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'Queen' And The Hypocrisy Of Nicki Minaj's Feminism

Through projecting and proclaiming her spot in the rap game while tearing others down, Nicki Minaj’s 'Queen' rollout and aftermath have been anything but royal.

Through projecting and proclaiming her spot in the rap game while tearing others down, Nicki Minaj’s 'Queen' rollout and aftermath have been anything but royal.

 

Webster’s Dictionary defines feminism as the advocacy of women’s rights based on the notion that both women and men can be equal in all aspects. A woman, man or whatever gender a person identifies with—who believes they are a feminist—not only fights for the political, social and economic equality of the sexes, but also does not discriminate, pass judgment on or belittle others—especially other women.

There’s comical irony in the fact that Nicki Minaj’s fourth studio album, Queen, appears to be rooted in the grounds of empowerment, despite the New York-bred rapper and her band of followers the Barbz throwing their fair share of ninja stars towards young women who dare critique her. Additionally and unsurprisingly, Minaj sends shots at her female rap contemporaries in an effort to secure her status on wax.

On the Swae Lee-accompanied “Chun Swae,” Nicki revealed that the album was called Queen not to uplift others, but to uplift herself, as she’s the self-proclaimed queen of the game. “You're in the middle of Queen right now, thinking ‘I see why she called this sh*t Queen, This b**ch is really the f**king Queen,’” she maniacally cackles.

While the latter declaration is probably true to her and her fans, it’s not surprising in the slightest that her album features numerous attempts to reclaim her title by berating other “b**ches,” “c***s” and “h**s” in the rap and hip-hop realm. Despite the high point of having a Foxy Brown feature on “Coco Chanel,” there are multiple songs and lyrics perceived as digs at fellow femcees like “LLC” and “Hard White” (plus, Foxy is likely the only female rapper Nicki hasn’t ever had a problem with).

More recently than ever, Minaj’s insecurities with herself and other women seem to be oozing out, likely due to the extreme onslaught of attention-grabbing female rappers emerging in conversations. Her public display of what she believes “Queendom” is seems to be compromised whenever these insecurities come into play.

Not only has she shown time and time again that she’s not above tearing women down when critiqued or questioned, she also encourages others to do the same. “Queen Radio”-Beats1-celebrity-empowerment-powwow-and-female-musical-guests be damned. This album could have stuck better had she attempted to uplift other women in some way instead of projecting and proclaiming the same “I’m the best” notion she always projects and proclaims as a means of validation.

"Every two years I get told about some new female rapper,” she told TIDAL’s Elliott Wilson during a recent CRWN interview. “To me, it's silly to compare me to women because there's no woman that can put up the stats that I've generated."

In May of this year, Minaj detailed on Twitter that the inspiration for her album was Princess Diana, whom she said she admires. “Queen THE ALBUM ~ It’s the strength that causes the confusion and fear,” she wrote of Diana, who in her lifetime displayed grace and courage in the eyes of adversity while helping many others. However, Nicki’s brash behavior on social media shows that feminism is the last thing on her mind.

We were forewarned by her Minajesty's rap world nemesis Remy Ma about her behavior. During a visit to The Wendy Williams Show last year, she explained that the musician was doing “behind-the-scenes” shady dealings to keep Remy out of the public eye shortly after the Bronx rapper dropped her scathing Nicki-pointed diss track “shETHER."

“When you’re trying to stop my bag, when you’re trying to stop me from taking care of my children, then I have a problem with that,” Remy revealed. Musicians such as Azealia Banks, Miley Cyrus, Lil Kim and more have also voiced their disdain with the femcee in the past.

“[Nicki] did what she did, and until she’s ready— hopefully God puts it on her mind to do the right thing, ’cause she knows what she did,” the Queen Bee said of Nicki in a recent interview with LA’s Real 92.3. "Once that happens, hopefully everybody would stop asking me [about her].”

As it’s been documented all-too-well in the news, culture writer Wanna Thompson tweeted a constructive critique regarding the desire for more mature music from Minaj back in June. Later on, Thompson notified the Twittersphere that she was sent a vicious DM from the rapper, and received a barrage of threats from her band of loyal followers.

“Eat a d**k you hatin’ a** h**,” wrote the “Barbie Tingz” musician in the DM, before listing songs in her catalogue with more adult vibes. “...Just say you jealous. I’m rich, famous, intelligent, pretty and go! But wait, leave my balls. Tired of you sucking on them,” she continued. The standom’s threats were reportedly so bad that Thompson was forced to put her Twitter profile on private.

Sure, the age-old adage “if you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all” applies to anyone who makes comments about someone else behind the shield of a computer screen. However, for someone as successful as Nicki Minaj is, what good comes from being immediately defensive once any sort of critique comes into play?

Among the Minaj-written clapbacks found under photos on her Instagram towards women who dare to make negative comments about her? “Must suck to be so jealous, miserable, insecure and ugly;” “you too pressed, too mad, too ugly & forehead too big;” and “you look like a raccoon with a receding hairline.”

The feminism she wants to portray seemingly becomes a facade when she resorts to childishly belittling other women based on their appearance and success as means to validate her fame, fortune and talents. A true feminist wouldn’t turn feminism on and off like a lightswitch when it fits a narrative.

Nicki’s issues with being critiqued don’t just come into play when other women criticize her. In a recent interview with Hot 97’s Funkmaster Flex, Nicki stated that whenever she’s criticized for her work, she immediately jumps on defense, regardless of who is the critic.

"I'm never mad when people give me constructive criticism..I accept things like that," she told the host. "I have an issue when the criticism seems like it's personal or from a bad place, and since I know so many things that are going on behind the scenes that other people don't know. I know there's a lot of people getting paid to voice those opinions." Earlier this year, she also told fans in a now-deleted tweet to “Go beat dat ni**a like he stole smthn” in reference to a young man named Jerome Trammel who called her lyrics “hypocritical.”

Minaj resorting to being childish and cruel towards others when critiqued makes her seem incredibly phony, especially when she tries to promote empowerment from time to time. Because of her insecurities, she tears others down in order to build herself up, something that’s been occurring for quite some time, but has taken a head during the Queen era. Critiques and competition come with the territory of being in the industry you chose.

Earlier this year, Minaj announced a joint tour with Future to support the Queen album. It was later revealed that controversial Brooklyn musician Tekashi 6ix9ine would be joining the NickiHndrxx Tour as an opening act for select dates. Wouldn’t you think that if there’s an album coming out called Queen, that the musician attached to said album would want to bring another femcee on board, and not a young man convicted of and potentially awaiting sentencing for using an underage girl in a sexual performance?

“You can say whatever you wanna say about [Tekashi], I saw something in him that made me really like him,” she told Rob Markman in a Genius talk during the wee hours of Aug. 16. “I’m paying it forward...he’s not perfect, he’s not...the most lyrical person, but there’s stuff that’s dope about him.”

Despite his "talents and personality," this is a slap in the face.

It’s a slap in the face to female rappers like Maliibu Miitch, Asian Doll and Kash Doll, budding superstars who likely would have jumped at the chance to go on tour with a musician who has applauded each of them in the past.

It’s also a slap in the face towards her female fans as a whole. Tekashi is a pretty popular act (so I’ve heard), and by bringing him along, it proves that Nicki is more invested in money and publicity than she is about protecting young women, given his conviction of using a minor in a sex act. Granted, she’s had other women open up for her on tour in the past, such as Dej Loaf and Tinashe, but if she were to leave a seat at the table open for a female artist to join her on the road, this fall’s NickiHendrxx surely would have been the best opportunity.

While she hasn’t been the poster child for feminism, Minaj has had a few moments in the past where she’s made attempts to uplift other women. During her sit-down interview with Zane Lowe of Beats 1 at the top of this year, she praised the work of Azealia Banks and Cardi B. Then, of course, 2014 gave us her body-positivity anthem, "Anaconda."

“I wanted to say, ‘Hey ladies, you’re beautiful,’” Minaj told ABC News of her high-charting hit and its underlying meaning of body positivity amongst the voluptuous women of the world. “Hopefully, this changes things and maybe it won’t change things, but I love it.” Lastly, in 2015, Nicki spoke out against the media when she believed she was shut out of the MTV VMA category for “Video Of The Year” because of her undeniable thiccness.

“If your video celebrates women with very slim bodies, you will be nominated for vid of the year,” she tweeted. Given her platform, it’s fine for Nicki to be empowering through body positivity and to speak out about issues that black women in particular face in many industries. However, it’s not okay to pick and choose what type of feminist to be when it’s convenient, and it’s especially not okay to tear down someone less successful (or someone you don’t know) whenever you feel threatened.

Being as transcendent and important an artist as she is, Nicki Minaj should be above the petty social media nonsense by this point in her career. However, no superstar, regardless of the success they’ve accumulated, should be above uplifting and supporting women to be their very best. There’s far more to feminism than empowering others to embrace their sexuality, and if she’s going to base an entire album on the power of “queendom,” she ought to practice what she preaches.

READ MORE: Is Nicki Minaj Being Held To A Different Standard Of Artistic Growth?

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Cardi B and Beautycon co-founder and CEO Moj Mahdara in conversation at the "Making Money Moves" panel.
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Beautycon NYC: 4 Takeaways From The 5th Annual Event

For the fifth year in a row, Beautycon — an annual festival bringing together beauty and fashion brands, fans, celebrities, and influencers — packed the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan, N.Y.

On April 6 and 7, thousands of women, men, gender non-conforming individuals and more took part in the exciting, sold-out event, which saw stars such as Cardi B, Issa Rae, Yara Shahidi, Marsai Martin and Regina Hall partaking in panels, workshops, tutorials, meet-and-greets and much more. Brands like The Mane Choice, Too Faced, Sally Beauty, and Rimmel were on hand to promote and sell products, and all festivalgoers went home with a multitude of free products.

The annual two-day event’s underlying message is to highlight a more diverse, inclusive world, with hopes of filtering out judgment and negativity. Whether you’re just starting out in the beauty game or you’ve got hundreds of thousands of followers aiming to learn your ways, Beautycon aims to make everyone feel safe, welcome and ultimately beautiful in the skin they’re in.

“We are far from perfect, we are still learning,” Beautycon co-founder and CEO Moj Mahdara said during the event. “We are growing every day, and it’s really all of you that make this better and better.” Beautycon festivals are held in New York City, Los Angeles, London, and recently, the company announced that for the first time this June, Beautycon is heading to Japan.

VIBE Vixen got a chance to sit in on panels, partake in the various installations and take in all of the sights of the Beautycon NYC Festival. Here are four things we learned while at this year’s edition in the Big Apple.

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Inclusion Is Finally In, So Now It’s Time For Allyship

While makeup companies are starting to be more inclusive as it pertains to consumers of color, it’s important for brands to continue the crusade by being allies.

During a panel called “The Intersection of Fashion and Beauty,” moderator Priscilla Ono praised makeup artist Raisa Flowers for being open and honest about the disadvantages makeup artists of color face. While their work is championed online “for clicks,” Flowers noted that some of the best makeup artists of color are still unable to find work in the industry. A similar sentiment trended on Twitter earlier in the year regarding the lack of black makeup artists and hairstylists in Hollywood.

“In the industry, they don’t really bring us out,” Flowers said of the power of social media for beauty gurus. “I work with mostly black women, but I can do [makeup on] everyone, and [I’m hired] to [work with] certain people… even if it’s not on a black woman, the work I do is powerful enough to change the energy in the room.”

Of course, the importance of allyship and knowing consumers translates to clothing brands. As we’ve seen this year with luxury brands such as Gucci, it’s imperative to make sure that the history of certain communities is known, so that brands won’t make massive mistakes or exclude a group through their work or designs. This can be done by employing diverse, qualified members to these teams and taking into consideration the lives of all people who buy into these brands.

 

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My Collab with @eloquii has been a dream to create over the past year! Getting to design for sizes 14+ with a brand that knows FIT so well! And I had NO LIMITS! Something I’m so grateful for! I hope you enjoy this collection as much as I do💛#PriscillaOnoxEloquii

A post shared by Priscilla Ono (@priscillaono) on Apr 5, 2019 at 8:09am PDT

All Shapes And Sizes Deserve Representation In Beauty And Fashion

With fast-fashion brands such as Fashion Nova, there appears to be just one body type that is championed. Although the Instagram-favorite has extended themselves with lines for men and plus-sized women, it’s important that all shapes and sizes are represented in the fashion and beauty spaces.

“Across the board, there are different aesthetics [for plus sized women],” fashion photographer Lydia Hudgens explained during the panel, ‘The Intersection of Fashion and Beauty.’ “When women are plus-sized, there’s a different room for them. She’s different, you’re different, I’m different. Having a voice and a different style heard is important too.”

Beautycon’s commitment to diversity was apparent in the brands they brought to their event. Cacique Intimates is a lingerie brand specializing in sizes from 0-28. Their display and mannequin showcased the plus-sized products in their collection, which was incredibly refreshing to see. Makeup artist Priscilla Ono also debuted her clothing design collaboration with Eloquii, which specializes in eye-popping and trendy fashions catered to women who are a size 14 and up.

 

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We just LOVE our booth @beautycon in NYC. Follow the story for more! #BeautyConNYC 💕

A post shared by Cacique (@caciqueintimates) on Apr 6, 2019 at 11:44am PDT

Bright Colors Are In

If you’re committed to Yeezy Season neutrals such as grays, greens and black in your wardrobe, you’re in for a bit of disappointing news. It was clear at the Beautycon NYC Festival that vibrant fashion is the theme of 2019.

Bright pink and green pastels filled the Convention Center. Regardless of whether you’re trying to be a “Cozy Girl,” or if you’re ready to rip the runway, your best bet is to go with something as bright as humanly possible if you’re trying to make a statement this year.

This suggestion also works with accessories. Patterned head wraps were en vogue at this year’s Beautycon NYC Festival, as well as bright bundles, wigs and weaves. The energetic and fun colors helped these individuals both fit in and stand out.

 

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Struttin through #BeautyConNYC in @fashionnova 💚 @thezurisaddai

A post shared by Aliya Janell (@thealiyajanell) on Apr 8, 2019 at 11:02am PDT

 

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The cast of “Little”, @issarae in @therow, @marsaimartin in @ralphandrusso, and @morereginahall, glam up to attend BeautyCon NYC! #IssaRae #TheRow #MarsaiMartin #RalphandRusso #ReginaHall #LittleMovie #talksandthoughts

A post shared by @ talksandthought on Apr 8, 2019 at 9:56am PDT

Beautycon’s Tone Could Use A Facelift

As Beautycon co-founder Moj Mahdara said, the five-year-old company is continuing to grow and learn. While Beautycon’s motive is to start necessary, intentional conversations in the fashion, beauty and social justice realms, it seems that the NYC festival needed a little work with keeping a consistent tone throughout the two-day event.

For example, we love Cardi B’s unapologetic, unfiltered approach to life just as much as we love Yara Shahidi’s intelligence and conscious way of looking at the world. Women are multifaceted, and it’s important to show both sides. While it was amazing to have both of these figures at the event, if you’re looking at the full scope of Beautycon, the ebb and flow made the content of the panels just seem a bit all over the place.

Cardi’s explicitness during her panel “Making Money Moves” was expected. However, there were far too many children in the audience for some of the comments she brought forth. The day before, a large group of people ended up leaving Shahidi’s “fireside chat” called “Fighting the Fear of Being Yourself," which some who passed VIBE Vixen called- for lack of a better word- ‘boring.’ It was right after a twerktastic dance performance and motivational speech from dancer and choreographer, Aliya Janell.

