A History Lesson: Femcees

For those of you who think Nicki Minaj is the first female rapper ever… check this out.  For those of you who swear that Lauryn Hill is and was the only good female rapper ever… check this out.  And for those who just want to (re)discover some new (old) music… check this out!

Roxanne Shante is credited with having the first ever “diss” record.  It was pretty good too.

The Real Roxanne, a Nuyorican with a serious flow, was dope.  Read up on the “Roxanne Wars” and check out her video for “On a Roll” and my favorite The Real Roxanne song, “Her Bad Self”

Did you know that R&B singer Angie Stone was a rapper back in the day?  I know you didn’t.  That’s why I included a link to”Simon Says” that she did while she was apart of the group The Sequence.

Lady B is from Philly.  I swear she’s freestylin’ and did you catch that queer nugget she leaves around 2:38?  Yeah, I know you didn’t.  That’s why I’m pointing to it.

Do ya’ll remember this?  Funkdafied, the album and this single, went Platinum. The RIAA is the industry trade organization that certifies the number of albums sold. You can search all your favorite rappers and see how many albums they’ve sold.

Hardcore, Lil’ Kim’s first album went DOUBLE Platinum, and for as much as folks swear they hate her, I bet you remember the words to “Crush on You.” I left some of her freestyle below.

One of my favorite Lil’ Kim rhymes is on a Mary J. Blige song, “I Can Love You.”  I just think her flow–the delivery–is just spectacular.

Now Lil’ Kim has sold a lot of albums as opposed to an artist like Jean Grae who I’m pretty sure writes all of her own stuff (there have always been rumors that Kim didn’t author some her earlier material–I may talk about this at a later date) and Grae will absolutely rip just about anyone apart in a cipher. Check her out with this sexy single, “Love Thirst”

I think Jean Grae is pretty fantastic.  She Blogs and Tweets and I die daily from reading her stuff.  She’s amazing live, I hear.  I’ve not been able to see her live yet, but it’s on my list of things to do before I die.

And Rah Digga, remember she ran with Busta an’em.

She don’t really do that type of commercial rap anymore. Check her out now.

Speaking of little kid raps…

Without Monie Love, there would be no Lil’ Mama.

And rapper Lil’ Mama, yep the “Lip Gloss” girl and the same one that ran on stage with Jay-Z and Alicia Keys… she put together a duo with the vocals of Left Eye.

And did ya’ll know Left Eye released a couple solo projects, one with Death Row? I hope I don’t get shot for saying that.

You remember Queen Pen? Listen to her short freestyle about LIFE.

Lady Luck? Who is that?

Then there’s folks like Ebony Eyez who were on major labels, but who you probably don’t remember because her label barely supported her.

Speaking of things you might not remember:

This was one of my favorite Salt-n-Pepa songs. This and…

Missy Elliot has been far ahead of the curve for a long time. Her rhymes are simple, but everyone doesn’t need to be Rakim. She’s also sold more records than most [male/female] rappers. All of her albums went Platinum except for This is not a Test and Da Real World (both of which went gold). She makes up for it since Under Construction went DOUBLE Platinum.

There are some more interesting women like Lola Monroe, who I think is aight on the mic.

What did she say?

“Imma tell you like a queen told me/F*** these ni***s/Like I strap on the D”

No she didn’t… yes she did.

And for those of you who are more into the jazzy, Afrocentric, and conscious music — you should know Bahamadia.

Who watched Martin growing up? Remember KeyLoLo? Shanana’s friend? That was femcee Yo-Yo.  Her’s is a message of sisterhood, female empowerment, and anti-sexism. AND she did hers with a gangsta rap swag.   You might remember her in Brandy’s “I wanna be down” (1995) which won a MTV Video Music Award.

Her rhymes are educational, and at the time she was seen as very antithetical to Queen Latifah who didn’t do the gangsta rap and her image was much more regal; however, their messages don’t seem that much different. I’d have to do a linguistic analysis to know for sure, but…

This is by no means an exhaustive list, but it is a pretty good one to get you started.  There are some great femcees out there, and they’ve been here since this hip-hop thing started, but too many turn a deaf ear to what Black women are saying.  These women have been doing and saying a variety of different things for a long time.  All you have to do is listen.

Too many of us are reliant on the radio, MTV, or BET to tell us what’s hot.  Get on the internet, do some searches. Check out what’s going on beneath the surface of commercial hip-hop and see who else you might be drawn too.  Make a Pandora station, or check out mine, and discover a wealth of great femcees.

“THANK YOU SALT-N-PEPA” Pandora Radio Station.

A Glorious G.O.O.D Pink Friday

Have you noticed that Kanye West and Nicki Minaj are dropping an album on the same day, November 22nd?  Did you know that last week Nicki Minaj announced on Twitter that the drop date had changed to November 22nd from November 23rd?  Did you notice that Nicki Minaj lends her voice, the deranged one, to the title sequence of West’s short film called Runaway?  Have you thought about the ways that they could be connected in the popular cultural deranged-milieu?  Let’s work it out…

West has a new album, a new girlfriend, and a new obsession with film.  His newest project, a full length trailer for his newest album–in the style of Michael Jackson–seems to mark his entrance into the upper echelons of the status of ICON.  Have we ever seen a rapper reach his level of pop-dum?  I don’t think so (arguably Tupac did, but only after his death).  I remember when Kanye was going to be different; a conscious commercial rapper who talked about the ways that “they made us hate ourselves and love they wealth” (“All Falls Down”) but now… he just talks about himself.  And what does Nicki Minaj have to do with this?

