Women and Hip Hop:
Major labels, major control
In Part 2 of our series, we discussed the lack of balance for female mc's from the aspect of exposure, artistic freedom, and content. In a continuation of my talk with Toronto MC Lex Leosis, we discussed why the hip hop world has become such a challenging space for female artists and female fans.
It used to be the case that if you wanted to record a track or an album and have professional distribution and radioplay, you needed to either know someone or have a “connection” or a record deal with a label. The “major record label”, as the primary 'gatekeepers' of music distribution, is a dying industry. The internet is making so many things easy to learn from the click of a mouse, and it is easier than ever to outsource every aspect of the music development process. A great example of a talented artist getting stuck in the outdated major label process is Eve.
Eve was the third female rapper to debut at #1 (following Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot), and she simultaneously had a hit tv show. So what happens to this successful, and obviously marketable, artist? She then went 11 years without an album release. And not for lack of trying, as she had albums delayed and “shelved” due to label politics with Interscope. It took her 2 years after having her album officially shelved to be released from Interscope, only to leave for another label to spend the next year trying to get out. Finally, this past May Eve signed independently to her own label “The Rib Music” and dropped her first album in 11 years “Lip Lock”.
Give her album a listen, and don't forget to support her independent hustle!
The thing that we many times seem to forget is that major labels are following business models. The goal from a business standpoint is to maximize output and maximize the almighty dollar$. The art is objectified, using objective “statistics” and “models” used to predict a “hit” and predict radioplay. Eve herself is quoted as saying that Jimmy Iovine of Interscope has an artistic ear "but is more concerned with trends than the artist". Now, I understand growing sick of living the life of the starving artist and signing to a major label for that financial break. But we can't forget what is traded when creative control is handed over from the hands of a female artist to a male-dominated/male-run major record label. Not only is the creative freedom compromised, but the female perspective is lost in the process. But how did hip hop get put into the hands of the mainstream music business?
For more on that, I chatted with mc, educator, author, and avid Hip Hop Ed contributor Charity Clay. Charity is originally from Minneapolis by way of Chicago, and currently lives in Oakland, CA where she works as a youth educator. She's an upper echelon emcee (who hates the word femcee). A former collegiate Division 1 hooper, she's currently writing a dissertation/book on the experiences of black women playing collegiate Division 1 basketball. She is also working on a book about growing up during the "golden era" of hiphop. “I love sneakers and Stuart Weitzman's, prefer to be heard not seen. I have impeccable comedic timing and absolutely no discernible sense of style. I'm pro black, pro woman but NOT A FEMINIST. I tend to ramble”....
Now, its to the point in Hip Hop in general where people don't even want to hear anything REAL. For the most part they want fantasy they want rap to paint pictures of a grandiose lifestyle that doesn't exist. I hear people critique J. Cole and Big K.R.I.T. for being "boring" because their rhymes reflect THEIR experiences...and I think that both are talented artists. So considering that authenticity is not respected from MEN, in Hip Hop, it's so much harder for women. I was told by an A&R that I'm not marketable because my music doesn't make women want to BE me and it doesn't make men want to FUCK me. When that’s the mindset of the industry executives, it determines what type of artists they'll even invest in. The sad thing is that I think there are more dope women emcees out now than any time I remember. But it's so tough for us to get heard.
LoDo: “Where do we go as women in the hip hop world?”
Charity Clay: “I've been listening to hip hop since I was 5 and I've always stayed away from misogynistic lyrics. I used to hate Wu tang clan because being objectified as a flavor of ice cream made me uncomfortable because guys were using those terms in their street harassment, and this is before I even hit puberty. BUT I DIDNT TURN MY BACK ON HIP HOP. Because Hip Hop helped me find my voice, i have more of an intimate relationship with it. I've always done the WORK of seeking out empowering images and messages in hip hop. We have to understand that just like all other Black art forms, it is being used as a tool of oppression, but that doesn't mean that the resistance within it is dead, its just not on top 40 radio and on television. The misogyny in Hip Hop reflects the REALITY of the gender disconnect in our community, WE CAN'T TURN OUR BACKS ON THAT. Plus, I don't believe that change comes from the outside, so if everyone fighting for better decides to abandon the culture, then it's going to be completely devoid of the values it was built on. I try to introduce women who focus on the misogyny within Hip Hop music to more empowering images and messages. But that’s something THEY should be willing to do for themselves.”
