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An artist is anyone who is engaging in any of the forms of creative art. The art could be in the form of; music (singing, playing an instrument), drawings, paintings, poetry, carvings, sculptures etc. My aim is to carry out a brief study on Hip Hop as a genre of music. Using the example of female artists, I will examine the increase in their number, the additions they have made to culture, their message difference from male counterparts. I will also examine whether their music is about change, reinvention or introduction of something new.
Hip Hop is believed to have originated from the Bronx of New York City, USA (Oware, Matthew, p. 4). This is a genre of music that features fast singing of words (rap) and some electronic beats in the background. This was popular among Black Americans and dated back to the early 70s in the streets of major towns. There was a crop of hip hop artists beginning with the likes of; Tupac Shakur, Notorious BIG and later O'shea 'ice cube' Jackson, Calvin Broadus Jr (Snoop Dogg) and Marshall Bruce Mathers (Eminem) who gained popularity in the 90s.
The Hip Hop Genre, as shown in the above text, was a male-dominated field in those days. The few female stars by that time include; Beyonce Knowles Carter, Queen Latifah, Missy Elliot etc. As of recent years, a new crop of female artists is fast taking the industry by storm. The likes of; Onika Tanya Maraj (Nicky Minaj), Belcalis Marlenis (Cardi B) are household names in America and beyond. The latter was born in the Bronx, and it is no surprise she followed in the path of Hip Hop.
The content of Hip Hop as a genre in music has been evolving a lot in terms of content. In the early days, the content was centred on the empowerment and unity of the African American population. The main message was about peaceful co-existence with the Native Americans. This was especially due to the rising cases of racism and violence against Africans who were called 'negroes.' Today racism based on skin colour in America is a crime. (Phillips, Coretta, and Ben Bowling, p. 190).
The message in today's hip hop is based on three main things; money, sex and drugs (cocaine, bhang). The original Hip Hop has been taken over by a very shallow version called rap. Shallow, because it does little to uplift or add value. It actually has the opposite effect as it has even led to moral decay, especially among the Millennials. It is not uncommon to see that young people have even borrowed questionable fashion statements and habits from this new crop of rappers. For example, smoking bhang, an illegal drug in many countries, like Kenya (Gateri, Lucy and Nyakwana, p. 2).
Hip hop content varies across artists. Some have a keen focus on actually inspiring virtues, being a role model and doing philanthropic work. A good example is the song 'god's plan' by Drake (Aubrey Drake), a Canadian rapper who dished out over $1 million to help the less fortunate. He even gave away vehicles as gifts to some of his followers - a far cry from other male rappers whose music content is heavy on; sex and money. A good example being Chris Brown in his song 'Loyal' where he uses obscene words like 'whore,' 'bitch' etc.
The difference between the two genders when it comes to their music content is, however, worth noting. At a basic level, they are all circling around the same thing. But on a deeper level, there's a distinction. Most female rappers carry messages on matters; love, relationships, single motherhood, women empowerment. They appear as bold and independent women with what it takes to lead and dominate (Papale & Falon, p. 2). Examples; Azealia Banks, Cardi B and Nicki Minaj. It is safe to say, female artists, embrace variety compared to their male counterparts.
The questions arise, do the contributions of these female artists represent change, a re-invention or replay of the past or new, unique development in Hip Hop?? From my point of view, I would say it is a mixture of all three scenarios. This is because artists are unique in voice and lyrical content of their music. For example, Nicki Minaj has an extroverted, aggressive and care-free demeanour, while artists like Tinashe or Alicia Keys, has a gentle and more covert personality.
Personality differences set the stage for different feels to their music. Missy Elliot and Azealia Banks are bringing in some change into the rap industry. They have fearlessly used lyrics with sexual inclinations, a fete that is considered taboo for women to talk among many cultures of the world. This is especially out in public. This was rare in the past where only male artists could make statements with heavy sexual innuendo without fear of backlash or reprimand.
Old is gold. This is an old adage known by many. