The Female Rapper Problem - Articles - Soundblab

The Female Rapper Problem

by Rich Morris Rating: Release Date:

There's a lot of criticism being aimed at East Oakland rapper Kreayshawn right now: she's a fake; she's a hipster-hopper, a dilettante; her lyrics are misogynist; she uses black people like props in her videos, a kind of legitimising visual reference; she's piggy-backing on the success of established, authentic black artists. But what's new here? These are charges which have been levelled, at various times, at the likes of Odd Future and Tyler, the Creator, Beastie Boys, Mike Skinner, and Eminem - accusations which did their careers no harm at all. So how come just one of these accusations feel like they could bring down her career, the way they damaged previous female rappers such as Lady Sovereign and Uffie (although, to be fair, both didn't help themselves by eventually releasing sub-par albums)?

Watching videos by Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique and others on YouTube, it's hard to ignore the same type of comments cropping up again and again. For example:

is it me or deos (sic) the white girl look like a gangster tatlor swift (sic)

Zomg they are white!

(Both posted under Kreayshawn's 'Gucci Gucci')

i like the lyrics and her squeecky (sic) ass voice and het soocall (sic) style but she only doing all that wild stuff and shxt (sic) she calls fashion to cover up her ugliness

(Dominique Young Unique's 'Show My Ass')

This girl is absolutely crap! And ugly as well LOL

(Mz Bratt's 'Selecta').

While it's easy to laugh at the the poor spelling and grammar of these comments, the tone and content is troubling. Most revolve around the rapper's appearance, using her perceived 'ugliness' to dismiss her talent and output. Much of the negative commentary around Kreayshawn has focussed on her 'authenticity' or lack there of, with the strong suggestion that she must be fake because she's a white girl, but would she be having a significantly easier time if she were black? Looking at the insults directed at black female rappers it's hard to make that case convincingly.

It seems like, regardless of talent, background and style, there's a credibility deficit whenever a female rapper pops up. Acts like Kreayshawn, Dominique Young Unique and Lucy Love are in something of a double bind: play it tough and street and they are trying to be like the boys (and never measuring up); aim for glamour and glitz and they're pop, and thus forfeit any right to be taken seriously; either they're too ugly or too groomed, too sweet or too scary. If they score a hit, they stop being hip hop but if they stay underground then, by hip hop's self-imposed death-or-glory rules, they've failed.

Always, always they are highly suspect, subject to a level of judgement which doesn't seem to be there for their male counterparts. A rapper like Kanye West can be a smooth superstar one minute, a socially conscious commentator the next, and a thoroughly self-absorbed artist expressing his torment through the medium of vocoder and 808s after that. No one bats an eyelid. Compare that to Ms Dynamite, who was originally promoted as a singer despite starting out as a garage MC. She won the Mercury Prize the year before Dizzie Rascal, whose Boy in da Corner broke grime and helped open the door to the mainstream for UK rappers, a door he comfortably strolled through a couple of years later.

Of course, some female rappers have broken through to the mainstream without compromising their credibility. Missy Elliott and Salt 'n' Pepper are the prime examples here, both scoring hits without compromising their subversive lyrical content. Then there's the porno fantasy style of Lil' Kim Foxy Brown and more recently, Niki Minaj. Funnily enough, Kreayshawn has questioned Minaj's authenticity, saying in an interview with Complex that, "When it comes to inspiring young women, her message is to be a Barbie - to be plastic, to be fake". Hip hop has long prized keeping it real above all else, but no male rapper ever has their 'maleness' called into question in this way. Nor do we ask them to be role models for young men, despite the fact many successful rappers have their own clothing labels and lucrative advertising deals. Instead, their rebel image is carefully curated even as they cash it in for all it's worth.

To be a female rapper, it seems, is to exist in a grey area, one fraught with anxiety. You're not just being judged on your rhythms, your background and your look; your very femininity is constantly called into question. It's been a long time since a really challenging female rapper broke through or was taken seriously artistically. Meanwhile, the rise of internet commentary only seems to have heightened the misogynistic opprobrium and outright hostility directed at any new rapper with a labia trying to make it. The irony is that, despite what people are saying about Kreayshawn, her race is far less of an issue than her gender. If she were to drop the poses people see as 'fake' would she then get an easier ride? I somehow doubt it.

Comments (2)

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The comments on YouTube are a worry for just about anything. It has to be the one site that attracts the most idiots.

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cool article, the Niki Minaj porno fantasy thing is particularly strange, though I like the way she says 'I really have a thing for American guys' on Super Bass

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