Women, Hip-Hop, and Popular Music As coeditors of this special issue of Meridians, we set out to provide a forum to enrich, challenge, and expand the present discourse regarding the representation of women in contemporary popular music, and particularly in hip-hop.
This issue’s three organizing themes-?”Hip-Hop (and) Feminism”; “Sight and Sound”; and “Rage against the Machine”-?address the debates and intergenerational tensions regarding the liberators potential of hip-hop, the global significance and transnational expression of popular music, and the implications of hip-hop as both a hegemonic (successful corporate commodity) and counter-hegemonic (“street” subculture) phenomenon, respectively.
Taken together and placed in conversation with different musical genres, performances, and cultural practices, the works assembled here attempt a broadening and deepening of our knowledge of women’s roles and representations as they engage in music-making and image-shaping in lucrative and marginalia markets. An important goal for this issue is the expansion of critical ensues often used to study the complex category of women and music.
Feminist musicologists who began to excavate the history of women composers and musicians in the early sass in the wake of the women’s movement were initially viewed with scorn In a discipline that had privileged male musical genius (McClain 1991). Moreover, other musical elements, such as women’s [Meridians: feminism. Race, transnational 2008, Volvo. 8, no. 1. Up. 1-14] 2008 by Smith College. All rights reserved. Vocal music and song lyrics, often ranked lower in scholarly and social prestige than men’s instrumental music skills (Becker 1990).
Questions of artistic genius posed by feminists in the realm of music (McClain 1991; Citron 2000), art (Gnocchi 1971; Wallace 1998), or literature (Wolf 1929; Lorded 1984; Walker 1984), remind us of material realities, class positions, and the limited but alternative ways that women have accessed opportunities to hone their creative skills. Such questions have led to a scholarly recovery of women’s “voices” (literally) and the genius of vocal music. Nowhere Is this more strongly conveyed than In the critical reclamations of black women’s vocal music traditions, whether as singers or rappers.
Recent publications in the field of black feminist music scholarship, including Iatric Rose’s Black Noise (1994), Angela Y. Davit’s Blues Legacies and Black Feminism (1998), Farad Jasmine Griffin’s biography of Billie Holiday, If You Can’t Be Free, Be a Mystery (2002), and Gondolas Bough’s Check It While I Wreck It (2004), highlight these skills, even while India. Rare, emphasize in performances and promotional images their roles as musicians through their virtuosic performances on the piano or the guitar respectively.
Such tensions between women’s vocal and instrumental music reductions suggest that vocalist is still a contested form of “art” or “genius,” or that women vocalists are less respected if they do not master instrumental music and, hence, the full music production process. Interestingly, most, if not all, of the contributions to this issue have focused on women and their vocal and corporeal performances. This primary representation of women in music might suggest that instrumentality-?like vocalist-?is deeply gendered and sexualities but-?unlike vocalist-?is still exclusionary.
In light of women’s vocal access to music (or reorganized representation in popular instrumental music), they have nonetheless been able to utilize popular music as a site of expression and resistance. Other issues of concern include the ever-increasing global reach of the U. S. Music industry -?a multi-billion dollar business that markets music as a profitable entity while simultaneously inculcating worldwide audiences with dominant ideologies of race, class, gender, sexuality, and nationality (Berry 2003). In this business, women’s images are the commodities sold as well as the currency.
Additionally, raced and gendered stereotypes of women prevail on a global scale. Women in varying cultures have been meridians 8: portrayed either as decorative, fetishistic, manipulative, fragile, or in need of rescuing (or submission) in contemporary popular music lyrics, music videos, music concerts, and movie soundtracks. These sexualities portrayals, while severely limited in the popular imaginary, also shape the realities of women’s experiences in the music industry as lyricists, producers, and performers-?a critical site for examination in scholarly discussions about women’s creative and consumptive practices in popular music.
Despite these confined scenarios, music can still aid in reflecting and casting feminist issues. Veteran artists have weighed in on representations of women in music and have been encouraged by what they see as a new breed of polltakers, fundraisers, punctuates, rockers, and rappers who otherwise may not view themselves as feminists but nonetheless protest women’s subjugation with lyrics that depict anger, even rage, and that also insist that men respect the terms defined by women.
In this regard, “mutineer” women exhibit a new energy, even an explosion of youthful anti-sexist and anti-racist consciousness that creates a stage in popular USIA poised for a renewal in the surge of women’s militancy in the world (Heisting 2003). At the same time, there has also been a backlash against women’s autonomy within the U. S. Music industry, which has become increasingly corporate as more music studios and radio stations are owned and controlled by fewer media conglomerates, a subject explored by contributing author Meredith Leavened.
