Women and Hip Hop: Part 4
featuring mc/singer pHoenix Pagliacci

Women and hip hop part 4 extinction of the crew, no family no crew, ashy to jazzy LoDo

Extinction of the crew:

no crew, no collective, no family

Now many people will argue that major record labels have been involved with hip hop for a long time, which is true. So why is is that we've seen such a drastic change in female emcee's within the world of mainstream and major record labels?There were a wide variety of emcees back in the day that signed major record deals, yet still managed to have a balanced variety of topics in their music. So what did artists like Eve, Trina, Ladybug Mecca, Remy Ma, Da Brat, Lauryn Hill, Shawna, Missy Elliot, and Lil Kim all have in common? At their peaks of success, they were all supported by strong crews.

I chatted with another mc out of Toronto (if you're sleeping on Canadian mc's right now wake up, there's a lot of dope hip hop), the talented pHoenix Pagliacci:

LoDo: First off, congrats on 2 big features you did recently. First on the Lex Leosis track “Lady of the House pt 2” with Lady Essence, and Eternia dropped Final Offering. And then I see a Monie Love and Missy Elliot about how much they both enjoyed the track. I mean, the message and content of the track by itself was exciting enough, but to get such a big cosign.....What did you think when you saw that, How excited are you right now?

pHoenix Pagliacci: I am so humbled. Two huge influences and game-changers of Hip-Hop and to know they’re still listening no matter how successful they’ve gotten, it’s humbling. It’s also nerve-racking; I feel I gotta step my game up now that they’re listening.

LoDo: Who are your personal favorite 3 MC’s (classic or current)

pHoenix Pagliacci: Lauryn Hill: she introduced me to the spiritual and introspective side of Hip-Hop. Roxanne Shante: she showed me that there are females who are tough enough to bang with the boys. Her fierceness and confidence was my foot in the door. Jean Grae: she is everything I long to be. Her lyrics make you think and laugh, her style is so original, and her personality is as real as her flow. What you Jean is what you get.

LoDo: What are you currently working on and what/where can fans hear you next?

pHoenix Pagliacci:I won’t be releasing any projects this year. I am on a Feature Binge, doing features here and there, but I will be working on a project for next year. I will also be part of the Honey Jam Showcase on Aug 15 at The Mod Club, but after that, the sky’s the limit..


LoDo: Why do you personally think female MC’s aren’t getting recognition like they were in the golden days (days of MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, etc)?

pHoenix Pagliacci:The moment they disappeared was also the dissipation of clicks/groups. They almost happened simultaneously. I noticed that the Terror Squads and Bad Boy Records that first launched so many female emcee careers died off, giving them less of a platform from which to branch off. Not to say they can’t hold their own; so many came up solo and strong, but many of the strongest (Remy Ma, Lil Kim, Charlie Baltimore, Missy Elliott) were introduced with a family behind them. The female emcee drought also happened because of the generational gap. We had all our eggs in one basket, and when that basket hatched, there were no new eggs for the next basket. But slowly that basket is being replenished. Slowly but surely :)


LoDo: Many educated “enlightened” women are turning their backs on hip hop in response to the misogynistic lyrics. How do we bring these female fans back?

pHoenix Pagliacci:We have to give them a reason to come back. We have to give them artists like Rapsody, Ill Camille, Dynasty, Boog Brown, Eternia, Masia One...but they also have to be willing to come back. If WE build it, they will come. 


LoDo: We’ve heard a lot of talk lately about the “misogynistic content” that has been portrayed in hip hop, but the mainstream has been dominated by men for so long. We haven’t had a female voice, because there have been no female voices....but there seems to be a shift taking place, we’re seeing a lot of female artists emerging from the independent scene. Who are some of the up-and-coming females that can call pHoenix Pagliacci a fan?
pHoenix Pagliacci: Up and coming...Well, Rapsody comes to mind, definitely. I have watched her grind for a while and admire her determination and consistency. My lil sis Ivy Sole out of Philly has been working in her Top Secret lab and is preparing some serious fire for the ABOVE average listener, so look out for her. My biggest threat in the city right now would be A. Harmony (“Soul Runner”) and I can’t WAIT until she drops her project. She’s witty as hell...AND she reads books, so her punches are quite the educator.

LoDo: We talked before about the fallout of the crew and the detrimental effect it had on female artists. Who’s in the pHoenix Pagliacci crew, who are your backers/supporters?

pHoenix Pagliacci: I have my friend and manager, BJ Kicks, who continues to check in on me and keep my schedule in order. I have my circle of producers who are always sending me the fresh picks of the day. I have my artist friends on their own grinds who occasionally throw me a hook or verse opportunity. In terms of artist crews, i.e. TLC, Salt-N-Pepa, I’m forming a group with A. Harmony and KZARAW called “The Power Puff Girls”, so we’ll see how that goes. We all bring something different to the group and can’t wait to bring crews back.
pHoenix touched on a great point, the “crews” that we used to see were a platform for all of the artists involved. Having a crew helps to protect you as an artist in many ways. Especially as a female artist, when listeners are introduced to you they stop seeing you as a “female mc” and instead recognize you as a talented member of a crew. So many female mc's become segmented in the hip hop world; instead of being seen as another artist, they're segregated into the “female mc” section. Many male hip hop fans that I've spoken to on the topic of female mc's think that on a large-scale the content of female mc's won't be relevant to them. It's that fear or uncertainty of the unknown. But when someone else that they can relate to introduces them to the mc, they're more likely to listen.
When we were introduced to female mc's like Lauryn Hill and Ladybug Mecca as part of a crew, they were exposed to audiences that may have not listened to them otherwise. But more than exposure, they had support groups that helped protect them artistically. As we saw more artists separating from crews and following individual career paths with major labels, the content became largely dictated by the label rather than the artist. It seemed like for the longest time, the goal of the artist was to “get a deal”, and that's how you knew you made it. Yet we're seeing more and more established artists that have historically been signed with major record labels now moving into the independent realm; and they're taking the true hip hop heads with them to the underground.
Lauryn Hill has been very vocal, and in the process portrayed as a looney, about his distrust and unhappiness with the major record labels in the music industry. Dessa (of Doomtree) and Rapsody (Kooley High), are just two examples of female mc's that are up and coming and have a dope crew to support them. Both Dessa and Rapsody are beasts within their respective groups but are also strong solo acts. The importance of artists like them are that they are talented artists that can stand on their own two feet, and they're dope.....point black period. Not dope “for females”, not dope when compared on a lowered bar or “graded with curve”, they're just dope as lyricists and mc's. Jean Grae is the perfect example. She's got dope flow, her lyrics are top notch, and her fans recognize her as a talented mc without any prefix or asterix (go ahead and say feMC to Jean Greasy's face and see if you don't get slapped up or laughed at).
So what's the lesson here? The current state of the media and the music industry is not presenting a platform for female artists to express themselves artistically as they see fit. If you're a female mc/lyricist and you fit into the cookie cutters then the mainstream is for you. But for most female artists who don't fit in those few little cookie cutters? Start your own crew (or join one), create your own platform, and just do the damn thing as you see fit! 
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