Now, this isn’t to say that Beautycon doesn’t know who they’re attempting to reach out to. It’s clear through the brands that attended the festival that the company knows who they’d like to get the attention of. But when it comes to the tone of conversations they were trying to promote, coupled with celebrities and speakers for these particular conversations, they could use some readjusting. There wasn’t the right rhythm most of the time, however, the company continues to grow and thrive. Hopefully, they’ll figure out their tone in due time.

 

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A quick throwback to yesterday when @noor and I reunited at @beautycon to talk about media, social engagement and inclusion 😘❣️ a big merci to @moj

A post shared by Yara (يارا‎) Shahidi (@yarashahidi) on Apr 7, 2019 at 5:30pm PDT

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Nipsey Hussle at A Craft Syndicate Music Collaboration Unveiling Event at Opera Atlanta on December 10, 2018 in Atlanta, Georgia.
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The Authentic Spirit Of Nipsey Hussle

In what is touted as his first interview ever, and what it certainly has become his most famous, a 21-year-old Nipsey Hussle was asked why he wasn’t draped in jewelry like rappers typically are. His answer was so unusual and extraordinary, the interviewer from Hard Knock TV was aghast.

“All that is cool for the image and all that, but all them is liabilities,” he said. “I’d rather invest in some real estate.”

The answer floored the interviewer so much he cut Nipsey off and asked him to elaborate before he even got the chance to finish his sentence. This was not normal rapper jargon, and it has become abundantly clear over the next decade that Nipsey Hussle was not a normal rapper.

Nipsey Hussle was an outlier.

Even as he was constantly told he bore a striking resemblance to one of his idols, Snoop Dogg, Nipsey always stood out. Lanky, with a district voice and a perspective we had yet to see from a rapper in his mold. In the blog era seemingly cluttered with more rappers than ever, he found a way to break through with the gift of authenticity.

Nipsey resonated with the public for many reasons but relatability is the most evident. He came from the streets of Los Angeles but told nationwide street tales. When he began to win on a larger scale, it felt like one of us had made it. His success became our success and showed a whole corner of the community that it was possible to elevate themselves and become something more than the meager prison or jail future that often felt like destiny. Nipsey showed people they could be more.

When he signed with Epic Records back in 2008, that felt like the victory he’d always needed, but after several years of label strife he eventually was released from his contract - and that's when his elevation truly began. Nipsey responded to his newfound independence with a game-changing strategy: first a $100 album which sold 1,000 copies in the first day (including 100 copies purchased by Jay-Z), then a $1,000 album that sold 60 copies. Nipsey’s startling talk of assets and appreciation was beginning to manifest itself, not just in his potent lyrics, but also in his precedent-setting business moves.

That was just more of Nipsey’s authenticity shining through. He told us he only wanted assets that appreciate, realized that he was the most valuable asset, and he began to build on that. Eventually, his success began to catch up with all the work he’d put in. His last record, Victory Lap, was nominated for Best Rap Album at the 61st Grammy Awards, and that felt like the validation he’d always deserved, whether he won or not.

The album was a masterpiece, and it was Nipsey’s natural charisma that made it so. Again, the word authenticity comes to mind, as every syllable he confidently churned out had an air of legitimacy that is rare in a world where embellishment is the status quo. As usual, Nipsey stood out, both for his humanity and his ability to speak so frankly about his life. That allowed fans to digest a stunning glance at a mirror, and not only know that they weren’t alone in their suffering and plight, but that there was light at the end of the tunnel as well.

When the final verse of “Blue Laces 2” was hailed as one of the best verses of 2018, it was due to the same feasibility that oozed out of the speaker when Nipsey spoke. There’s no unorthodox flow to impress the listener, or any metaphors or similes to sift through, dissect and interpret. It was just straight to the point, a story you just knew was real because you probably have been there and lived through it before. This is exactly what it’s like when someone gets shot, this is the mania and trauma you live through in the moment, and the soothing calmness with which he delivered the entire stanza is the same calmness we’re expected to elicit in the moment we’re forced to traverse through such a traumatic experience. This was real life, Nipsey just happened to say it on wax.