Within this climate, women’s musical roles are presently constructed in concert with or gendered and reclaimed stereotypes, even while individual artists negotiate and complicate nuanced performances in response. Women in hip-hop, specifically, have battled against their normalization since the genre’s inception. However, their inclusion in this male-dominated music culture has drastically shifted in the mainstream reception of hip-hop from their identities as emcees and deejays, who could hold their own against their male counterparts, to their relegation to hyper- sexualities roles as music video dancers, models, and groupies.
As previously mentioned, hip-hop predominates in this special issue and has generated provocative discourses on the intricate relationships among race, gender, sexuality, class, and nationality. Feminist scholars including Iatric Rose, Gondolas Bough, Main Perry, Kathy Genes, and T. Demean Sharply-Whiting have contributed to the developing field of hip- canella hobnobs & r. Dianne Barlow ; introduction hop studies in the academy by bringing attention to gender and sexual politics within the genre, and public intellectuals like Joan Morgan have specifically shaped feminist identities around what she has coined “hippo feminism. Morgan has since questioned hip-hop culture’s viability for feminist consciousness,l let alone a feminist movement, as have other black feminist scholars, including Beverly Guy- Sheffield, Johnston Cole, bell hooks, and Patricia Hill Collins. Despite mainstream hip- hop’s increasingly commercial and misogynistic focus, and with fewer opportunities for women in popular hip-hop to create or sustain politically conscious music, there is nonetheless an intrinsic relationship between hip-hop and feminism, which is explored in the essays included in the first section as well as referenced throughout this issue.
Both Rose’s (1994) and Bough’s work (2004) have chronicled the history of women’s contributions to hip-hop discourse, which began in the early stages of the USIA in sass New York City, thus reminding us of their central positions in the genre, despite its masculinity focus. Shah Rock may have been the first female rapper during this disco/funk era; she first performed as an emcee with Funky Four + One, then later Joined Lisa Lee and Debbie Dee to form Us Girls in the early sass.
The release of “Square Biz” by R & B singer Teen Marie in 1981 is among the earliest examples of rapping. Bloodline, best known for her performances in punk rock, also released that same year the hit song “Rapture,” another pop song that featured rapping. During this decade, rapper Roseanne Shanty, who “answered” Tuft’s hit record “Roseanne, Roseanne” in 1984, thus sparking what was then called the “Roseanne Wars,” set the stage for “hip-hop feminists,” whom Bough defines as “women and men who step up and speak out against gender exploitation in hip-hop” (Bough 2007, 80).
Shanty’s response opened up creative and critical spaces for other women rappers to express their own desires and discontent, most notably in the work of Salt-N-EPA, who also began their careers with a similar satirical “answer” to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s 1985 hit record, “The Show,” with “The Showstopper. Female rappers Brat, Siesta Goulash, and Eve, who have all evolved from simply “talking back” to sexist scripts produced by men to articulating their own perspectives on sexual, racial, and class politics in their music. Yet other rappers, such as Ill’ Kim and Foxy Brown, have largely embodied tropes of black female hypersensitivity.
In a different context, hip-hop artists like Missy Elliot and Misspell Monticello-?the latter is discussed by contributing author Andrea Clay-?have constructed queered meanings of sexuality in their complex performances. Beyond U. S. Borders, female AP artists have adopted hip-hop to address their subaltern realities as marginalia women of color, including Minnie Love in Britain, ALFA (Attaché Libratio De Linearity’s Fminister) in Senegal, MAC Trey of indigenous Australia,2 and Lass Karakas in Cuba, the latter group examined by contributing author Ronnie Armrests.
Within U. S. Urban cultural and transnational spheres, hip-hop has also influenced and been shaped by its Caribbean musical cousins, Jamaican danceable reggae and the Latin- based regnant, in which female emcees such as Lady Saw and La Bureau respectively eave also emerged to counter malcontented performances by infusing gender and sexual politics in their song lyrics.
Additionally, women in hip-hop have shaped the culture in their other roles as breakfasters, graffiti artists, deejays, hip-hop novelists, filmmakers, and spoken-word poets. Most recently, a group of “Busgirls” assembled and showcased their contributions to hip-hop in the national event, “B-Girl Be: A Celebration of Women in Hip-Hop,” in Minneapolis in 2006.
While such events and the artists that they celebrate may not be enough to sustain a mass political event-?especially one tied to a music culture that remains hostile to feminist ideals and that is constantly evolving and will eventually be replaced with new music expressions-?they do highlight the ways that women continue to resist their normalization and champion their rights to equality and liberation in whatever cultural environments exist for their participation.
