Socialist Worker

Flygirls! Three decades of women in hip-hop

by Yuri Prasad
Issue No. 2139

For 30 years women rappers have defied the image of hip-hop as a citadel of sexism. In a notoriously male centred music industry, they have fought their corner as rappers, DJs, producers and label owners.

This excellent double CD compilation charts their successes.Starting with urban poets such as Nikki Giovanni, who emerged from the radicalism of the black power movement in the 1970s, Flygirls takes us through to the birth of modern hip-hop a decade later.

From the tenements of New York came rappers such as Roxanne Shanté – one of the first women to make a career out of hip-hop.

Roxanne knew no fear and took on rivals with a caustic wit. She proved that women rappers could be just as aggressive as male ones – and that they could sell records by the million as well.

In order to show they too could be “tough”, some women rappers fell into promoting some of the worst stereotypes of ghetto life – praising wealth and power above all else.

Flygirls doesn’t attempt to disguise these trends and includes many tracks littered with taunting and put-downs.

Sometimes they are clever and funny – especially when directed at an overblown male ego – at others, they are sad and repetitive.

By the early 1990s a new breed of politically conscious rappers was emerging. Among them were MC Lyte and Queen Latifah, both of who championed intelligent raps and refused sexual stereotypes.

Flygirls takes us through three decades in which hip-hop went from street corner oratory to global industry – and shows the essential role that women played in that transformation.

Flygirls! B-Boys Beware: Revenge of the Super Female Rappers
Soul Jazz Records, £11.99

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Article information

Tue 17 Feb 2009, 18:16 GMT
Issue No. 2139
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