In being that rare thread of authenticity in the fabric of the lush tapestry that makes up the world of hip-hop, Nipsey was doing the unthinkable, especially on the west coast, following in the footsteps of LA’s most transcendent rap star ever. After his death in 1996, there was a Tupac-sized void in the world of hip-hop and in the black community that just seemed like it would never be filled. Pac was the world’s most popular rapper at the time of his death, and his demise only seemed to further deify him. He always felt like more of a revolutionary than a rapper, and his death left the feeling of unfinished business. Twenty-six years simply weren’t enough for Pac to accomplish all of the things he seemed to be destined to accomplish.

Many rappers have been compared to Pac, but it always felt hyperbolic, or downright blasphemous. Over 20 years since his death, Nipsey felt like his truest heir, in all facets of life. Afforded seven more years of life than Pac, Nipsey seemed to accomplish all of the things Pac envisioned. He started businesses in his community to employ the unemployable, he looked to educate and empower the children who grew up like him in an effort to ensure they wouldn’t always have to live that life. He launched a Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math center in his neighborhood the day before he released his latest album because, as he put it, “In our culture, there's a narrative that says, 'Follow the athletes, follow the entertainers,'" he said. "And that's cool but there should be something that says, 'Follow Elon Musk, follow [Mark] Zuckerberg.’”

With all he was able to accomplish, and the way he projected his principles of empowerment onto his community and the world, Nipsey made the comparison apt. In fact, Nipsey’s legacy is probably better suited to stand on its own, because much like Pac before him. Nipsey will be immortalized, with his impact being felt long after this tragic moment, both in the community he spent his life trying to uplift and beyond.

But even in death, his life’s work lives on, and not just in song. Yes, his records are impactful, and yes, they will help countless fans through their hard times with that same cool, calm and collected tranquility he relied on to help his friend on “Blue Laces 2.” But so will the STEM center he helped launch, and the others he had hoped to launch in other cities across America. So will the basketball court he renovated across from his grandma’s house, the one that served as a refuge for him during his childhood.

 

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Damn I wish my nigga @allmoneyinfats Was here! How u die at 30 somethin After Bangin all them years Grammy Nominated In tha Sauna shedding Tears All this Money Power Fame And I can’t make u re-appear But I don’t wipe um tho... We jus embrace tha only life we kno If it was me I’d tell u nigga live yo life and grow I’d tell u finish what we started Reach Them Heights U Kno? And gas tha V12 Till tha Piping Smoke

A post shared by Nipsey Hussle (@nipseyhussle) on Feb 18, 2019 at 7:47pm PST

Nipsey Hussle was more than a rapper—he was Ermias Asghedom, son of an Eritrean immigrant, a father, brother, friend and so much more. He was an entrepreneur, a revolutionary for Eritreans and African Americans and a philanthropist determined to resurrect and restructure the community that raised him.. He was unwavering in his attempts to uplift his people and pursue true independence no matter how much he was chided, scoffed at and accosted. His death was senseless, and now we’re all stuck trying to make sense out of it.

Rappers love to say “It’s bigger than rap,” though what they’re discussing rarely is. This time is the exception. We didn’t deserve Nipsey Hussle, and now, unfortunately, we’re going to have to learn to live without him.

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She Murked It: Why Women Come Harder Than Men On Rap Features

Trina and Trick Daddy engaged in a heated back-and-forth during the Love & Hip Hop: Miami reunion, which sparked an observation within the industry. In the now-viral clip, the Florida rappers debated which one of them had the stronger, more prolific career and catalogue, which prompted the Diamond Princess to make a personal declaration regarding their professional relationship.

