A reminder of how far female MCs have come and what it will take for them to be acknowledged in today's Hip Hop Kingdom.
As 2013 came to an end, countless voices in music and specifically in the realm of Hip Hop projected that 2014 would be the year of the female MC breakthrough. From a surface point of view, a "breakthrough" for the female rapper sounds as though they have yet to be discovered or haven’t properly developed as artists. However, if at all forgotten, there was a notable eon in Hip Hop when female MCs were not only noteworthy but successful in album sales; thus allowing them to be somewhat comparable to the men of the male-dominant industry.
In the late 90s and early 2000s, the number of female rappers who were significantly present in Hip Hop totaled in double digits. In addition, these women were attaining well-deserved chart standings in regards to record sales; Missy Elliot’s first album Supa Dupa Fly went platinum, Lauryn Hill’s The MisEducation of Lauryn Hill went platinum, and almost a decade later Lil’ Kim sold 2 million copies of Notorious K I M and 1.5 million copies of La Bella Mafia in 2003, just to name a few.
Not only were female MCs selling records but they attracted vast and supreme audiences because of their exclusive ability to snatch a crowd’s attention with braided artistry. Included in their artistry was the appeal that is exclusive to women; the kind of aura and attraction that only a woman is capable of. Whether their image was themed as bold and sexual, gangsta and rugged, or futuristic and innovative, they engrossed fans on every coast.
Women in Hip Hop were so ‘on’ that leading music publications such as “Rolling Stone” began rating their albums and including them in their annual lists of who’s hot, who’s next, and who’s coming up. In addition [even though it took more than a decade] the Grammy’s Best Rap Solo Performance Award was separated by gender, giving the female rapper elite acknowledgment in entertainment. Recipients of this award were Missy Elliot and Queen Latifah with nominees that included Charlie Baltimore and Eve.
Unfortunately, two years later, the award was eliminated from the award list due to a drop in the amount of female MCs that were able to compete. The presence of women in Hip Hop began to decline.
With a lane that wasn’t completely closed, Nicki Minaj arrived full speed and the female MC manifested once again. Despite some of the criticism she faced via Hip Hop critics who viewed her as a girl who had nothing to offer but bars about the wonders of her vagina and being a “Bad Bitch”, she undeniably brought audiences back into the mindset of women being capable of Hip Hop success and has exceeded such.
In the underground world of Hip Hop, there are women who have been consistently creating, growing, and producing quality buzz-worthy work but simply haven’t received the commercial acknowledgement that they deserve - outside of a four minute televised cypher [which by the way, is very much appreciated and helped put rappers such as Nitty Scott MC on the map].
Additionally, the buzz of the Aussie star, Iggy Azalea, may be the beginning of a new slate in terms of Hip Hop’s relinquishment toward female rappers. The 23-year old has created a lane of her own and is tiptoeing her way into commercial business both nationally and internationally with the anticipated release of her debut album The New Classic. Accepted by the masses or not, she is a Hip Hop artist. The only way for her get crowned in what is now the Hip Hop KINGDOM is to acknowledge her presence, respect her artistry, and attempt to understand her story. She's just one example to speak of in today's hip-hop climate.
In lieu of projecting that 2014 will be the year of the female MC breakthrough, consider 2014 the year that women in Hip Hop can optimistically be acknowledged as music artists again; because whether discussed or ignored, the original Queens of Hip Hop such as MC Lyte and Queen Latifah have have already achieved the “breakthrough” for today’s female MCs.