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Women in Hiphop

"I'm all that, yes I'm all that
You ask how? I'm all that, now
I'm all of that, yes I'm all that
And rollin through your hood with a baseball bat"

MC Lyte - "All That" - ACT LIKE YOU KNOW (1991)


In a world that consistently undervalues women in general and black women in particular, women in Hiphop often offered an inspiring alternative, be it through boast and braggadocio like the simple yet grave lyrics of Lyte above, or be it through astute and direct criticisms of inequality and abuse like some of the lyrics you hear in our sample playlist below. Many of the songs of strength and raps of reason from our powerful soul sisters served as the survival mantra for many girls and women battling the blues and blows that life brings. This month we are paying respects and pushing props to those women, their art and their politics that challenged the status quo and truly make Hiphop the movement that it is.

Here are nine songs for this week that reflect criticisms of abuse, celebrations of motherhood, cautions to adolescents, and affirmations of all that it means to be a woman.

Watch Classic Hiphop Videos from Female MCs

Salt-N-Pepa - "Whatta Man"

[Visit page to watch the video]

Salt-N-Pepa's Very Necessary was my first Hiphop album. My mom gave us a bootleg tape, and my older sister and I played it on repeat for months. At some point, I learned the words to every song on the album and liked to toss around verses from "Somebody's Gettin' on My Nerves" and "None of Your Business"to be fresh. The music was funky and new, but it also affected me differently than the Classic Soul and R&B in my mom's tape collection. I would sing along with Salt-N-Pepa and see that it was possible to be a strong, brazen, confident Black woman that could also rock the mic. I was also a big fan of New Jack Swing and kept my Funky Divas tape right next to Very Necessary. When "Whatta Man" was released, to me, it was the best of both worlds coming together make an incredible song celebrating Black Love. Now, I probably wasn't thinking about relationships at the time and was more excited that these were my girls together on one song. "Whatta Man" will always be one of my favorite songs by women in Hiphop. I even have my original tape.

--Submitted by Angel Steele, Hiphop Archive


MC Lyte - "Paper Thin"

[Visit page to watch the video]

 In the summer of 1988 I was eleven years old, glued to the television set awaiting the debut of "Yo! MTV Raps." MTV aired a promo that featured a montage of the first videos to play on the show. It ended with a clip from MC LYTE rapping, "...in the back and in the middle, in the front, YO!" The TV picture frame froze with her last words and the network posted their now famous "Yo! MTV Raps" speech bubble logo beside her. I was in awe. I still get hype thinking about those moments. This Afrikan sista was spittin with flame and fury, preachin with power. Mesmerized by her stance, her opinion, her strength, and even her haircut, I wanted to be just like her. "Paper Thin" is a Hiphop classic, hands down. Lyte's style and lyrical fitness set a standard. This clip is dedicated to all the sistas who felt empowered by these /prep/images in a particular 'golden age' of Hiphop.
--Submitted by Dawn-Elissa Fischer, Hiphop Archive

Lin Que featuring MC Lyte - "Let It Fall"

This video by Lin Que followed the standard of Lyte's "Paper Thin" almost eight years later. It stayed on BET's "Rap City" top ten countdown program when it hit the public sphere. Lin Que's style and flow are not the only highlights of the video. The presence of MC Lyte illustrates Hiphop's practice of bridging the past to the present through sampling and referential /prep/images. In this way, the plight and presence of female emcees is historically situated and Hiphop's cultural aesthetics are tended to.

 Download Album Art of Women in Hiphop

This montage celebrates the diversity of performance and play among female artists.




The Hiphop Archive's Women in Hiphop Playlist

Below are nine songs for this week that reflect criticisms of abuse, celebrations of motherhood, cautions to adolescents, and affirmations of all that it means to be a woman.

 Women in Hiphop Playlist:

Go to Amazon.com to look up and purchase all of the entire albums.

See More "Women in Hiphop" Resources from The Hiphop Archive

 Explore More Web Picks Concerning Women and Gender Politics in Hiphop

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