It is no secret that hip hop is a male-dominated industry with a majority of artists being males and a majority of label executives being males. So how can we as women really place blame to males within the industry for not bringing the female perspective. You can't have a room full of men and be pissed off that they are not discussing women's issues or women's perspectives. It is the same to walk into a room full of women and complain that there is no male perspective: rightfully so if there are no males present to provide the male view. You know who needs to bring the female perspective: FEMALES! When you notice there is no female voice in the room, THEN CHOOSE TO BE THE FEMALE VOICE! Remaining neutral or on the sidelines will do nothing for the female hip hop world.
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 backed and supported by strong crews.
Join us for the continuation of our series with Part 4 “Women and Hip Hop: The Fall Out Of The Crew” featuring Toronto mc pHoenix Pagliacci @ItsMePagliacci
If you didn't see the first two parts of this 3 part series "Women in Hip Hop", here are the links!
Healing With Music - a playlist to remember Smitty
It's hard to believe it's already been 2 months since my cousin passed. No matter the capacity that you knew Chris Smith, you probably know of the love he had for music. I've promised many of you that I would send out copies of the memorial playlist, and thanks to some good music and a look through old pictures, I found some motivation to get out of my "writer's block". Take a look/listen and enjoy memories of Chris, you are deeply loved and missed cousin. Forever Young...
LoDo's Women & Hip Hop Series: Part 5 - Creating Solutions
We've finally reached part 5 of LoDo's "Women and Hip Hop" series! In part 5, LoDo chats with Nadia Piet, owner and founder of The TIKA, and Mark Patton of Amplifiher Media and #TheListening. There's enough complaining in the world, it's time to be a solution. We discuss creating solutions to problems that female artists and fans have faced in the hip hop world and ways we can continue to expand on the positivity and empowerment that is embodied in hip hop!
In light of the rape accusation against Florida State University quarterback Jameis Winston that has become public knowledge (details of the case which are still unclear) we've seen another wave of "victim blaming". With the various recent public rape cases including the Steubenville Ohio incident in 2012, we are missing an opportunity to have a serious about rape, victims, and our justice system.
LoDo returns with part 4 of her "Women and Hip Hop" series. LoDo chats with pHoenix Pagliacci and discusses the fallout of the crew, and how the lack of family bond has negatively impacted female artists. pHoenix shares some recent collaborations as well as who she's listening to and which dope females are keeping her on her toes.
[Listen] MiKHAL - Live at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors (12/21/13 Downtempo Mix)
Check out the mix of the day from MiKHAL. This Downtempo mix was performed live on 12/21/13, aka the Winter Solstice, at The Chapel of Sacred Mirrors. Check the link here to listen to MiKHAL's dope mix (headphones on/subs up)!
Today's Mix of the Day brought to you c/o our new Electronica contributor Brian Baer, follow him at soundcloud.com/brian-baer!
New Music Friday! The Workin Class "Through The Storm" ft Nisha Nandez & Malik Diamond
The Class got so much love for "All So Simple" & "Oath To The Money", so they decided to drop a new track featuring friends of wC Nisha Nandez & Malik Diamond! "Through The Storm", features a dope instrumental by Dree combined with a powerful N^2 hook with thought-provoking lyrics by Malik Diamond & Unknown. The combination is dope, but don't just take my word for it....click the play button and see for yourself!! (Available streaming free on soundcloud & also available as a free download).
Today marks 1 week until the release of Daydream, The Workin Class's sophomore EP, and to celebrate we've released the official tracklist! Check out the update to see the official tracklist, along with the dope album art (c/o the talented Noah Surratt). Is it July 4 yet? Cause I'm ready for the world to hear some new Workin Class!!!! wC^ aToJ^
LoDo may have been a little quiet on the aToJ blogoshere, but we've been hard at work! The month of May was a busy and exciting month, including the second WPRK 91.5 Our Show's "LiveR" hosted at Orlando/Winter Park's very own hip hop community center The BBoy Spot. June is set to be an even busier month, leading up to the 4th of July release of The Workin Class's sophomore project "Daydream".
Music has many different powers, but it's ability to console and heal during painful and trying times is why I have always been drawn to it. On the 50th anniversary of President John F. Kennedy's assassination, LoDo takes a look at music and how it was used to heal and console those mourning the death of our greatest leader.