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HomeEntertainmentMusicMotherlode Writer Clover Hope on Girls in Hip-Hop Historical past

Motherlode Writer Clover Hope on Girls in Hip-Hop Historical past


When Clover Hope began brainstorming her first ebook a few years in the past, the Pitchfork editor/adjunct NYU professor saved coming again to 1 matter: the sparsely instructed storylines of ladies in hip-hop. 

“Now we have so many histories of males who have been large in hip-hop from the start till now,” explains Hope. “I needed to inform the identical story from the angle of somebody like me, a younger lady who’s a fan however doesn’t all the time see themselves mirrored within the tradition the identical manner that guys do. Type of a coming-of-age celebration of the ladies who made the tradition — an alternate historical past of one thing folks already know.”

She didn’t simply scratch the floor with stars like Salt-N-Pepa, Lil’ Kim, and Queen Latifah, both. True to its title, The Motherlode options “100+ girls who made hip-hop,” making it the definitive account of a subject writers have taken far too lengthy to correctly inform.

Within the following interview, Hope discusses every part from the stunning lack of feminine rap crews to the lengthy and winding street that led us to modern-day MCs like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B.


DO YOU HAVE A THEORY AS TO WHO THE “FIRST FEMALE RAPPER” WAS, OR IS THAT TOO CONTROVERSIAL TO GO ON THE RECORD WITH? 

It is type of tough as a result of the phrase “first” comes with so many potentialities. For the aim of historical past — simply primarily based on the folks I spoke to, and the sequence of occasions — I feel we may give credit score to MC Sha-Rock. 

Exterior of that, there have been so many ladies creating the tradition at the moment. An enormous a part of the talk with girls was that as a result of they didn’t get recognition, that title means quite a bit to them. It’s like, ‘You do not even bear in mind us for even being round.’ So they need that title to make them part of historical past.

MOST OF THE WOMEN IN YOUR BOOK ARE BLACK, AND ALMOST ALL OF THE OTHERS ARE BIPOC. WOMEN IN RAP SEEM LIKE A PARTICULARLY INTERSECTIONAL TOPIC, AS WE’RE TALKING ABOUT WOMEN IN A LARGELY MALE GENRE AND INDUSTRY, AND BIPOC MUSICIANS IN AN INDUSTRY WITH AN INCREDIBLE HISTORY OF EXPLOITING NON-WHITE MUSICIANS. DO YOU THINK THAT THE INCREASING INTEREST (AND/OR LIP SERVICE) IN DE&I IN TERMS OF BOTH BIPOC AND WOMEN AND GENDER MINORITIES AMONG THE TOP MUSIC COMPANIES, PARTICULARLY MAJORS, WILL HAVE A KNOCK-ON EFFECT IN OPENING DOORS TO WOMEN RAPPERS? OR WILL THIS HAVE TO COME FROM WITHIN THE GRASSROOTS SCENES AND/OR FORCE THEM INTO ACTION WITH VIRAL SUCCESS?

I feel it will likely be somewhat little bit of each. The proliferation of ladies rappers proper now can have an ongoing impact as a result of individuals are all the time in search of what works — for the following Megan Thee Stallion, the following Cardi B…. In that sense, it permits for extra of an inflow of younger voices and people who find themselves simply making an attempt to get into the door.

After which if they will’t get into the door that manner, they’ve this different mannequin of viral success — of ranging from the bottom up by yourself, by way of the web. Somebody like Dojo Cat… Earlier than she turned one of many greatest pop stars proper now, she had a type of novelty tune a few cow.

WHAT WAS THE MOST SURPRISING STORY YOU HEARD WHILE WORKING ON THE BOOK? HOW ABOUT THE WILDEST FACT? (I AM OBSESSED WITH THE SEQUENCE’S CHEERLEADING CONNECTION, PERSONALLY.)

That one was a superb instance as a result of I used to be in search of methods into every artist that would not simply be an encyclopedia entry — like “so-and-so was born in blah, blah, blah.”

I needed it to be like, ‘All proper, what was particular about them?’ Type of like a profile, like what can I lead with? With The Sequence, they have been cheerleaders in highschool, and their file “Funk You Up” is just like the equal of them chanting throughout a sport or one thing. They type of [applied] that spirit to their songs. 

That was additionally a really early instance of hip-hop with rhythmic singing. Numerous hip-hop began out that manner. It’s funky occasion music — tremendous upbeat and set to rapping. 