“My verse is harder and that’s why you mad,” she exclaimed of her sharp verse in Trick’s 1998 hit, “Nann N***a.” “I did the record for you and I killed you on the verse… I did your record and I murked you.” After her blistering feature, Trina went on to have a bountiful rap career of her own with LPs such Diamond Princess and Still da Baddest, and she’s inspired rappers in recent years, such as fellow Floridians, City Girls. On tracks like “Look Back At Me” with Killer Mike and “B R Right” by Ludacris, Trina continued to display a mastery of the craft over her male peers.

Suffice it to say, many don’t think that her recent statement is a reach—talent doesn’t discriminate, and many female rappers possess the ability to completely smash their features on popular, male-led tracks. From Philly native Ice Cream Tee spilling that tea on DJ Jazzy Jeff and the Fresh Prince’s 1987 song “Guys Ain’t Nothing But Trouble,” to Cardi B’s sizzling and sexy verse on Pardison Fontaine’s “Backin’ It Up” in 2018, women have proven time and time again that they’re not only built for this hip-hop sh*t, they’ll body those who gave them a chance to show their skills on their own turf.

Women don’t always have the platform to showcase their rap gifts as easily as they could as far as major label signings or promo goes, so why not crush it on a song by someone with the platform? Strong features prove a mastery of a craft that female rappers allegedly aren’t supposed to have. The right verse displays an MC’s style, wordplay, flow and skills with the pen, and since the birth of a now-international genre, ladies have shown they can be all that and a bag of chips.

Attempting to thrive in a male-dominated field poses challenges, including ego-tripping and combatting ghostwriting claims. Despite this, our lyrical virtuosos continue to put in the work to prove their worth on wax. Fire features often result in fruitful careers of their own outside of a male co-sign.

Since the beginning of hip-hop, ladies have been an integral force in helping to cultivate the art form. Zulu Queen Lisa Lee was the first and only female member of Afrika Bambaataa’s Soulsonic Force, who brought a flair all her own during the group’s inception in the ‘80s. Her feminine swag was felt and highly appreciated on a number of Zulu Nation Live tracks. Sharon Green, a.k.a MC Sha Rock, was also the lone female member of the Bronx hip-hop group Funky 4+1, the first rap collective to appear on national television. They were signed to Sugar Hill Records and released the singles “That’s The Joint” and “Rappin & Rocking The House.”

Instead of excluding an entire group of people who were influenced by the then-burgeoning genre, male-heavy groups brought women along for the ride, showcasing that  hip-hop was not only infectious, but inclusive. The women in these groups were treated as equals and were given the space to show their stuff. In retrospect, this could have even been a way that cosigning women in rap began. However, as time passed, the embracive aspect of the genre slowly drifted away as crews died down and an emphasis on solo-success began to take way.

While artists such as Roxane Shante, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and Salt-N-Pepa showed that multiple women could thrive at once during the ‘80s and ‘90s, it became increasingly difficult in the late-2000s when it came to distinguishing which female rapper could get shine. This later led to the belief that the game only had room for one mainstream femcee at a time. In a 2018 interview, Detroit rapper Dreezy noted the double standard between male and female MCs.

“I always feel like I’m getting compared to other females,” she said. “It’s kind of stupid because they don’t do that to the male counterparts. They all coexist, you feel me?... when it comes to females, it’s like the pit of death, like crabs in a barrel. We gotta fight for the top type of stuff.”

This “fight” for supremacy was evident between Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, who started off cordial, but egos reportedly caused a rift in the MCs’ relationship. If there are fewer female rappers gaining visibility in the mainstream, it may appear that there’s only so much space to provide attention to multiple women in hip-hop. However, this is where co-signing and featuring less-visible femcees is important.

Jane Doe’s explosive, multisyllabic rhyme scheme on Black Star’s “Twice Inna Lifetime” and Jean Grae’s humble-yet-hungry verse on Talib Kweli’s “New York Sh*t” were some of the early-aughts’ standout collabos. Both provided impactful glimpses of the heightened vocabulary, intelligent wordplay and confident sense of self both rappers brought to the industry. While these rappers aren’t necessarily household names to mainstream ears, these and many other popular features by female rappers exhibited their skills and left memorable impressions on hip-hop lovers.

The multiple facets that women possess also allows them to bring verbal fortitude while still keeping a feminine edge. This keeps listeners on their toes and curious as to what sort of vibe they’ll bring to the table if they’re featured on a song. Rapsody appeared on Kendrick Lamar’s 2015 track “Complexion (A Zulu Love),” where she supplied listeners with thought-provoking bars about the effects of colorism. Kash Doll’s sultry verse on Big Sean’s 2017 song “So Good” finds her talking her sh*t about what she can do with her man. Through her memorable lines, she was able to display that she could keep it ‘hood while also bringing the sex appeal necessary for the song.

There’s also the issue of dealing with male egos, which—as evident by the ferocity of their features—female rappers give nary a f**k about. No matter how much the genre has grown, there’s still that internal belief that hip-hop is a man’s game, and anything that may alter that archaic thought process is somehow a threat. While it shouldn’t be surprising that women rap well, it somehow still stuns people that they can spit so severely.

Take Nicki Minaj’s iconic verse on Kanye West’s “Monster.” During her Genius: Lyrical Queen event in August 2018, Minaj said that she wanted to “impress” West with her lyricism, which influenced her animated, character-driven rhymes. She also recalled that Yeezy contacted her and said people are going to think it’s the best verse on the album, and that he was “taking a chance” on her.

According to an interview with Sway Calloway in 2013, West revealed he almost didn’t put her jaw-dropping bars on the song because she blew everyone out of the water. “If I let my ego get the best of me instead of letting that girl get the shot to get that platform to be all she could be, I would take it off or marginalize her, try to stop her from having that shining moment,” he admitted.

Male MCs may have reservations when it comes to ladies doing their thing because it poses the threat of being upstaged. However, seeing them opening up and letting women flourish in the game that they’re just as much a part of allows for the genre’s initial inclusivity to come full-circle. Gender shouldn’t matter, and everyone should have a seat at the table if they deserve it. As women continue to take a stand, show their worth, and inspire the younger set of women rappers, the gatekeepers of the game have taken notice.

The belief that female rappers aren’t taken as seriously as their male counterparts when it comes to their pen game may also create a greater fervor to go hard on a feature. While it’s public knowledge that some hip-hop heavyweights have helped out with writing for female rappers, there are many women who have been open about their struggles with proving their skills.

“You know what's so crazy? N***as [say] Pap is writing for me,” an exasperated Remy Ma said in a 2017 interview regarding claims that her husband Papoose wrote her Internet-breaking Nicki Minaj-diss, “SHEther.” “Now, when n***as get "Shethered," now all of a sudden, he's writing my rhymes?” she continued. “I met Pap after "Lean Back," after "Conceited," after the "Ante Up (Remix)," after all my mixtapes. Who was writing my sh*t then?”

If you ask me, it’s a shame to think that if a female rapper murders a song or a feature, there’s the belief that she had some sort of help to come up with that fire. This isn’t to say that they haven’t had help in the past; Smooth Da Hustler reportedly assisted Foxy Brown with her rhymes on JAY-Z’s “Ain’t No N***a,” and Biggie helped Lil Kim with many of her most memorable verses. With keeping this in mind, if a self-written rhyme is too good, it’s somehow fraudulent. This way of thinking diminishes the power of the female rapper’s voice and pen, yet adversely, it allows them to continue to keep bringing heat to put the naysayers in their place.

Women have to work twice as hard and come three times as hard if they’re trying to make a statement or impact with their words in hip-hop (such is life). If female rappers are able to kill it like we know they can, a great feature has the ability to change their lives and bring more ears to their work.

Through their writing and rapping skills, women are able to provide a different insight into life in the game outside of a typical male perspective, which may also contribute to the fresh feeling listeners get when hearing a female rapper on some of their favorite tracks. The accolades that female rappers have received on these tracks and in their careers are the result of their talents, not from the fact that they could “keep up” with the boys club. While a feature helps with visibility, what keeps them relevant is the magic they make on their own.

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