Rap has not only become one of the most internationally recognized and imitated genres of music, but it’s also allowed countless black folk around the world to express pride in their culture, stories and emotions. That being said, rap still has an unfortunate tendency to be problematic when it comes to matters like homophobia and, of course, sexism.
This patriarchal phenomenon has especially affected the way female rappers are treated in the hip-hop industry. They’re rarely taken as seriously as their male counterparts and, as a result, only a few female rappers at a time — such as Nicki Minaj or Cardi B — gain the kind of international popularity male rappers do. However, there are a number of other talented female rappers that just don’t get as much credit as they deserve. Not only that, but female rappers who project the same energy and put out quality music are held at much higher standards than men.
Although there are many female rappers who are active in the industry, they’re constantly pitted against each other for position as “Best Female Rapper”, despite the fact that this never happens to men. Rather than acknowledging a woman can be the best rapper, period, the word “female” always has to be tacked onto the front. Additionally, anytime another female rapper rises in the industry, rap fans push the idea that they’re “replacing” another woman as the best, or that there’s some inherent beef between them because, of course, no two women can be successful in rap at the same time.
This sexist ideology has also influenced the way sex talk is received by fans when it comes from female rappers. While men are openly raunchy about their sex life— how often they have sex, the way they treat women during sex and how they prefer women to look—female rappers are shamed when they do the same. On another level, some female artists are even praised for expressing sexuality based on the way they look, whereas others, who don’t fit the typical standards of American beauty, are criticized and hated on for doing so.
One example of this can be seen in responses to Cupcakke, a female rapper who first went viral in 2015 with music videos for explicitly sexual songs like “Vagina” and “Deepthroat”. Cupcakke is certainly not shy about her sex life, and promotes sex positivity by being open about her love for the vertical tango. Yet Cupcakke has received an enormous amount of hate for her sex-filled music and videos. Earlier this year in March, Cupcakke even took to Twitter to call out YouTube for removing some of her music videos due to “nudity” and “sexual content”.
“I kn the f**k y’all didn’t deleted deepthroat video off YouTube at 23 million views @YouTube,” she tweeted. “PUT IT BACK UP NOW”.
Even Jenna Marbles, a well-known YouTuber, came to the defense of Cupcakke by claiming it was a double standard for YouTube to remove her content.
“This is wrong, CupcakKe is important for real,” she said in response to Cupcakke’s tweet. “You took down Deepthroat etc. for nudity and sexual content, but Rihanna has many videos with nudity and you would never dare. This isn’t fair.”
Unfortunately, these double standards extend back to earlier times in hip hop when female rappers like Queen Latifah and Missy Elliot were overlooked, despite their obvious talent, because of the way they looked. Although they’ve contributed to rap in many ways, they’re never given their due respect because they weren’t overly sexualized for the male gaze. It’s as if women in rap can never win no matter what they do — either they’re too sexy or not sexy enough. They’re not good enough or they’re only the best “female” rapper.
With all that being said, women in rap deserve better from fans and from the music industry in general. There are a number of incredibly talented but neglected female rappers who are currently taking the world of hip hop by storm. Do yourself a favor and check out the list below — who knows, you might just discover you’re new favorite rapper … period.
- City Girls
- Megan thee Stallion
- Rico Nasty
- Asian Doll
- Tierra Wack
Carla Suggs can be reached for inquiry at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @c_swayzy.