I’m making an attempt to recollect [other stories] ‘trigger I spoke to so many various girls…. One nice one was Heather B. She has this connection to actuality TV by way of The Actual World and began out as a rapper. You recognize, she was in all probability the primary Black girl on actuality TV since The Actual World was the primary actuality present and she or he was on the primary season. With issues like that, you see the influence these girls had not simply on music, however in different types of leisure and tradition.

THE QUESTION OF LABELING CAME UP A LOT AMONG THE ARTISTS PROFILED IN YOUR BOOK. DO YOU THINK WE’LL EVER GET TO THE POINT WHERE, LIKE REMY MA WANTED, WOMEN RAPPERS ARE JUST CALLED “RAPPERS,” LIKE DOCTORS OR LAWYERS? OR SHOULD WE JUST BE GRATEFUL THAT “FEMCEE” DIDN’T TAKE?

I do suppose that’s taking place perhaps. A little bit bit, very slowly, as a result of I feel when folks see a Cardi B or Megan Thee Stallion, they’re not the identical…. After they put out a tune like “WAP,” that brings consideration to girls rapping, clearly. You recognize, “feminine rapper Cardi B.” However I additionally suppose it’s only a [great] rap tune normally. 

So perhaps alongside the best way, that phrase doesn’t should be a qualifier. I feel we have to get to some extent the place it is so regular that individuals do not even give it some thought. The place it is like, ‘Oh yeah, of course, now we have two girls within the High 10 of the charts.’ In the identical manner that individuals are getting rid of sure labels on the subject of gender or sexuality; we’re type of transferring in that route. 

THE EARLY HIP-HOP WORLD WAS SO FOCUSED ON “CREWS,” MANY OF WHICH HAD NO WOMEN. AND THOSE THAT DID SEEMED TO HAVE THEIR ONE TOKEN FEMALE MEMBER. IT REMINDS ME OF THE CURRENT UNDERGROUND HIP-HOP WORLD, WHICH IS SO FOCUSED ON LABELS AND PRODUCTION COLLECTIVES — WHICH ALSO OFTEN SEEM TO HAVE THEIR ONE TOKEN WOMAN RAPPER WHO DOESN’T NECESSARILY GET THE SAME SHINE AS THE “STAR” MALE RAPPERS. GRISELDA WITH ARMANI CAESAR, AND TRUST ARMY WITH CHE NOIR, FOR EXAMPLE. THE BIGGER INDEPENDENT WOMEN RAPPERS TODAY — LIKE NONAME, YOUNG M.A., CUPCAKKE, AND PRINCESS NOKIA — ALL SEEM TO BE GOING IT ALONE. HAVE YOU NOTICED THIS, AND DO YOU HAVE ANY THOUGHTS ON WHY THIS MIGHT BE? WHY ISN’T THERE JUST, LIKE, A GRISELDA, BUT IT’S WOMEN. 

I do know — precisely. I imply, that is an ideal query. It makes me consider the [Chrome 23] sequence Remy Ma has popping out. It’s a battle rap present with all girls. It is type of loopy we’ve not had one thing like that, in the identical manner, that it is loopy that there hasn’t been an all-female rap crew. 

After I talked about The Mercedes Girls initially of the ebook, they have been round within the ‘70s. It simply would not occur [anymore]. I’d like to see a team-up the place it is like…. You recognize, Griselda is a superb instance — crews like that, ASAP Mob, or Odd Future. That they had Syd [tha Kyd]; there’s positively house for that. 

Perhaps as a result of there are so few that get within the door to start with, it is arduous for there to be a crew to settle into that house. I do suppose that it might be the following frontier, as a result of  — precisely what you mentioned — it might be big. It might be like, ‘Oh wow, we’ve not seen this earlier than.’ So long as they’re gifted, and so they every have their very own type of distinctive factor. I may see a gaggle like that having a huge impact on the best way Griselda does…. We have to make it occur. 

