queen Chella H. She's the type of chick to do hair and sell loose squares. She spits pure reality rap with a dose of humor. Man I miss the poster of her in boy shorts, that used to sit in a store window on the north west corner of 43rd and Indiana.
But I digress. There really are so many I could go on for days. Keshia Kash, Ily Rose, Sasha Go Hard, Katie Got Bandz, Rita J, I'm serious I could go on for days! The Point is, they're out there and they are talented. So give them their P's, give them some attention and some of your money, in other words support local artists.
Randall Irwin The First
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