When I was a kid, I owned a copy of Heather B’s final album, Eternal Affairs, on CD and basically wore out the disc listening to it on the bus to and from school. For years after, I wondered why Heather B never put out another album after that. Nor did, after a certain point, very many major label female rappers. I saw this as a huge problem.
See, I was a hyperactive kid with attention deficit and I got bored easily. I also asked a lot of questions, such as: If women are half the population, why are they much less than half of the voices in mainstream rap? I loved hip-hop, but it needed even more variety to keep me invested and to me, the most logical place to mine for new material should be the minds of women, who could bring new stories and perspectives to the art form. Later, I’d meet other friends — some of whom were rappers themselves — who would share this viewpoint.
Today, 15-year-old kids riding the bus to school — or perhaps taking a Bird or an Uber — don’t lack for options. An increasingly diverse array of voices, perspectives, and styles are filling their Apple Airpods with an entire galaxy of female rap stars, offering their takes on everything from dating to motherhood to business advice.
This is how it should be, but it took a lot longer to get here than it should have. In honor of International Women’s Day, we’re going to take a look at just what cultural and societal changes had to happen to clear the way for women to take their rightful place at the forefront of rap. Whether it was representation, technological advancement, more opportunities, or shifting mindsets, so many elements contributed to this moment in time. Here’s hoping it continues and conditions for women in every culture and industry continue to improve.
Nicki Minaj And Cardi B Paved The Way
One of the reasons attributed to the apparent dearth of female voices in rap through the 2000s is the idea that so few young girls wanted to rap. Hip-hop was seen as a man’s game, so women had no interest in playing. Now, we understand that to be a fallacy. Even at its lowest point, rap still had plenty of women, but it is true they were given fewer chances to succeed and even fewer to fail.