Why The Grammys Need To Bring Back Female-Specific Rap Categories

01.24.18 9 months ago 10 Comments

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On the 2004 song “What Can I Do?” Chicago rapper Shawnna spits the following:

“Ya’ll don’t understand me, I don’t want a Grammy
Just hand me a handful of goddamn whammys
Fluffed out and fancy, pack where they can’t see
Ridin’, bumpin’ ‘How High’ in da Camry.”

In retrospect, this lyric might seem odd: A female rapper at the height of her career who had two critically-acclaimed, successful collaborations with hip-hop heavyweight Ludacris was on the radio explicitly stating she wasn’t interested in winning a Grammy? Though the award is considered to be the highest honor for musicians, instead, Shawnna says she’d prefer a handful of drugs.

When placed within its context alongside a feature from Missy Elliott — who at the time was herself a three-time Grammy-winning artist — the lyric tells a different kind of tale: One of a female rapper redefining what winning looks like for herself and other female rappers, as well as what the state of success looked like at that time for female rappers in general.

To favor a “handful of whammys,” and a car ride bumping Method Man and Redman over a Grammy was Shawnna’s way of portraying her own pessimism about the state of the music industry she wanted to thrive in. It was a way of asserting her belief that the awards weren’t made for her in the first place, and predicted an abruptly tumultuous future for female rappers that was to come.

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