Hip-hop artist Lauren Hill, formerly of the rap group The Fugues, became perhaps the best example of hip-hop feminism’s mass influence and acceptance when her first solo album in 1998, The Insemination of Lauren Hill, garnered critical acclaim, worldwide sales, and five Grammar awards. Nonetheless, we are still left to ponder Hill’s short-lived trajectory within a historical framework of black (and hip-hop) feminism.
Like public orator Maria Stewart in the early nineteenth century and the blues forefathers in the early twentieth century, including Ma Rained, Bessie Smith, Mamma Smith, and Trinitarian- born cross-dresser Gladys Bentley, a short period of ascendancy seems to remain constant for those black women in the public sphere who go against the grain of dominant culture. Hill has yet to produce a follow-up success on the order of The Insemination of Lauren Hill. UT rather preserves it as a building block for a sustained hippo feminist criticism and vision to counter an increasingly neoconservative, globally imperialist, and corporate environment that seeks to squelch it. How do we recapture our historical experience and cultural legacy in the twenty-first century and use it as a guide? This question reminds us of the continuing need for more studies on women’s music that incorporate interjectional analysis and that expand the critical lens to include a lobar perspective.
Despite the global reach of the music industry, which markets U. S. Cultural expressions to the world-? while it simultaneously imports, appropriates, and synchronizes other musical forms-?a transnational feminist analysis of music remains marginal in much of women’s studies and music and popular culture studies. Such an analysis is especially crucial to our understanding of current global and local cultural phenomena, especially in the way that these markets merge. It is also central to fostering creative and critical thinking about women’s contributions to music.
The essays and cultural works included in this issue continue the necessary work begun by feminist scholars and practitioners, within and beyond the academy, in theorizing and analyzing the centrality of women in popular music and in broadening the scope of their representations and performances. These contributions present a range of disciplinary subjects (musicology, sociology, literature, and communication studies), genres (hip-hop, calypso, soul), topics (religion, cinema, post-Hurricane Strain discourse, pornography, media consolidation), and practices (singing, playback singing, art, died production).
They also include diverse perspectives from scholars, artists, and music practitioners. The contents of this issue generate a much-needed conversation on historic tensions, recent trends, and future terrains for scholarly and artistic explorations. Hip-Hop (and) Feminism Opening this section (and special issue) is Cannel Hobnobs poem, “Hip-Hop Hegemony,” which borrows hip-hop’s language to critique issues of sexual violence and militarism.
Echoing the opening verse of the old-school anthem, Sugar Hill Gangs 1981 “Rapper’s Delight,” and dedicated to the once anonymous black woman (now named to the world as Crystal Gail Magnum) who reported being raped when she was hired by the Duke lacrosse team on March 13, 2006 to dance at their private party, “probably because she resembled the hip-hop music video dancer that they had seen on Fiasco-owned TV,” Hobnobs questions the continued viability of hip-hop culture and its supposed representation resisting” in this “new millennium,” the poem also suggests that the sexist, racist, and capitalist hip-hop culture is too intrinsically connected to the corporate machine and U. S. Imperialism-?whether inspiring the reclaimed hiring of stripers (in the case of he Duke lacrosse rape controversy) or the reclaimed killing of civilians overseas in cross strategies that have partnered the music industry with the military, which distributes misogynistic music to soldiers fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq so that they can be appropriately pumped up on the battlefield. However, Hobnobs poem also employs the old-school refrain to suggest that one of hip-hop’s original functions -?to voice dissent against forces of oppression-?can be reclaimed, especially at this contemporary moment when “wars” against women, people of color, nations, and even individual artistry in music “are ceaseless. Moreover, this poem sets the tone for the rest of the issue, which includes critical and creative works addressing the gendered, raced, classed, and national politics of music.
Following is the essay “Under Construction” by Whitney Peoples, which traces the evolution of hip-hop feminism, focusing less on the music of artists who articulate feminist consciousness and more on black feminist scholars and intellectuals who have responded both to hip-hop culture and the so-called “hip-hop generation” of young African American women and girls alienated by the feminist struggles of previous generations but who have embraced hip-hop music. As Peoples argues, “It is ultimately my contention that previous examinations of generational responses to employing hip-hop within feminist practice drew premature lines in the sand, setting black feminists at odds when really they were much more in line with one another. These tensions in black feminism have inevitably shaped intriguing public and personal responses, not only to prevalent sexism in rap music but also to individual hip-hop performers and the ways in which they engage issues of sexuality, a subject explored by Andrea Clay. In her essay on Misspell Monticello, Clay argues, “While important works have been written in recent years on the relationship between hip-hop and fem.- miss … There is little to no mention of Monticello, particularly her work at bridging these two cultural and political movements. ” Clay attributes this to the ways that black lesbians in general have been ignored in popular culture, subsequently calling for black feminist interventions in scholarship that might recognize the subversive discourse of queer sexuality and politics that Monticello puts forth in her music.
