If you were asked to give ten names off the top of your head for the five greatest female hip hop artists, would you be able to? You’re most likely to have an easier time if you were asked to name male hip hop artists instead, wouldn’t you? And that probably sums everything there was and is to women’s role in hip hop.
Beauty versus Voice
In the world of hip hop, it would be easy to see how beauty is more often than not considered the most significant asset of women. Female hip hop artists must be beautiful and sexy first. Voice and talent are secondary priorities.
If you watch the latest hip hop music videos, female hip hop artists are mostly seen in the backdrop wearing the skimpiest of outfits. Many of them have powerful vocals, but that’s not the first thing you’ll notice. It’s how they look that’s always what catches your attention initially. And because of this pervasive trend, women of hip hop – even if they are incredibly talented – are often reduced to singing in the background, with the inevitable ‘featuring’ tagged to their name as they collaborate with more famous male hip hop artists.
The hip hop music industry has also influenced the hip hop dancing arena into sharing their views. Again, you only have to see the latest batch of music videos to find proof of this. Try coming up with just three videos that feature female hip hop dancers who aren’t skimpily clothed and dancing seductively?
Things Are A Changin’
Fortunately, all hope is not lost for women who wish to build their careers in the world of hip hop. Consider, for instance, the growing popularity of Beat Freakz, a finalist of MTV’s America’s Best Dance Crew. They were one of the few all-female dance crews that had joined the competition with the intent of purely showcasing their dance skills and deliberately shying away from having too sexy an image.
And by all accounts, Beat Freakz are gaining fame despite the lack of sexuality in their performances. They were one of the dance crews performing in Justin Bieber’s music video for “Somebody to Love”. The crew also figures prominently in the Nike Women website, has credited appearances in movies Honey 2 and Go for It, and had recently performed in 2010’s Game 7 half-time for the Lakers-Celtics finals.
Another incredible achievement for women in hip hop is when Salt-N-Peppa received the I Am Hiphop award from the BET Awards this year. Granted, there are sexual connotations to a number of their works, but it’s not why they were famous. They were famous because they were great. The duo was one of the first all-female groups that had successfully broken into the hip hop scene. Unfortunately, only an exceptional few had been able to follow their road to success.
The doors to improving women’s images in hip hop hadn’t yet been closed though. One only has to look up to and look back on what these female hip hop artists had already achieved to know that it is possible to be on top of the hip hop world without having to aggressively market one’s sexuality. Sometimes, skills are really what it takes to succeed.