Monday, June 14, 2010

Where are the Female Rappers?

by Dr. Boyce Watkins, Syracuse University

I met spoken-word hip hop artist Shanelle Walker when I went to give a speech atKentucky State University. Shanelle sent me a video of a rhyme she recited in honor of President Barack Obama. I was instantly floored by the performance, since I found her to be an incredibly powerful artist.
But Shanelle's performance led me to consider broader concerns, such as why there are so few women in the hip-hop industry. I remain confused that women are not given a chance to shine in a field dominated by men. While hip-hop has historically been the channel designed to give a voice to urban America, women have been effectively left out. While I've certainly spoken my piece on how hip hop needs to change, here are some reasons I believe women are missing:
1) The hypermasculinity of hip-hop: By becoming so masculine and sexualized, the music doesn't give women opportunities that don't involve a G-string. I look forward to the day when the culture is not driven by who gets shot the most and who does the best job of proving that he's a goon. That might actually lead to better music, since right now, many hip-hop artists come off like World Wrestling Entertainment characters. It's O.K. for an artist to also be a human-being.


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