Happy Black History Month! For each of the 28 days of February, we at The Mary Sue will have a post about a black woman you should know about—some you may have heard of, some a little bit more obscure, and some fictional who still deserve a lot of love.
Day Eighteen: The Queens of Rap
In 1996, the Grammy awards introduced the “Best Rap Album” award as a category at the ceremony. Since then the only female rapper to win the award was Lauryn Hill as a member of the rap group The Fugees.
In fact of the other two big rap awards “Best Rap Song” and “Best Rap Performance,” no female rapper has ever won either of them. The last female rapper to win a rap award at the Grammys was Eve in 2002 when she won “Best Rap/Sung Performance” with Gwen Stefani for the song “Let Me Blow Your Mind” sixteen years ago.
Women in rap do not get the recognition they deserve. Rap as a genre has always had to fight for its acceptance as a genuine form of musical expression and today, any music critic worth their salt is expected to acknowledge the artistry of rap. Despite that, female rap artists are still struggling to make the same waves as their male counterparts. This is why I was personally so upset that Cardi B didn’t win any awards at the Grammys this year, but I was also stunned that she, with one song, was able to break so many rap female records that were almost two decades old.
The fact that Missy Elliot, Lil’ Kim, Eve, Nicki Minaj and so many other women have come into the genre creating solid albums, selling out tours, and leaving behind legacies of amazing music, but still get little recognition from the highest award in their professions is a shame.
Female rap was one of the first places black women could express their sexuality openly, talk about the issue of domestic violence, and embrace their own badassery. All before feminism made a space for themselves, rappers like Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown and Queen Latifah were talking about their own sexual needs, declaring that they wouldn’t bother with a man who wouldn’t go down on them, or was garbage in bed. They spoke out about the sexism they faced, with men trying to take credit for their lyrics and success, while creating incredible music in the process.
Sadly, like in many entertainment fields once women get to a certain age or their bodies no longer hold sexual sway over men they are expected the float quietly out to sea. Thankfully, they are not going anywhere and especially not quietly. And even if they aren’t making the same kind of music they were years ago, they are still on their grind. The fact that Jay-Z is now allowed as a rapper to discuss fatherhood, racism, the complexity of adultery, and still being seen as a sexual man in his late 40s, while Lil’Kim was expected to be put out to pasture in her 30s, tells you all you need to know.
As we go back throughout the culture and work towards making sure the music of black artists is taken seriously, we should make sure the women are being brought along for the ride.
(via , image: Theo Wargo/Getty Images for VH1)
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