Another point that Clay articulates is the personal investment in popular music that feminist-identified women of color often make when seeking connections with other women of color emerging from this arena. Nowhere is this more evident than in Anyway Mascara’s essay, “Hotel and Hip-Hop,” which considers the formative spaces that exist in hip-hop culture for black Muslim women. Writing as a black Muslim hip-hop artist, Muscular places her own performances in conversation with fellow black Muslim hip-hop artists Eureka Baud and Eve. She also while their faith cultures are often erased or undetected by non-Muslim audiences ND popular culture at large-?whether because of the emphasis on Middle Eastern culture as the “normative” representation of Muslims or due to the predominance of the black church that renders non-Christians as “uncrushed. Moreover, Muscular posits, double standards exist within black Muslim culture that recognizes male hip- hop artists, such as Moms Deaf and Busts Rhymes, whose religious identities often construct the genre of “conscious rap,” while female rappers such as Eve get castigated for not “veiling” or for expressing sexuality. Sight and Sound Like any innovative hip-hop track, this issue disrupts the smooth flow of the hip-hop theme by sampling and mixing in other genres and other cultures while maintaining the choral refrain of women in popular music, or the “hook” of feminist musical resistance. The group of essays in this section explores how the spectacle and spectacular site of women’s bodies become nationalized, globalizes, and politicized.
Significantly, the essays also consider how these bodies are seen and heard, as well as how music embodies both racial and gender norms and differences in constructions of femininity and nationality. The function of music as a critical site of feminist, religious, and political praxis becomes even more complicated 8 when we leave North America to explore hip-hop and other popular music expressions from different world regions. In this vein, the first essay in this section, Jennifer Thronging Springer’s “Roll It Gal,” argues that Barbarian calypso singer Alison Hinds creates an important space in calypso for public discourse on and representation of female sexuality-? one that both challenges the objectification of women’s bodies in men’s calypso, as well as the politics of respectability that condemns women’s dance movements.
From a different Caribbean context, Ronnie Armament’s essay focuses on the Afro-Cuban female rap group Lass Karakas. Marginalia within the predominantly male hip-hop industry on the island, Lass Karakas are further marginalia in the spaces allotted for their performances, thus forcing the group to create moments of transgression when they bring their music and their performances to the streets and, specifically, to the highly policed sites of the tourist-based city of Old Havana. Armrests further argues that they challenge gender, class, and national divides through lyrics that call for Afro-diasporas identity ND global feminism, as well as through noise-making that shifts the soundtracks of the city to allow their entrance into public discourse.
Whereas both Springer and Armrests explore the way women’s bodies move and inhabit geographical and aural spaces, Patria Sundae contemplates the way women’s bodies “sound. ” In her essay, “Mere Jazz Suns” (“Listen to My Voice”), Sundae examines legendary Plywood playback singer Lata Manageress, who is primarily heard in Hindi cinema and whose between femininity and nationality. She also uses the example of the Indian film, Lagan, as well as other contemporary playback singers, to further analyze how Manageress’s vocalist encodes notions of Hinduism, idealized purity and chastity, and Indian nationality. Sundae thus highlights the gendered meanings of film music and how these meanings shift once they travel beyond Indian’s borders.
Also exploring the sound of women’s voices as well as the legacy of discontent and dissonance in black female soul-singing is Daphne Brook’s “All That You Can’t Leave Behind. ” Situating Beyond Knowles second solo album, a-Day, alongside Mary J. Bilge’s performance with 1. 12 of their anthem “One” during the Hurricane Strain Relief Concert in the wake of that natural and political disaster, Brooks incorporates Joseph Roach’s performance theory of “corrugation” to argue that both Knowles and Bilge are able to surrogate, or stand in place of, the numerous black women displaced and ignored in the Strain aftermath, by creating in their performances a public voice of dissent and grief.
As Brooks explains, “each artist’s work creates a particular kind of black feminist corrugation, that is, a cultural space that articulates black women’s distinct forms of palpable sociopolitical loss and grief as well as spirited dissent and assonance. ” Rage against the Machine Returning to, yet improvising on, this issue’s hip-hop theme, this final section focuses on the political and sexual economies of the music industry. The works featured here specifically explore music videos, industry laborers, audience reception, and partnerships between popular music and adult entertainment. They also document moments of public anxiety, resistance, dissent, and compliance to what is commonly perceived as popular music’s hegemonic presence as corporate culture disseminating familiar tropes of female subordination.
