Ed Buck And The Black Queer Lives That Don't Matter

How many more black queer lives must be lost before a stop is put to this?

The saying goes “history often repeats itself” but for those who are black and Queer, that history is often violent and unprotected.

A déjà vu moment for the LGBTQ community happened last week when reports surfaced of another black gay man dying in the home of wealthy Democratic donor Ed Buck. New and disturbingly fresh to some, the story isn’t only stranger than fiction but proves gay black men are fetishized in plain sight.

Let’s back up a bit. On July 27, 2017, police were called to the home of Buck in West Hollywood, Calif., where the body of 26-year-old Gemmel Moore was found unresponsive. The Los Angeles coroner's office would initially rule Gemmel’s death an overdose of crystal methamphetamine—a growing problem within the LGBTQ community. However, there was an immediate outcry from the black queer community, as the narrative between Moore and Buck raised more questions than answers.

Today would've been Gemmel's 28h birthday. Instead of celebrations and Instagram posts from friends, Gemmel's legacy in the public sphere is that of a sex worker—a stirring attempt to discredit his worth while subtly blaming the victim for his own death. We have seen this occur many times when discussing the LGBTQ sex worker community. Transgender women are also painted as such in stories to devalue their worth. Far too often, sex workers endure victim blaming and shaming. A societal standard that contributes to the notion that sex workers are partly liable in their own deaths because of “risk” involved with the industry, intersected with mainstream views about sex work, not fitting standards or respectability.

Questions began to arise about why Buck, a 65-year-old white man, and social-political butterfly to Democratic party members like Hillary Clinton would have someone 39 years his junior in his home doing drugs. As more reporting by activist and journalist Jasmyne Cannick and others continued, a tale of privilege, wealth, and sexual exploitation became the new narrative of story many simply tried to bury.

Reports were coming out from other young black queer men who had dealings with Buck, many of them detailing his drugging of them with meth by needle—a technique called “pointing.” Entries from Gemmel's journal were also published by Cannick, revealing just how much pain and madness he was subjected to, including Buck, reportedly getting the 26-year-old hooked on drugs for sexual pleasure.

It is not easy to live at the intersection of being Black and Queer. It’s a double marginalization where we often find ourselves devoid of allies. On one side we have our own community which like all others, deals with homophobia. That homophobia often times bleeds into social justice work around black queer people. People who feel race should come first and be the only concern.

Black queer people are often fighting for others who would never fight for them. We have been conditioned by white supremacy to fall prey to respectability politics that makes us see anything other than cishet as an attack against our own community.

Despite the painful evidence, media began doing what it does with most black victims—painting them as the deviant and the abuser as the one being victimized. Gemmel was painted as a drug-addicted sex worker, an attempt at dehumanizing his value.

The views of sex work in the United States intersected with Gemmel being from a marginalized community was a tactic that saw many blaming the victim, rather than the manipulative predatory Buck, who was being protected by his wealth, whiteness, and proximity to those in power.

Following the LA coroner’s report, social media outrage eventually forced the LA Sheriff’s department to give the full investigation into the matter that it deserved. Unfortunately, after several months of getting statements and going over the evidence, the LA prosecutor's office refused to indict Buck, leaving the family and black LGBTQ community feeling hopeless that Gemmel would ever get justice.

However, last week news broke that a second black gay man by the name of Timothy Dean was found dead in the home of ...Ed Buck. This time around, media coverage was immediate as multiple major outlets covered the story about the 55-year-old victim, a significant change from the first death. With circumstances surrounding the incident much like the first time, the story was hard to ignore with national coverage happening almost immediately. Responders arrived at Buck's home to find Dean unresponsive by an apparent overdose.

Immediately, Buck’s lawyers issued a statement removing him of all culpability and once again blaming the victim for his own death. “From what I know, it was an old friend who died of an accidental overdose, and unfortunately, we believe that the substance was ingested at some place other than the apartment,” said Seymour Amster, Buck’s attorney. “The person came over intoxicated.”

With this being the second occurrence of death at his home, investigators were more eager to look into the situation—as was the media who showed up to the home of Buck that evening looking for comment. What most were greeted by was outraged citizens, many of whom were from the black queer community that has remained steadfast since last year.

Dozens of activists and community members protested in front of the home of Buck following the second death. During the rally, several citizens spoke out including Cannick. She challenged several city council members who showed up to the rally about how disengaged and harmful they had been the first time this happened, and how their support now was questionable at best. This is an important sentiment in the story because much of Buck’s protection came in the form of those he donated too, on both a micro and macro level.

When the first death occurred in his home in 2017, politicians refused to release statements about the situation. There were some rumblings from GOP members, but only because he was a donor to the Democratic Party, not because of who the victim was—partly why the buzz died down as media coverage went away.

For his political allies, there was too much at stake. With President Donald Trump creating more turmoil between the major political parties and the #MeToo movement surrounding the behaviors targeting those in Hollywood, there seemed to be limited space to care for black life–an aspect we’re used to these days.

On a micro level, these same city council members who accepted funds from Buck in the past were silent in the first death. Not wanting to ruffle feathers with the wealthy donor, choosing allegiance to secure funding over the life of Gemmel Moore. But now, the political climate has changed. In November of 2018, the Democratic Party took back the House of Representatives, all about removing any shielding Buck may have from the party. Once word broke of a second death, those who were silent are now issuing statements and sending money back that was donated by Buck.

Black lives, in general, are not protected in media nor community. White people are more concerned about preserving power and privilege then every affording us equity and justice. This sentiment bleeds into the white queer community, which has also helped to oppress black queer people.

Most recently, comedian Ellen DeGeneres spoke up on behalf of a community she did not belong to offer forgiveness to Kevin Hart for his comments about the gay community. However, when it is someone from her own community causing harm to black queer people, (ie: Buck) she like many other white queer people are nowhere to be found. It only adds to people who love to partake in our culture while turning a blind eye or aiding in our oppression.

This is a challenge to all communities witnessing the atrocities that black queer people are facing in this country. Your silence has become complicity in our death. It should not have taken for a second dead body to be found at the home of Ed Buck for people to join in solidarity with us. We have experienced this type of violence against our community for far too long with no justice in our plight.

Ed Buck is using his wealth, class, and power to manipulate black queer men who are vulnerable. Men who are sex workers or struggling to make a livable wage to sustain their own existence. Men who are already caught up in the meth epidemic and fall prey to sexual exploitation in return from drugs. How many more lives must be lost before a stop is put to this?

In the coming days, it will be more important than ever that media coverage does not let up and continues to press the LA Sheriff’s Office to not commit the same mistake twice. If black lives truly matter, then we must be more vocal and fervent in our fight when they fall among the most marginalized. This is a continuing story, one that we will not only cover but see through till the end—an end that looks like justice for Gemmel Moore, Timothy Dean, and the black queer lives that continue to go unprotected.

George M Johnson is a journalist and activist living in Brooklyn NY with features in over 40 publications including Vibe, Essence, VICE, and Buzzfeed. His debut YA memoir “All Boys Aren’t Blue” is scheduled to be released January 2020 through FSG.

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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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