In the days of Nicki Minaj being the only female rapper dominating the charts, it’s so easy to forget about the impact of female emcees in the hip-hop game from years past. Last night, BET aired it’s first original music documentary special, “My Mic sounds nice: A Truth About Women and Hip Hop”, which gave the viewer an in-depth look at the role of female rappers in the hip-hop industry.
The first part of the documentary explored the female emcee of the 80′s & 90′s, most who had to come in the game as a battle rapper. They were raw, they had no stylists and they had to rap like the guys to get respect. The special also asked the question that’s on everyone’s minds nowadays: “Why aren’t there more women in hip-hop?”
After watching the special it’s apparent that the industry is sexist. Most women who come into the game have to be co-signed by a male or be backed by a camp. Former BET host Big Lez questioned “Why do you need a male rapper to validate that this female has skills”?. Producer Jermaine Dupri chimed in that most female artists have to be developed first. “Lil Kim was a developed artist by Biggie and you could tell. Da Brat was a developed artist by me. You have to put work in to make these artists work. You don’t just put them out”.
The issue with that is that if a female rapper is introduced to the game by a male, if “anything happens to him, [it] happens to you. Historically you saw that they couldn’t stand on their own without their male counterpart“. A lot of the participants in the special also pointed out that a female emcee is a bigger risk to the labels because it can be costly developing their entire look. Budgets for female artists can become outrageous when labels factor in hair, make up and performance outfits. “For women there is this whole image that has to be built around them. And so I think labels at a certain point wanted to stop dealing with female emcees because it was too much of a headache,” said journalist Kim Osorio.
The documentary also gave a brief outlook on the careers of Lil Kim & Foxy Brown (who both rhymed about sex when they entered the game) Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot with commentary from the likes of Salt n Pepa, Roxanne Shante, Lil Mama, Missy Elliott, EVE, Trina, Rah Digga, Yo Yo, MC Lyte and more.
“Male rappers have such an amazing amount of power and influence and if they’re spending a majority of the time dissing African-American women then what is expected of the people that they are performing for or the people that are buying their records. It’s not much to be said for them wanting to spend money to hear an African-American woman speak her mind…A woman’s voice to this game right now is so extremely necessary to save it.” -MC Lyte
Kudos to BET for such a good job on exploring the rise and decline of female emcees in Hip Hop.
Watch Part 2 & 3 Below: