After a lonely quarantine cooped up in our houses, here’s something to celebrate from this strange era: the sense of unity between women in rap. There was a time when female artists were constantly depicted as being at each other’s throats, and it’s nice to see this time of reflection has done something good for the culture.
It was a joy to watch Cardi B showcase raunchy and ratchet AF female rappers Sukihana, Mulatto and Rubi Rose in the new video for ‘WAP’, her X-rated new track with Megan Thee Stallion. Cast alongside female stars Normani, Rosalia and, yes, Kylie Jenner, these rappers love talking about their bodies in whatever way they like.
As soon her explosive ‘Bodak Yellow’ went viral in 2018, Cardi was getting into scraps with Nicki Minaj, after it was reported that Nicki ‘liked’ a negative social media comment about her. Fast-forward two years and grown mature mother Cardi is sharing nice words about the head Barb in charge. She recently acknowledged that there was a lack of female rappers in the early ’10s and said of Nicki: “There was one female rapper that dominated for a very long time. And she did pretty good. She’s been still dominating.” Who could have seen it coming?
Compare today’s rap scene with the females of the ‘90s – the last time we saw a huge fleet of women dominating – when Queen Latifah was singing about the bond with her friends on ‘U.N.I.T.Y’ while Lil Kim and Foxy Brown were actually sending shots for each other. For years females have been fighting to be that leader of the pack, but it’s interesting that a song like ‘WAP’ is the one to bring everyone together, rather than the arguably more positive ‘U.N.I.T.Y’.
Well, for all its flaws, the internet age is an era in which, theoretically, everyone and everything is accepted. And the steady increase in huge female stars has been amazing. As well as the A-List likes of Megan, Cardi and Doja Cat, we’ve seen smaller stars such as Dej Loaf and Honey C break through the industry. Before them, there was such a drought of women rappers in the spotlight that even odd lady in a flock of male rappers was something to celebrate. And for nearly every female millennial out there, there has only been one rap queen to inspire them – the ruthless, Queens-raised Nicki Minaj.
Miss Minaj’s androgynous artistry made her celebrated in all quarters. Being one of the first female rappers to introduce personas – see the aforementioned Barbie – into her work, she really paved the way for girls nowadays whose artistry is fluid and interchanging (just look at Megan’s Tina Snow persona, among others).
However, even this role model had her fair share of beefs, having feuded with the Grammy award-winning R&B veteran Mariah Carey at the start of her career (the two bickered constantly during their 2013 stints on American Idol). It was almost like being christened into the rap game: as a female, you must have been a part of some mess for the guys to think you’re ‘ard.
In a male-dominated genre, it seems like women must appease men with being sexy and showing off all their body in order for them to even look their way. But as we move further into 2020, we see these women – who we can’t deny may be benefitting from sex appeal and the male gaze – own their bodies and sexualise themselves because they want to.
Rap, reality and social media star Sukihana (who is definitely not safe for work) may be the most explicit personality to appear in the ‘WAP’ video. Yes, Mulatto and Rubi Rose talk sensually about sex, but when it comes to the purely filthy sex talk, no one can touch Sukihana. She’s famous for saying her “throat’s six-six” feet long, and she relentlessly advocates for knowing your self-worth as a woman, being open about your sexuality and not always succumbing to men.
And within this brand new attitude of the new women in rap, we can see why they stick together. In the ‘90s, to oppose sexism, you had to be down with the boys. Foxy and Kim were in a rap beef only fitting for gang lords, while MC Lyte and Salt ‘n Pepa wore baggy clothes that made them look like their male counterparts.
Nowadays, the type of clothes we wear and the way that females conduct themselves is just a big ‘Fuck You’ to the world: Cardi and Megan don’t conform to feminine stereotypes, nor do they go to try to reverse the idea of being ‘ladylike’ to make some kind of point.
Women in rap are finding their own place in the community, and are now realising that they only need themselves and their own approval. It’s nice to know that today’s aspiring young female rappers will have more than just the one female to look up to – and they don’t have to flick back decades to do so.