Changing the face of rap music

Áine O'Boyle

Within the male-dominated world of rap music, a number of female rappers have risen to the forefront of popular culture, subverting industry norms and challenging our perception of the genre within modern society. 

Fans of rap and hip-hop are well accustomed to listening to lyrics about sex, violence, money and b*tches. The genre itself thrives off the objectification of women for the purpose of garnering clout among fellow rappers and peers. 

The idea of women in rap is not a new phenomenon, with artists such as Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot laying the foundations for today’s female rappers to thrive in. 

Artists such as Missy Elliot were game-changers for the industry, shying away from the new commercial female rappers of the time of whom were hypersexualised to appeal to the tastes of young men. 

Instead, Elliot established a unique self-brand, focusing on her talents as a rapper, leading her to create “Get Ur Freak On”, one of the most widely recognised songs of the last two decades. 

Over the past year, a recognisable surge of female talent in the music industry has become obvious.  For some time the only two female rappers most people would recognise were Nicki Minaj or Cardi B, but now female representation within the industry has improved tenfold, increasing the gender balance within this typically male-dominated industry. 

On 2019’s Year-End Hot 100 chart Lizzo was the frontrunner for the ladies coming in at number 13 with “Truth Hurts.” Megan Thee Stallion appeared twice with “Cash Sh*t” and her meme inducing hit, “Hot Girl Summer”. 

Megan Thee Stallion told Billboard: “Us women have always been talented. But it was a thing where there could only be one woman [rapper] at a time.”

Core to the success of women within the industry is individuality, whether it be through their music or their personalities. 

For Megan Thee Stallion, she was able to garner a following by creating what can only be considered a movement with “Hot Girl Summer”. 

Hot girl summer was not exclusive to “hot girls”, it was a simple message for living your best life and engaging in practices of self-love. Prioritising yourself and your own wellbeing was the best way to have a hot girl summer. 

The rise of a new generation of female rappers has been met with some objections, most namely from their male counterparts, highlighting the internalised misogyny within the genre. 

Rapper Jermaine Dupri said in a PEOPLE interview last July: “I feel they’re all rapping about the same thing,”

“I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper. For me, it’s like strippers rapping and as far as rap goes I’m not getting who’s the best rapper.”

His comments were met with major backlash from artists such as Cardi B and Doja Cat, defending the position of female rappers. 

The representation of women within the music industry, particularly within rap, is only increasing and it is promising to watch so many talented female artists rise to prominence and destabilise the notion that rap is a boy’s club only. 

Áine O’Boyle

Image Credit: WikiMedia