IT SEEMS LIKE WOMEN RAPPERS ARE REQUIRED TO BE HYPER TECHNICALLY ADEPT (AND USUALLY FAST) TO BECOME “RESPECTABLE” AND POPULAR. I’M THINKING OF VIRTUOSOS LIKE MEGAN & NICKI; IT ALMOST FEELS LIKE THAT’S THE BARE MINIMUM FOR A WOMAN RAPPER TO CROSS OVER TO THE HEADS AS WELL AS THE POP WORLD, WHEREAS THERE IS MORE LEEWAY FOR MEN TO HAVE DIFFERENT STYLES. DO YOU THINK THIS IS JUST THE “BACKWARDS, IN HEELS” OF RAP, OR IS THERE MORE TO IT BASED ON THE HISTORY OF THE GENRE AND WOMEN’S INVOLVEMENT?

Yeah, I do suppose that Nicki’s success confirmed — and she or he was very vocal about this — that with a view to break [through], she did have to penetrate the pop house like earlier business [artists]… Lauryn Hill was the largest instance of this — of getting a No. 1 single. That may be very uncommon.

I feel girls rappers know that to ensure that them to interrupt outdoors of the unbiased house, or be a part of a crew or one thing, there is a sure viewers they’ve to achieve. I feel Nicki put the pop into her music, whereas somebody like Eve — somebody very road — did pop [music] with Gwen Stefani. That helped her get away much more. 

Nicki actively tried to [walk] that line by placing singing and Euro-style beats in her songs, and dealing with David Guetta. I feel that helped open the doorways…. Doja Cat is the largest instance of a Nicki spawn making rap music that’s meant to be pop.

I feel rap must cross over with a view to be business as a result of American followers are predominantly white. You possibly can’t be one thing like Griselda. I am undecided in the event that they’re on the charts like that, [but] they’re tremendous large within the rap house… Any rapper wants to interrupt into that [pop] world with a view to be acknowledged or grow to be a family identify.

THAT TOTALLY MAKES SENSE. AND THERE IS THAT TENSION BETWEEN IF YOU’RE ‘GOING POP’ BUT ALSO HAVE THIS EXTREME TECHNICAL SKILL — OF WHETHER YOU ARE ABLE TO LIKE TOW THAT LINE. 

It is a arduous one as a result of authenticity remains to be a factor in hip-hop, and I feel it is positively extra accepted to type of coloration outdoors the traces somewhat bit…. Kendrick [Lamar] is likely to be the closest to somebody who blurs the traces somewhat bit. It would be nice to get a girl who was doing the identical factor that he has accomplished up to now few years.

ONE HUNDRED PERCENT. THAT’S A GREAT EXAMPLE — A RAPPER WHO’S REALLY POPULAR BUT STILL PUSHES BOUNDARIES. YOU MENTION THE “DROUGHT” OF WOMEN IN THE MAINSTREAM RAP SCENE BETWEEN LIL’ KIM AND NICKI MINAJ. I’M CURIOUS IF YOU HAVE ANY IDEAS ABOUT WHY THAT HAPPENED AND WHAT IT WAS ABOUT THAT TIME PERIOD, AND NICKI SPECIFICALLY, THAT ENABLED HER TO BREAK THROUGH THAT INDUSTRY INERTIA?

The music trade was having an identification disaster between the late ‘90s and the [emergence of] boy bands and issues like that. It was across the identical time that individuals have been downloading music illegally on Napster and labels didn’t know what to do with folks not wanting to purchase CDs.

I feel that was an enormous transitional interval normally, the place [the music industry] had to determine tips on how to market to individuals who weren’t essentially shopping for information. And in the course of that, girls MCs type of fell by way of the cracks.

You recognize, you had that period of, like, Eve and Trina — the early 2000s-ish — after which there was somewhat little bit of a drop-off earlier than Nicki. It was like there have been no girls on the charts. It’s like that they had this identification disaster and had to determine ‘what can we do with girls?’

Nicki needed to mainly show that ‘here’s a system; here’s a blueprint that we will observe  to realize success.’ After which Cardi B type of tweaked that together with her social media following. So there at the moment are two totally different confirmed methods of success in our technology. We simply needed to transition from what labored within the earlier technology, which was like, ‘All proper, are available by way of a crew.’ I feel we wanted a brand new template for ladies. 

BECAUSE SONGTRUST IS A MUSIC PUBLISHER, I ALWAYS THINK ABOUT RIGHTS ISSUES. THE INCREASED CRACKDOWN ON SAMPLE USAGE CAME UP IN THE BOOK AS A MAJOR ISSUE FOR INDEPENDENT AND LESS FINANCIALLY BACKED RAPPERS AND PRODUCERS. CAN YOU SPEAK TO ANY INSTANCES WHEN WOMEN WERE PARTICULARLY AFFECTED DUE TO THE RELATIVE INSTABILITY OF THEIR POSITIONS? THERE ARE SO MANY HIP-HOP LEGENDS WHO HAVEN’T BENEFITED FINANCIALLY FROM THEIR PIONEERING ROLE, AND THIS SEEMS ESPECIALLY TRUE FOR WOMEN.