As of now there are about 4 female rappers (working) who are signed to major labels and Nicki Minaj is the newest; the first newcomer on the scene (on a major label) in what may actually be a decade.  Kanye West is the best rapper to come on the scene in the past 10 years and has set himself up to become the most globally recognized.  Minaj is making a dramatic entrance and has been well received by many to the dismay of many.  Like West, her entrance into rap comes by way of serious co-signing from other more established artist like Lil’ Wayne.  Though her ostentatious brand of representation is not particularly new (she borrows heavily from Lil’ Kim), she has managed to put together some bars on a couple mixtapes and everyone else’s songs that are interesting enough for her to win a BET Award without even releasing an album.  And while BET is ready to throw awards at her, I’m not ready to do such a thing without having a project of hers in my ear to actually judge.  Her first two songs off her album, “Massive Attack” and “Your Love” are catchy, but they don’t show off much skill or rap mastery, her features have been better–that Ludacris “My Chick Bad” is going down in history.  And the videos are absolutely and utterly a waste of digital space.  They just aren’t that good.

Foxy Brown came on the scene with much of the same eagerness from hip-hop fans as Minaj is.  Lil’ Kim was a beast, selling a couple million copies of Hard Core.  Da Brat even went platinum… twice.  And let’s not forget that Salt-N-Pepa stayed relevant for a decade.  And all of them did that with competition! So Minaj should sell a trillion copies cause there aren’t any rappers out right now, besides Kanye who could give her competition… So why are they dropping albums on the same day?

Oh, I don’t know.  Maybe they thought it would be fun to see who sold more?  I have no clue.  You’ll have to ask them about that, but what I do know is that Minaj and West provide something for America.  New representations of Blackness that are especially palatable to white audiences.  Both of their images borrow so heavily from whiteness–Minaj as “barbie” and West’s obsession with brand names that only the super-rich (mostly white) can afford–but they’re still recognizably Black and America has an obsession with Black icons.

There is something else I know and that’s movies and since Kanye West has gotten into the film business–he should be judged like a film maker, so look out for the next movie review post, A Brief Movie Review: Kanye West’s Runaway.

A Brief Movie Review: The Town

Grade:  C
Comments: Eh… I literally had to bite myself to keep from dozing off at one point.  At the hour and a half mark, I looked at my watch like… is it over yet?  It was way too long.

Commentary (Spoilers)*Though this movie is spoiled already
The Town (2010), like most bank robbery movies, could have only had one of two endings: either they get away or they don’t.  The Town, borrows from Set it Off (1996), and one of the four bank robbers get away.

Ben Affleck (like Jada Pinkett Smith who plays “Stony” in Set it Off) is the lone survivor.  Throughout the film, he carries on a romance with a woman who is a bank manager played by Rebecca Hall.  If you recall, Stony also had a romance with a bank manager (Blair Underwood).  Rebecca Hall’s character helps Affleck get away in the end, kinda like the detective in Set it Off lets Stony get away.  And then there’s Jeremy Renner, the best actor in the movie, plays the crazy one who dies with guns blazin’ (like Queen Latifah in the role of “Cleo”).

Basically… what I’m saying is… The Town is the white male Irish version of Set it Off.

What Makes Anything (Pop)ular?

I must borrow here from Horkheimer and Adorno (1944) and say that I believe the popular is the dope of the masses. And for those of you who don’t know who they are, I’ll borrow from Malcolm X (or at least Denzel as Malcolm X) and say ya’ll are being “bamboozled” by the culture industry.
Popular is whatever someone else says is popular. Popular is whatever you can consume without consciously engaging. For example, how many of the words can you think of right now to any rap song on the radio? Do you, like most people, claim not to “listen for the words, but for the beat”? Do you think that because you don’t know the words, that it makes you immune to the messages encoded in the lyrics?

As many Wisewomen have once (or twice) told me, there is a time and a place for everything. I by no means believe that you have to turn your critical eye on everything all the time — if you need to analyze every Crest toothpaste commercial that comes on, that’s your prerogative, but it may become a bit exhausting if you’re just trying to sit through an episode of Lie to Me. However, it is helpful, in the very least, to have a critical lens, or the ability to do the critical work; ask questions of the stuff that you’re mentally ingesting.
That entails first being able to identify messages that the “popular” thing is sending you. Then, (I know, a lot of steps…) ask yourself if you buy the messages it’s sending you about self, nation, and “others”. Fine, you watch the Jersey Shore because you think it’s ridiculous, but it’s a whole ‘nother process to really ask yourself why you think it’s ridiculous and a whole ‘nother to start asking questions about class, about racialization, about reality television, voyeurism, and the consumption of other people’s misery.
Those are the questions that get obscured as you’re sitting there laughing at Snookie get her extensions pulled out, and those are the questions that MTV hopes you don’t ask while you’re watching that commercial for Axe body spray and Redbull energy drink.
I know, I know, you’re thinking: “Dr.” Lane, that’s way too much work. I just want to watch The Jersey Shore and laugh and not think about anything.
And I say to that: Fine. Sit on your sofa and watch your insides rot.

Public Anthropology is Cool…

I’m a graduate student at American now and every time I mention that I’m going to be an anthropologist “when I grow up,” people always seem to be fascinated. They ask what I do, what I want to do, and I clunker through an explanation about the different fields: archaeology, biological/physical, linguistics, and sociocultural. But really… the best way for me to tell you what kind of anthropology that I do is this right here…. Public Anthropology Conference 2010

Register. It’ll be fun.