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Black Women in Hip Hop Don’t Do Femininity?

The Future of Hip Hop? credit: Acclaim Magazine

Well according to this article penned by author, “social commentator” and MSNBC correspondent Toure,  I don’t think he seems to think they can.  I know this article is over half a century old in internet years (it was posted back in December of last year), but a recent revisit and second read has left me in a sour mood. I had my issues with the article when I first read it, but this was mainly due to the exalting praise he laid upon hip hop frauds (personal opinion) Iggy Azalea and Kreayshawn. The former learned about Black culture via some hip hop magazines, and the latter relies heavily on the use of Black bodies in her videos for authenticity, and co-opts the same fashion styles that would be labeled as “ghetto” or “ratchet” if worn by Black women. But that’s not what I’m here to talk about.

During this second read I picked up on something that I had skimmed over/missed during the first. Toure states that Black women who have found success in the hip hop industry have done so through the embodiment and modified use of “the seductive display of black male cool”. I’m not even going to front as if there has never been Black female rappers who have used masculine undertones in their music and image via clothing or lyrics, but Toure’s assertion does nothing to acknowledge that Black women (and other Women of color) have been working hard to carve a niche in hip hop where they are able to express themselves, define their womanhood on their own terms, and be trill as fuck all that the same time. Instead this assertion works to erase all of the work that Black women have done to make hip hop a more inclusive place. His assertion makes it seem as if Black women in hip hop are incapable of being cute and quirky or sexy and seductive. As if all Black female rappers are a monolith (Kilo Kish, Azealia Banks, and Sasha Go Hard are three lady rappers with differing, distinct sounds and styles ).

The idea that white female rappers are the ones primarily working hard to challenge the “masculine ideal” is just as absurd as saying The Beastie Boys are responsible for introducing feminism to hip hop. So any and all Black female rappers who have rallied against this “masculine ideal” and patriarchy do not exist? Or are their contributions of little importance because they are not blonde, white and “sexy” while doing so? Black female rappers have expressed their femininity through their lyrics, images and videos on a mainstream platform since (and before) the Roxanne Wars. Black women in hip hop have been doing that, and will continue to do so without critiques on their craft that have been filtered through the male gaze. I find it hilarious that Toure uses Iggy Azalea as one of his champion challengers, but in the same breath compares Iggy’s “highly sexual” lyrics/image to the likes Lil’ Kim and Trina. Why is she given more clout for doing something that her predecessors and peers have been doing from jump, and better? And to be real, why is Toure so pressed for a white female hip hop superstar? Does hip hop really need (more) white saviors?

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