The hip-hop community has put female rappers into a box when it comes to what they can rap about in order to gain the fame and prestige that the male rappers get with more complex songs. According to the article “Women, Rap, Wreck” by Gwendolyn Pough, there are three topics that female rappers can use. She says its heterosexual courtship, the importance of female voice and a public display of physical and sexual freedom.
When looking at lyrics and the images that women of hip-hop portray they do tend to fall into the three categories described by Pough. Many times the women don’t build their careers by using all three methods but by choosing one and developing that into her mainstream image. Due to the limited amount of topics for females in order to gain success, many women may not be compromising who they are in order to meet society standards, which may be why we see so little female rappers today.
Heterosexual courtship in lyrics is a very common theme for rappers as a whole. Since rap is not known for openness of homosexuality, this is one way for a women MC to prove her sexuality. Heterosexual courtship in this context, is when a girl is trying to gain a guys’ attention and trying to develop something with him whether it be a relationship or just sexual.
There are several songs by female rappers that express these desires. One song is by Eve, titled “Gangsta Lovin.” “Gangsta Lovin” is a song about Eve and she is attracted to a guy and she want to build a relationship with him. The first verse she is telling the guy why she likes him and introducing herself. The song begins with the lines, “I ain’t tryin to lead ya on/ Just wanna ask if ya might wanna/ Gimme ya name, explain your status/ Ya know I see ya time to time/ You seem available/ Them other dudes is OK/ But I’m feelin’ you/ Want ya in the best way.”
She wants him to know that she sees him and she wants him. In the second verse she is telling him why he should like her. This verse says, “Always my shit tight/ Hair done, outfit crazy/ Skirts fit just right.” She is using her style as reasons why he should be interested in her. The third verse she talks about how he shouldn’t take so long to try to get her number and set a date with her, saying, “OK, numbers exchanged/ Now it’s in play/ Shouldn’t a took you so long/ In the first place I’m just playin’ cutie/ Yeah give me a call.
These types of songs are positive because they show that women can be in control and hold their own when it comes to relationships. Eve’s image in the video is positive in the way that is she is dressed. She has on jeans and a shirt and is it appropriate for any woman to wear if they wanted. The men in the video are the eye candy and they are topless for most of the song, which is different because other videos have women as barely clothed.
The second thing that female rappers have is the importance of female voice. Females in society have had to earn the rights to a voice. In America women couldn’t vote for a long time and couldn’t hold various jobs that were deemed for men only. That same idea is present in the hip hop culture. In the beginning of hip hop females didn’t really have a voice. They didn’t rap as much as males did so when they did get a platform they had something to prove. There are a lot of female rap songs that has this message such as Queen Latifah, Eve, Roxanne Shante, and MC Lyte. Queen Latifah does this with her song “UNITY”, Roxanne Shante does it with the “Real Roxanne” and MC Lyte does it with “Cha Cha Cha.”
MC Lyte song “Cha Cha Cha” is a song talking about how she is one of the best rappers. The first verse she is talking about how she is back and better than before. She shows this with lyrics like “I’m the dopest female that you’ve heard thus far/ and I do get better, the voice gets wetter/ Nobody gets hurt (as long as you let her)” and “In full effect, MC Lyte is back/ and better than before as if that was possible/ my competition, you’ll find them in the hospital.” She is saying she is here and she is the best and you will hear her.
The second verse she is doing more bragging about her self by telling the world who she is with lyrics like “You’re new in town, and you’re looking around/ For another name to ruin, and it’s me that you’re pursuing? / Well well well, I’ll be damned/ I might as well tell you who I am/ I am the capital L-Y-T-E.” This message is a positive one as well. It’s letting the world know that female rappers are here and they are good. Her image in the video her image is equal to men. The equality is expressed by the clothing the men and women are wearing, because of their clothing it has put them on an equal playing field because one isn’t being sexualize or dominate over the other. Women rappers do not always use this platform as a means to gain an equality to men, some decide sexuality is a better route.
Public display of physical and sexual freedom is when an artist talks about guys and what they want to do with them, or when they talk about why they love them physically. Salt N Pepa has songs that prove women talk about public display of physical and sexual freedom just like men. The Salt N Pepa songs that shows this idea is “Whatta Man” and “Shoop.” “Shoop” is about Salt N Pepa talking about the type of men they like and Whatta Man is a song talking about Salt N Pepa’s man and why the love them.
These songs have lines that talk about sex, and men’s body parts. “Shoop” opens up with a line “Here I go, here I go, here I go again (again?) Girls, what’s my weakness? (Men!).” That was unheard of; women did not say things like that. Other lines in that song like “The brother had it goin’ on with somethin’ kinda…uh Wicked, wicked (oooo) – had to kick it /I’m not shy so I asked for the digits. /A ho? No, that don’t make me./ See what I want slip slide to it swifty” addresses that idea.
Just because a female ask a guy for his number people think she is a hoe. In reality it’s like Pepa said she just knows what she wants and she goes after it. There is another line in “Shoop” Salt say “Ummm, you’re packed and you’re stacked ‘specially in the back Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that (thanks, Mom) /Can I get some fries with that shake-shake bootie?” and in “Whatta Man” she says, “My man gives real loving that’s why I call him Killer./ He’s not a wham-bam-thank-you-ma’am, he’s a thriller./ He takes his time and does everything right./ Knocks me out with one shot for the rest of the night.”
Now if a man said something like that it would be fine, but since a female said that she must be a woman who sleeps around or something. She is only saying what she likes about a man’s body. This is done in a positive way, they are saying what they want and they are doing it in classy way and not being promiscuous about it.
The topic of public display of physical and sexual freedom can be a risky topic. It can be positive and it could be negative. The way Salt N Pepa raps about it is positive, but the way Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj do it makes it negative. Lil Kim song “How Many Licks” and Nicki Minaj song “Sex in Crazy Places” make this topic negative. Lil Kim song “How Many Licks” is sexually explicit and taints her image. Some of her lyrics for that song is “Damn my nigga from Down South/ Used to like me to spank him and cum in his mouth/ And Tony he was Italian (Uh-huh)”.
That is just one line and the whole song is actually worse. Nicki Minaj songs are just like that as well. Their image and the way that they are choosing to handle this topic makes female’s look negative. Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj both have a picture where they are crouching down with their legs open. They put themselves in a provocative and sexualize light. Those songs and images make the last topic for female rappers look negative.
Females have to rap about these topics in order to be successful according to the article “Why We Can’t Handle More Female Rappers” by Tyler Lewis explains that idea. She says “y’all coulda bought Bahamadia’s album or Lady of Rage’s album when you bought Hard Core. But you didn’t. And you can buy Rah Digga’s new joint or Mae Day or Hedonis da Amazon, while you scoop up 300,000+ copies of Pink Friday, which ineptly uses hip hop as a kind of condiment to spice up what is basically a not-surprisingly shallow electro-pop album.” Bahamadia and Lady of Rage’s albums are hard-core gangster rap songs and Hard Core album is a Lil Kim album. Pink Friday is Nicki Minaj debut album. So, Lewis is saying that people who don’t talk about sex, courtship, or having a voice won’t make any money.
That fact that female rappers are put in this box could be one of the reasons they are few female rappers today. In Lewis article she also says that the music industry doesn’t support and promote females with different topics in their songs. She says “The truth is that it serves the interest of a music industry that does not want to (or doesn’t know how to) support and promote a variety of female emcees.” In the book Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology writing by Gwendolyn Pough, Elaine Richardson, Aisha Durham, and Rachel Raimist, Richardson is interview Toni Blackman and she gives advice on what she feels female rappers should do. Blackman says “It’s on the women to make this next change and it’s on the women to elevate hip hop. It’s on the women to change hip hop period.” Nothing will change until women decide that they want it to change.