In this lecture, we will discuss the noise over which black women who rap must contend in order to make their voices heard. We will discuss the ways that black women who rap work within and outside the boundaries of what is understood to be “appropriate” for black women within and outside of hip-hop culture to do and say. We’ll discuss the work of Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, MC Lyte, and Grammy Award winning artists Missy Elliott (“Get Ur Freak On”) and Queen Latifah (“U.N.I.T.Y”) asking how they consistently disturb the boundaries around norms of racialized gender and sexuality. We’ll discuss how black women who rap have consistently managed to “queer” the language of hip-hop, which is typically a domain where men and masculinity reign supreme, by questioning hip-hop’s patriarchy and heteronormativity and exposing its fault lines. This queering, I’ll argue, allows these women to boldly place their bodies, voice, and art at the center of a more expanded vision of hip-hop where any body can grab the mic. We’ll end by thinking about how black women who rap dare us to listen to what Black women have to say about their experiences of race, gender, and sexuality.
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