Recently, I ran across an article written by Steven Horowitz of HipHopDX in which he delves into the return of the female rap movement. He explores the effect that Nicki Minaj has had on combining hip hop and more mainstream music along with discussing the contributions of newcomers like Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea. Check out some of what he had to say below:
On Nicki Minaj:
At the onset of her career, she had it all – the body, the lyrics, the co-sign – but she instead predicated her image on eccentricities: alter egos, accents, rhymes about being an alien. It’s that embrace of the bizarre that made her such a captivating figure and pushed her into pop territory, where weird is welcome. Regardless of how her music has evolved, she came from a place that took a tired template and mutated it, taking chances rarely seen across the gender divide.
Her effect on mainstream culture has rippled through the Hip Hop community. While some refer her ascent to the top of pop’s ranks as “bullshit,” it’s cracked the back door open, and even inspired the demand, for a stronger female voice in mainstream Hip Hop.
On the proliferation of female hip-hop/rap artists during 2012:
Vastly talented emcees such as Jean Grae, Bahamadia and Invincible have stayed active and earned their respect over time, but since the start of 2012, a crop of newbs including Azealia Banks, Kitty Pryde and Iggy Azalea have pilfered pages from the Minaj handbook and used otherness as a catalyst to accrue mainstream attention.
On Azealia Banks:
Banks has hugged her strange tightly. Once a hopeful emcee signed to XL Recordings, the Harlem, New York native contemplated quitting Hip Hop before unleashing the Rap kraken with “212,” a mammoth dance record that smacked listeners square across the melon. Over a Lazy Jay-helmed beat, the 21-year-old declares alliterative warfare, sarcastically capping verses with perpetually satisfying punchlines (“I’ma ruin you cunt” and “I guess that cunt gettin’ eaten” quickly became colloquial staples).
Banks is an artist who can casually traipse the divide between stylized and street – a Minaj cornerstone that made “Roman’s Revenge” stand tall next to “Your Love.” She’s taking that chance by being other; her talent is shaking hands with her identity. And it’s hard to discern which inspires the other.
On Gender Disparities in the Hip-Hop/Rap Industry:
Even in 2012, isolating gender from Hip Hop is an impossibility, particularly in critical discourse. Some female rappers have outright acknowledged this. There’s this line, for example, that’s looped in my mind for years. During a freestyle alongside her former partner-in-rhyme Fat Joe, the currently incarcerated Remy Ma growls, “Shit, I spit, as if I had a dick.” The gender politics at play in that one line are expansive, but there’s realism to her aside. The game is perpetually washed in testosterone: for every female rapper who cracks even the middle ranks, there are dozens of male emcees claiming mimetic success. Women are expected to be one of the boys in order to attain that same level of notoriety, or have a stamp of approval from one of Hip Hop’s elite to get there. It’s a backwards system that’s getting reversed.
Read the entire article here.
Steve Horowitz makes a very valid observation–Nicki Minaj has been a major contributor to the resurgence of female hip-hop artists and rappers during 2012. Part of it has been that some artists have been observant of Nicki’s crossover success and want to emulate that; others, wanting to be the antithesis of Nicki’s work, have made strides to create more presence in order to be seen as an alternative to Nicki Minaj. Regardless of what the motive may be, it cannot be denied that Nicki Minaj’s success has inspired others to jump in the game and ramp up their exposure or jump back into the game and reclaim their place.
While Steven Horowitz certainly chooses to focus on the artists who have major label backing, his observations are not to be dismissed. There are several artists that I would have liked to see him mentioned; however, with the explosion of the use of the Internet through vehicles such as Facebook, Youtube, Twitter, Soundcloud, and blogs like The Femme MC (ha!), female hip-hop and rap artists have a plethora of outlets to use to expose their artistry and gain following. Each dedicated artist has a place along the spectrum.
What are your thoughts?