All Hail the Queens
In the late 1980s, a single brazen female changed the entire game. MC Lyte, the first solo female rapper to release a full album, introduced a sound as smooth as cappuccino, with hardcore lyrics that raised the bar for every serious rapper who wanted to stay in or join the rap game- male or female- without any costume changes. She boldly emerged without gimmicks and delivered everything from career-ending battle rhymes (Shut the Eff Up) to lyrical boasts (Cha Cha Cha) to stories about love (When in Love) or heartbreak (Poor Georgie) to party jams (Cold Rock A Party) to sociopolitical tales (I Cram to Understand U) to girl power anthems (I’m Not Havin’ It). Later in her career, her prophetic commentary TRG (The Rap Game) may have shed some lyte on how this de-evolution, in fact, occurred.
Other than the lyrical decimation itself, the worst part of the MC Lyte/ Antionette beef was that Antionette was actually a decent emcee who may have enjoyed a longer stint, had she relented just one track earlier. In a short amount of time, MC Lyte paved the way for other no-nonsense, solo artists such as Ice Cream Tee (Can’t Hold Back), Sweet Tee (On the Smooth Tip), Nikki D (Daddy’s Little Girl), London-born, Monie Love (Monie in the Middle) and the multi-talented, charismatic Queen Latifah (Ladies First). These lyrically gifted artists were articulate, beautiful, feminine, confident, respected… and fully dressed. They made their own money, wrote their own rhymes (for the most part), and released full albums, while also making appearances on songs of their male peers. It may be surprising that with the sudden emergence of all of these women, there was no beef among them. They did however, frequently shame, then uplift self-destructive women whom they considered “skeezers”. These ladies spent their energy speaking against the rampant sexism and misogyny within the hip-hop community, which the female rappers of today seem to embrace, if not embody.
Stompin’ Into The 90s
From the late 80s, thru the mid-90s, a rapper could only be taken seriously if he or she produced eloquent lyrics over tight beats. For most, this time is considered the golden age of hip-hop. Artists were not only above ground, but also easily found in record stores, on the radio during the day, on television shows, winning mainstream awards and even running record labels. Male artists were even making songs to uplift women. During this time, many blame the dawning of gangsta rap for eclipsing the magnificence of uplifting, conscious rap, which had become relatively mainstream. The first femme from the west was Yo-Yo. Although she was a product of gangsta rap, she created numerous anthems which staunchly opposed the mistreatment of women that was glorified by her male counterparts.
Re-insert Roxanne Shante’ who decided to do what she knew: Battle. In 1991, she released Big Mama, a call (read: scathing diss) for all female rappers to pay homage to her as the first, greatest, biggest, baddest female emcee- EVER. For some reason, she believed that it was an opportune time to attack MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Monie Love, Salt-n-Pepa, and Yo-Yo. Earlier, she made fun of JJ Fad’s commercial success with “Whack It”, but that’s understandable. Lyte, Latifah and Yo-Yo fought back… *uncomfortable silence*
In the same vein, as Yo-Yo’s militant, thought-provoking, feminist style, Public Enemy protégé, Sister Souljah and X-Clan protégé, Isis (later known as Lin Que), created moderate hits, with timeless, empowering messages. Although MC Trouble [rest in peace] passed away shortly after releasing her first hit, she was respected as an emcee with a promising future. The Miami-based MC Luscious (Boom! I Got Your Boyfriend) was a joke, a guilty pleasure, if anything. Ironically, she may have had a greater influence on today’s femcee than anyone mentioned until now. Her simple lyrics, juvenile delivery, lack of content, focus on materialism, and catchy hook may have been the beginning of the end.
Just as C. Deloris Tucker, Dionne Warwick, and several other high-profile moral activists called for a boycott against gangsta-rap artists, self-proclaimed gangsta B’s began popping up all over the country: Lady of Rage, Suga-T, Bo$$, Sh’killa, Sonya C, Mia X, Hoes Wit Attitudes, Bytches With Problems, Conscious Daughters, and later, Gangsta Boo, took pride in stealing, dealing, killing, drinking, drugging and doing anything else that warranted being called out of their names. Lyrically, Rage (Afro Puffs) is arguably one of the best females to have blessed the mic, however her content did nothing to uplift women. With their verbal and (threats of) physical assaults on other women, these hopeless, potty-mouthed artists were finally granting men permission for them to be disrespected- not that it was needed. Sadly, the decline was gaining momentum.
Continued in Part 3>>>