Happy Women’s History Month!
I’ve realized that when we commemorate the great things that particular groups of people have done, most of the focus is on people we’ve already put on a pedestal. For example, during Black History Month, a lot of people talk about the contributions of the already well-known participants of the Civil Rights Movement. To me, that narrative is redundant. There’s more to black history than a handful of people, there’s more to black history than the Civil Rights Movement, and there’s more to black history than one particular time period. I’m guilty of placing a focus on the major players at times, but I hope to break myself out of that habit by always being a student and consistently learning more about history, especially the parts of history that matter to me most.
The importance of this month has given me the opportunity to research, learn about, and shed light on some of the contributions of women, particularly women of color, in various genres of music. Since Transcending Sound focuses on hip-hop, R&B and jazz, I thought I’d share some (out of SO MANY) of the awesome artists I listen to and have learned about in those genres. This week’s HERStory genre is hip-hop, so keep reading about six women from the past and present that have and are currently killing it in the game that we don’t talk about often.
My first memory of hip-hop was in the summer of 1996.
I was seven turning eight. My sister and my older brother were always bumping one of their favorite artists from their portable CD player boombox. Those artists weren’t 2Pac and Biggie; those artists were Nas and Jay-Z. It Was Written and Reasonable Doubt dropped in July and June. For some reason, I couldn’t get into Jay-Z’s music, but Nas? My first memory was being in my brother’s room listening to “Black Girl Lost.” I didn’t know what he was saying at that age, but I know how I felt…and I felt awe.
I love hip-hop, even though there are faults in it. I mean, it is a genre where a good bit of the narrative is about degrading women. But to me, the positive messages and the contributions of women, even though they are overlooked, overshadow some of those faults. From one of the first women to be signed to a record label to the up-and-coming artists, female emcees were killing it in the past, are killing it now, and will continue to kill the mic in the future. Peep some of the artists that you may not know of, or haven’t heard from in a while, below:
When most people talk about women in hip-hop, they mention Roxanne Shanté first because of her stardom as one of the first major female emcees. However, MC Sha-Rock is a pioneer that most people don’t recognize, and that’s truly a shame. Sha-Rock is known as the “Mother of the Mic” for her work with the Bronx rap group The Funky 4 + 1, the first hip-hop group to have a record deal and to perform on national TV via SNL. She’s currently a national advisor for Cornell University’s Hip Hop Library collection and has been working in the criminal justice field. Peep the legendary SNL performance of “That’s The Joint” below, which is celebrating its 35th year anniversary (start at the 11 minute mark).
I was a fan of the London born emcee Monie Love as soon as I heard her feature on Queen Latifah’s “Ladies First.” I think it’s what made me like Amanda Seales (formerly known as Amanda Diva) as an artist: her cadence, her flow, and her eccentricity. Outside of her work with Queen Latifah, Monie had hits like “Monie In The Middle” and “It’s A Shame (My Sister),” songs filled with fun and female empowerment. The GRAMMY-nominated emcee is currently a co-host on the Ed Lover Show. Peep this cool interview she did where she talks about the story behind a particular line from “Monie In The Middle” with DJ D-Nice below.
Ladybug Mecca (or DJ Lady Mecca) is too cool with the bars like that. (See what I did there? No? Okay.) Her chill yet thought-provoking bars as a solo artist and member of 90s hip-hop trio Digable Planets are just the tip of the iceberg. The DMV native is a daughter of Afro-Brazilian musicians, and along with emceeing, she is a singer-songwriter, producer and DJ. Mecca is still creating music and DJing, and I hope to hear some dope music from her soon. Peep one of my favorite videos from her, “Dogg Starr,” below.
I was a little late in the game in finding out about Jean Grae, but when I did, I laughed then cried (because I laughed so hard). I find her music (Bandcamp and iTunes) to be so awesome, not just because of her hilarity, but because she’s amazing with wordplay and delivery. The first project I heard, which was Cookies or Comas, made me listen to more of her music and watch her YouTube videos. The South African born and Brooklyn bred emcee, singer and actress, mostly known for her work with Talib Kweli, is so witty with everything she does. I hope that wit comes back via her YouTube series. Life With Jeannie was dope. Peep some of her wittiness through this interview via WatchLoud about her acting role on 2 Broke Girls below.
I found out about Sa-Roc last year from a friend. I heard the DMV born & ATL living emcee for the first time via her mixtape, The Legend of Black Moses, and I was blown away. Sa-Roc’s bars, subject matter, and delivery are lethal. The GodHop she reps is so real. You can’t do anything but nod, make an ugly face, and throw a fist up in the air while listening to her music, and this includes Gift of the Magi. Check out the God MC’s music and her YouTube channel. Check out this super informative interview on her below.
Illustrated, iLL Camille’s second mixtape, is the first joint I heard from her. Her chill voice and her storytelling abilities are indeed ill and it’s a shame that she’s so slept on. The LA emcee is a member of the Vibe Music Collective and has provided serious talent via bars and vocals. Some of the biggest hip-hop artists out of LA in the past five years have included Camille in their projects. You know Kendrick Lamar’s “Sing About Me, I’m Dying of Thirst,” right? She provides vocals on there. Terrace Martin’s “Something Else” remix starts off with her dope verse. She also directed the music video for Terrace Martin’s “You’re The One.” Shall I keep going? I’m looking forward to seeing and hearing more from her, hopefully Illustrated B-Sides. Peep one of iLL Camille’s interviews below.