This section opens with the art work “Still,” by Mynah Moor, which recuperates the much maligned hip-hop Mode vixen” by photographing stills from contemporary music videos and assigning to these images words of action that suggest that we view the women’s bodies as active and formative agents, rather than as mere sexual objects. Strategically “distilling” such moments in the music video narrative, Moor allows us to revisit familiar representations of women through a feminist lens while centralizing women’s roles in music cultures as we examine genres like hip-hop music videos within a larger context of popular culture and contemporary society. “Tip Drill,” a introversion music video by the rapper Newly in 2004, is referenced in the subsequent essays.
Drawing from the video’s use of “soft porn” imagery and the employment of sex workers, the various authors in this section explore how its oversexed images allude to the behind-tetchiness exploitation of black women laborers in video production, how it precipitated protests from black women, and, In “Drop It Like It’s Hot,” Make Fits examines the role of culture industry laborers in rap music video production. Based on interviews with primarily African American producers, directors, and performers who work on the production of the “booty died”-?a specific genre of rap video that emphasizes the behinds of women of color through party, beach, or club scenes-?Fifty’s essay aims to shift the focus in hip-hop scholarship from lyrics and visual representations to “the relationship between specific culture industry laborers, the products produced, how they resonate with the consumer market … ND the level of alienation and distance from the music products experienced by the artists and the consumer. ” On the other end of this political economy is the audience, the subject in Shania Reid-Brinkley essay, “The Essence of Re(sex)peculiarity. Here, Reid-Brinkley examines a series of incidents in 2004 involving black women’s responses to rap music, which began with students at Seaplane College who organized a protest against Knells “Tip Drill” video, which led further to the Essence magazine staffs installation of Take Back the Music, a campaign featuring articles and an Internet “scribble board” that allowed for public discourse on the issue of misogyny in rap music and videos.
Using communication and discourse theories, Reid-Brinkley analyzes the various messages posted on this board that engaged the subject and questions the constrictive roles that numerous lack women advocated for “respectable” black femininity, especially in their celebration of the “Queen,” the flip side of the maligned “ho” or Mode vixen. ” Exploring both culture industry laborers and the public discourse of “respectability’ among black community members, Miracle Miller-Young argues in “Hip-Hop Honeys and Dad Hustles” for a different reading of black sexualities that are constructed in the genre of hip-hop pornography, which has emerged in cross-marketing strategies between hip-hop and adult entertainment.
This new genre in porn opened up a space to explore what Miller-Young terms the “illicit erotic economy’ of black sexuality and also increased Job opportunities for black porn actresses, who numbered only in the single digits at the beginning of the porn explosion in the sass but whose numbers rose exponentially in the sass and in the new century with the creation of this genre. Examining the ways that black masculinity in hip-hop culture depends upon tropes of black female hypersensitivity and interviewing porn actresses and other laborers in the industry, Miller Young suggests that a space exists for black sexual subjects to refashion themselves and their sense of pleasure, even though it functions in the hetero-patriarchy. Like Miller-young, singer/songwriter Meredith Leavened, in the closing essay, “Women, Pop Music, and Pornography,” recognizes the partnership between music and pornography.
Unlike Miller-young, Leavened argues in her essay that this merger between the two industries further limits, rather than opens, new possibilities for women’s cultural and sexual expressions. She also illuminates how media consolidation and the FCC deregulation of media ownership limits have created a corporate structure in which pornography has become a billion-dollar business, thus encouraging media owners to push a “pornography agenda” across all Edie, which has led to an increasingly hyperventilated representation of women in music. She further argues that the present pornographic trend perhaps began in reaction to the feminist-based music festival Lithe Fair in the late sass, especially since much of the rhetoric in women’s popular music equates hypersensitivity with feminism.
Moreover, Leavened suggests, incidents such as the Janet Jackson Superpower scandal in 2004 and the marketing of low-key music artists like Nora Jones merely serve as “ploys and decoys” to temper the obviousness that women in music are possibly “product placements’ for adult entertainment” that these same Edie conglomerates own. The contributors to this issue have raised provocative questions and myriad topics that expand our thoughts on women’s contributions to hippo and popular music. They especially demonstrate complex theories and analyses that emerge when critical attention is given to intersections among race, class, gender, sexuality, and (trans)nationality.