By Daniel Paiz
Welcome to the ninth edition of Cypher Sessions, where we look into all things Hip Hop, and try to look at different aspects as well. In this installment, we shall be exploring the image of women, as well as female MCs, through the three artists previously mentioned: Lupe Fiasco, Nikki Minaj, and Rapsody. What connection do all three have with one another, one may ask, and it may not be as obvious as what Lupe is doing with his newest single; don’t worry, the dots will soon be connected. Let’s start with the track that put me along this thought process in the first place.
So, Mr. Fiasco has come out with another track for Food & Liquor II, and while it isn’t as controversial as his earlier track (read here), it does bring up another topic in which many emcees usually brush this issue off or address it in a way that while showing they’re a product of their environment, also shows their contradictory usage; we are talking about the word bitch. Check out Lupe’s newest track, Bitch Bad to see what he’s saying:
Now personal views aside of the usage of this word, I really want to emphasize Lupe’s explanation of the word and how he deconstructs how both women and men think about and use this word. From hearing this song it seems to bring up the idea that people not only hear the word in different contexts, but also relate to it differently, and I think this can be exhibited with the artists that are out there today.
There are some artists who have the word in certain contexts, and have taken the word on as a rallying cry, or as something to reclaim, which has been done quite often with a large variety of words over the past recent decades. They see value in the word in that their understanding and working definition of the word, and they seem to really incorporate it into their artistic arsenal.
There are other artists who seem to not take the word on at all, and while they may not purposefully avoid the word, they do decide to positively carry themselves and allow their work to do most if not all of their talking for them. This is where the connection between Lupe Fiasco, Nikki Minaj, and Rapsody comes in. The first scenario described above is all but certain to be Minaj, while the latter tends to align more with Rapsody. Let’s delve into this a little more to show you what I mean.
While there have been many interviews in which Minaj has stated that she is doing her music for the fans, and is trying to be that positive role model for girls everywhere, it remains to be seen that with her actions, specifically what gets released and how she conducts herself. While I have not heard all of Minaj’s discography, the point here isn’t to discredit the artist, but to look at what it is that she does and how she kind of is playing along the role that Lupe discusses in regards to how women may view themselves when using the word bitch.
Also, doing songs such as “Stupid Hoe” and other songs that are related to the topic of the song isn’t necessarily the best image that one would think she would want to promote to her fans and all the young girls out there looking up to her. Some responsibility does in fact remain with the label, label head, and distributors, yes, but the artist at the end of the day, according to her own words, doesn’t want to be labeled. So, she should be doing all she can to get away from most labels this should include her defining what work gets released and doesn’t portray the image Lupe explains about women. At the other side of this spectrum, as mentioned before, is Rapsody, who has not allowed her image to be set nearly as much as Minaj has.
Rapsody hails out of North Carolina, and is signed to 9th Wonder’s Jamla Records label. This artist has an old school feel to her, and it could be why so many in the underground really rock with her and are down to cosign so quickly. Another reason so many appreciate her, and the reason why she’s brought up in this conversation, is that she has found that answer to not really being defined.
Now granted, everyone can be defined in some capacity or another, but it is pretty hard to define Rapsody because of who she has worked with, and how she has evolved along her path. She has definitely avoided the same lane and ideals that Minaj practices, and has said before in an interview with Vibe that while she respects what Nikki does, she wants to offer an alternative to what Minaj and other female emcees are doing.
Her sense of history, as well as her sense of understanding a fellow artists’ potential is something that isn’t heard too often these days with new artists, male or female. With regards to Lupe’s verses on Bitch Bad, I’m not trying to say that she is thinking about the word bitch in the same contexts as the males in the song are, but it seems she has a better understanding of the word and how it is perceived, as well as how difficult it is to attempt to do what Minaj is doing with the “reclamation” of the word.
Again, it can be a bit difficult to really say that former female artist isn’t doing all she can to help out women and girls in the Hip Hop scene, while the latter artist is doing everything right for all women out there. However, it is important to realize that both are doing what they can to rekindle the prominence that some female emcees had back in the day, and for that, there efforts can applauded.
The bottom line is that it is tough to be a woman in the Hip Hop world, and anyone that is not a heterosexual man that decides to step to the mic is already going to be having a hard time getting their music out, and listened to widely. One can only hope that Hip Hop can continue to grow and accept more and more styles of emcees, and that we can get stories out there that have yet to be heard.
Feel strongly about any of the artists mentioned above, or about how female emcees in Hip Hop are portrayed or approached? Let Cypher Sessions know in the comment section below. For Cypher Sessions, I definitely appreciate everyone who comes to this page!