It’s been a popular discussion for decades now. And rightfully so. But now more than ever we're forced to assess whether female rappers are held to the same standard as men within Hip Hop. I mean think about it. When you see rap battles it's typically man versus man and woman versus woman. But where does this stem from? Let’s take it back. MC Sha Rock who is noted as the first true female MC, held her own among a group of guys. There was no separation. It was just a group, and she happened to be a girl within it. I think it’s safe to say that the only expectation is that she knew how to MC, and could hold her own. At that point since Hip Hop was just emerging, the separation hadn’t begun, and thus sexism within Hip Hop was almost non-existent. As Hip Hop moved forward we would have some of the greatest female MCs make their mark. MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa to name a few. Of course we don’t know the adversity these ladies faced in detail, but one thing was for sure — they were expected to know how to rap. During this time it would become clear that women did in fact have to hold their own in what was becoming a male dominated industry. Sex wasn’t the distraction at this point. They were expected to deliver just as much as the men. As time went on the female rapper started to develop a certain identity. We were introduced to Lil Kim who spit bars, but certainly sold sex. Sure, she could rap, but that didn’t take away from the emphasis put on her sexuality. If you’ve seen the movie Notorious, you remember the scene where she spit some very raw, aggressive bars and Biggie told her no one wanted to hear that — that they’d rather hear something sexy from a female. It was almost as if as long as she sold sex she wouldn’t be challenged by men and her lyrics wouldn’t be critiqued like her male counterparts. Around this same time you have Foxy, who is often noted as writing more straightforward, aggressive bars — more like the men. She didn’t seem as interested in dressing her lyrics up or making them more feminine, although she did have explicit lyrics here and there. Then there’s Lauryn Hill. She didn’t sell sex, and her strongpoint was her lyrical content. Again starting out with two other guys, many note her as the best lyricist among them; woman or not. Lauryn set the bar very high for women in Hip Hop. Although this is true there are still people who argue whether or not even she gets a pass based off of the fact that she was labeled more skilled among men — not other women — or whether she is really that good period. Today, when people speak of some female MCs (some Old School and some from today), the question that comes into play is did people write for them. But there’s no rage. Not much disdain from the men. It’s only mentioned matter-of-factly. Does that show inequality in expectation? Some of them are still placed on a pedestal as the hottest, greatest, etc. even though they have been known to use ghostwriters. This is an issue because whenever a male MC is known for having a ghostwriter it generally destroys their career and their legitimacy. Now you have female rappers today who’s lyrics aren’t up to par — but because they have a few underground records that SOMEWHAT put you in mind of MC talent they get boosted to the hottest or best female MC out. This would not be acceptable for a male MC — at least not for those who really love and understand the genre. For women, it could be that we are so desperate for a woman representative within Hip Hop that we don’t critique female MCs the same way we do the males. For men, it could be that they don’t see women as equal, therefore it’s not necessary to listen with the same ear. Many female MCs want to do away with the term “Female MC” all together — their sentiment is that it’s really about a female MC being able to go toe-to-toe with a male or female MC, and be judged based off of skill, not gender. Of course, it could be because there are in fact differences between men and women, and it’s a thing of having respect. Perhaps the differences between men and women would make things such as battles disrespectful and not fair game. Ultimately, it looks like sometimes we’re grasping for straws with female rappers — just wanting them to exist even when they’re mediocre. We let them slide on things like using ghostwriters and having weak lyrics when in reality subpar rhymes should be a no go for everyone — both male and female. Female rappers should be put in the same ring as males because it IS about talent right?
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