Where the Ladies At???
Hip Hop is a male dominated, chauvinistic culture. Facts?! Though it has championed inclusion from its inception, successful, visible female artists are relatively few and far between when contrasted with the volume of successful male counterparts. However, going all the way back to 1977, the Funky 4 + 1 who had the first female MC, Sha-Rock as a part of their fivesome, our fairer sex has always had a presence and helped shape the culture.
If Hip Hop is overwhelmingly testosterone driven, Christian Hip Hop makes its secular brother seem progressive. While legends such as MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot and Lil’ Kim have left a huge impact on the rap game, the likes of recognizable, popular female CHH MCs are sparse. As KRS-One asked…… why is that?
Hillary Jane a singer was not allowed to tour with her CHH male label mates for fear that young adults traveling together across the country would not be able to resist the temptations of the flesh, thus her invitation to tour and promote her 2014 album Stix and Stones was rescinded and though it was a Contemporary Christian music success she was denied an opportunity regularly extended to her male counterparts. She had to recast herself as a contemporary artist because she felt like there was more room for her success on “that side of the fence.”
Excuses such as the cost of makeup, hair and all that goes into promoting a woman border ridiculous. Some claim that they lack the chops of their Christian brothers. However, that declaration holds no weight when you listen to Zane One and Elsie, members of the Tunnel Rats. For you young brothers and sisters, the Tunnel Rats is the birthing ground of LPG who produced what some may consider, “the first gospel rooted album to feature real hip-hop.” It also helped to launch Propaganda. Zane and Elsie did more than hold their own as members of this CHH version of the Wu-Tang that had many revolving members. Jackie-Hill Perry and Heesun Lee can lyrically hold a mic next to the most dexterous of CHH MC just as MC Lyte or Lauryn Hill did. Plus, frankly speaking how many wack male artists are “signed.”
Some contend the barrier is simply sexism which mirrors the world and the church. We consistently cast CHH as a gospel version of hip hop as opposed to a hip hop expression of Christianity. This piece is not meant to argue the merits of either of these positions. However, in Contemporary Christian/Gospel music woman hold a significantly greater presence than they do in hip hop. Why is that?
In the image of God he created them; male and female he created them both in His image. Women and men were obviously not created identically. However, women are definitely gifted with ways, talents and artistic abilities worthy of recognition on par with the fellas. (That was not meant to be condescending by any measure.) It is Woman’s History Month and a good time to take stock of the influence of women in all areas of our lives, recognize human advancement because of them, their struggles, inequities, and ways to remove the obstacles from allowing their brilliance to be cast.
1 Cor 11:12 states, “For as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.” Remember where you come from. The term anti-racist is now part of our lexicon. Some offer that efforts to not simply be racist are not enough to combat historical racism. One must take an active position to oppose it where witnessed. The same can be argued regarding sexism. One cannot argue the sins of racism and its suppression of parts of the body of Christ and turn a blind eye to actions and inactions that cast women as second rate. We have to recognize not only their supporting roles, but their leading capacities as well. Just as many women taught, groomed, and have led us in so many other forums, there is no reason we cannot turn an open ear to what they are spittin’. It is important to note that to benefit from all that women bring to the table, we must be anti-sexist, understand the privilege of being men, and actively confront acts and systems of sexism to change biases and practices.
As with the endorsement of any art today, likes, follows, and buys matter. In 2017, the hashtag #CHHsexism was started and evoked some conversation, however, not much has changed in the three plus years since. Angie Rose @AngieRoseMusic is brilliant, Natalie Lauren @msnatalielauren FKA Suzy Rock has written and performed with Sho Baraka and LeCrae. She has over a decade in the game. HeeSun is another respected veteran in the game having charted on Billboard in 2014 with Stereotypes which received 7.6 out of 10 on Jam the Hype. Wande is the latest phenom. Signed to Reach Records in 2019, the first woman signed to said label, her single, “Blessed UP,” was listed as a part of former first lady Michelle Obama’s playlist om 2020. These are some of the women who represent Christ through Hip Hop with the best of the men.
Follow them, like them, buy their music. Encourage and support your aspiring wife, girlfriend, friend, or sister. Check out this Spotify link to Women of Christian Hip Hop. Just think about how grand it would be to have a slate of female MCs rocking the mic to God’s glory as a foil to the insanity of “WAP” and as a compliment to Mineo’s, “You Can’t Stop Me.”