Chuck D., the legendary front man for Public Enemy, recently told Allhiphop.com that he wants to see more women involved in hip hop. â€œIn â€˜09, my fighting the power is for women in Hip-Hop, especially groups, producers, songwriters, and label heads,â€ he said.
But if his ears were pointed towards the underground, rather than the hip hop-arazzi malaise of the mainstream, then he would notice that there are more female emcees than ever. Then again, the fact that few of these women â€“ with the notable exception of Jean Grae â€“ have had much impact on the tabloid-obsessed rap world speaks volumes to their overall position among fans, who continue to view women as mindless dime pieces, half naked â€œvideo modelsâ€ only meant to brighten an otherwise ordinary day on the blogs.
For now, though, letâ€™s not get into sexism, a brain-dead horse which doesnâ€™t seem to die. Instead, letâ€™s celebrate Womenâ€™s History Month with ten or so ladies who are getting it done in spite of that. Real femcees stand up!
Jean Grae: Formerly known as What What, this Brooklyn artist is the grande dame of â€œfemcees.â€ She has a quick-witted and wicked flow and, quiet as kept, can even produce dope beats â€“ she produced the indie classic â€œNegro League Baseballâ€ under the guise of Run Run Shaw. Her current label, Blacksmith, botched her third and best album, last yearâ€™s Jeanius. But with luck sheâ€™ll get another chance at attaining mass appeal. (myspace.com/jeangrae)
Invincible: In Detroit, Invincible is as well known for her community activism on a host of issues, from gentrification to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, as for ripping the mic. Sheâ€™s appeared on tracks for Dabrye and Finale, but her most recent album, ShapeShifters, proved she can write memorable songs as well as deliver energy-boosting guest spots. Look for a Plug One interview with Invincible very soon. (myspace.com/invincilana)
Stacy Epps: This Atlanta-based artist has quietly assembled a solid discography, thanks to her 2005 Sol Uprising collaboration with John Robinson, guest appearances with Shape of Broad Minds (Raiders of the Lost Art) and Madvillain (Madvillainy) and a solo debut last year in the form of The Awakening. Her style ranges between rolling staccato raps and languid, tuneful harmonizing. (stacyepps.wordpress.com)
Amanda Diva: Much like Saul Williams, Diva applies a poetâ€™s love of broken verse and detailed lines to the art of emceeing. Sheâ€™s also something of a hustler, hosting shows on Sirius radio, making â€œtalking punditâ€ appearances on sundry VH-1 celeb-reality fests, and creating online videos such as â€œDiva Speak TV.â€ And I can’t forget that she joined Floetry for a brief spell. As my cousin would say, she has â€œa little bit of Jamaican in her.â€ Amanda Diva released a mixtape earlier this month, Spandex, Rhymes and Soul, that you can download via her MySpace page. (www.myspace.com/amandadiva)
Stahhr the Femcee: Now that DOOMâ€™s comeback album Born Like This has hit the streets, everyone will know who this Atlanta rapper is. But her track with the supervillain, â€œStill Dope,â€ actually first appeared on her 2008 full-length, the iTunes-only release Almost Never Was. Her determinedly logical rhymes and intellectual flow has brightened past Doom projects such as Mmâ€¦Food and King Geedorahâ€™s Take Me to Your Leader. (www.myspace.com/stahhr723)
Kid Sister: This list wouldnâ€™t be complete without the first female rapper to taste pop success â€“ however fleeting â€“ since Missy Elliott. Since becoming one of the first â€œhipster rappersâ€ to take over indie clubs with her single â€œDamn Girlâ€ â€“ she appeared on the cover of URB in 2007 — Kid Sister has worked hard to meet the sky-high buzz surrounding her. A second single with Kanye West, â€œPro Nails,â€ got airplay on â€œRap Cityâ€ last year. But her long-delayed debut for Downtown Records, Dream Date, has yet to be released. (www.myspace.com/kidsister)
Dessa: Last January, Dessa didnâ€™t issue an album, but Spiral Bound, a chapbook of verse and personal essays. However, the Minneapolis artist isnâ€™t just a poet: she can rhyme, too. Check Doomtreeâ€™s self-titled album from last year for proof. â€œDistress message coming from the city kids/I read it in the smoke signals from the filth and cigarettes,â€ she raps on â€œDots and Dashes.â€ â€œIâ€™m on a vision quest.â€ (www.myspace.com/dessadarling)
Rita J: Since XLR8R magazine profiled her near the end of 2007, Iâ€™ve been waiting for this Chicago affiliate of the All Natural camp to drop her debut, Artistâ€™s Workshop. Save for a mixtape, Ms. Jackson, little has been heard from her. A quick check to her MySpace page reveals a snippet tape for the album, however, so it should come out this year. (www.myspace.com/ritajackson)
Isis: With indie-dance hits such as â€œJerk It,â€ this Toronto-based member of Thunderheist isnâ€™t well known to hip hop fans. But on the groupâ€™s self-titled debut (out via Big Dada on March 31) she reveals an infectious and swaggering style. (www.thunderheist.com)
Amanda Blank: Throughout this list, Iâ€™ve tried to avoid female rappers who focus on their poontang. Thereâ€™s nothing wrong with sex raps, but it has become such a clichÃ© â€“ the thug missus who loves to fuck is a stereotype that dates back to Lilâ€™ Kim and Junior M.A.F.I.A.
But Amanda Blank canâ€™t be denied. She has an impressive flow and a deft command of words. and can wax poetic about nightclubbing adventures and afterhours hookups. With her debut I Love You set to drop July 14 on Downtown Records, hereâ€™s hoping that this latest addition to Talib Kweli’s fledgling Blacksmith empire expands her palette beyond coochie raps. (www.myspace.com/amandablank)
Bonus pick – Eternia: Last but definitely not least, I canâ€™t forget Eternia, who has held it down since her appearances with Atomz Family back in the early â€˜00s. Sheâ€™s grown from super-scientifical woodshedding to become a well-regarded lyricist in her native Canada, as well as a cult reputation in the West, thanks to guest shots alongside Wordsworth, Reef the Lost Cause and others. Check her 2005 album Itâ€™s Called Life for proof. (www.eternia.ca)