That did not come up, however it’s a superb difficulty [to point out]. Perhaps a factor that may’ve affected girls with mixtapes or bootleg CDs which might be handed out on the street. It was straightforward to have on-the-ground promotion [then]. 

Nicki got here up by way of mixtapes after which there was a component of mixtapes on-line with DatPiff and different web sites the place you might get free mixtapes. With streaming, it’s totally arduous to search out mixtape content material…. Nicki’s Beam Me Up Scotty mixtape on Spotify was an enormous deal since you normally cannot clear [the samples for something like] that. So in the event you take away [mixtapes] as a manner in for rappers, girls are already type of at an obstacle. Not with the ability to use that mixtape method to advertising makes it somewhat bit tougher to get within the door.

You possibly can clearly simply put a tune out on-line now, however there was a spot between mixtapes and [when] streaming turned the dominant supply of listening to music…. It wasn’t like you might simply discover out about newer artists in the event you weren’t signed up for a service. You recognize, it took some time for the Spotifys and Apple Musics of the world to get off the bottom. I feel that inside that hole, girls did not have a platform to get their music seen.

I consider samples as an enormous difficulty on the subject of that. I do not know what the reply is. 

THAT MAKES SENSE. IT’S LIKE ACCESS TO THESE STEPPING STONES. 

Precisely. 

I HAVE ONE FINAL QUESTION; WE KIND OF TOUCHED ON IT EARLIER…DO YOU THINK THAT THE DIVIDE BETWEEN “SEXY/GLAMOROUS” RAPPERS LIKE LIL’ KIM AND WANDA DEE AND “STREET/TOMBOY” RAPPERS LIKE MC LYTE AND QUEEN LATIFAH IS STILL SOMETHING FACED BY UP-AND-COMING WOMEN? DO YOU THINK THERE’S PRESSURE TO CHOOSE A SIDE? 

I’m undecided, however I do suppose they’re nonetheless a template of what works. While you have a look at the highest girls on the charts — the preferred names, like Megan, Cardi, Saweetie, and Doja — there’s a certain quantity of sexiness that they’re promoting. That is a component of pop music normally that works particularly for ladies in hip-hop.

A younger rapper arising is likely to be like, ‘All proper, properly, that is nonetheless the factor that’s promoting.’ So it is good that they will additionally see different archetypes — like a Noname, CHIKA, or Tierra Whack — who’re doing their factor in their very own manner. I do suppose there’s nonetheless [a ceiling]; whereas Tierra Whack is critically acclaimed, extra folks know Cardi B or Megan’s identify.

So there’s nonetheless a barrier to entry on the subject of what sort of girl rapper folks suppose will promote. In that manner, I do suppose the road/tomboy look isn’t the dominant one proper now. I imply, there was a time the place there was a mixture — the place it was like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Salt-N-Pepa, and all that. 

If you happen to’re an up-and-coming girl rapper, you might be positively occupied with it. However I additionally suppose this technology is extra open to doing their very own factor. Like Rico Nasty; she is tremendous punk, and she or he has her personal fanbase. She’s not making an attempt to suit into any type of mildew and has her personal stage of success.

Some will in all probability give it some thought and really feel like they should fall into that intercourse sells lane, and a few might be like, ‘I do not wish to try this. I wish to do my very own factor.’ There in all probability is a divide, a minimum of in business music.

WELL, IT’S INTERESTING THAT YOU MENTIONED THAT, CONSIDERING HOW THE CONCEPT OF A GENDER BINARY IS CONTINUING TO EXPLODE WITHIN OUR CULTURE IN AMAZING WAYS. MAYBE THAT WILL HAVE AN EFFECT ON THIS, AND HOW MUSICIANS WITHIN VARIOUS GENRES PRESENT THEMSELVES. 

I feel we’re nonetheless transferring towards that. Saucy Santana is an ideal instance of individuals simply needing to see what works and be like, ‘Let’s try this once more.’ Sadly, that is how enterprise works.





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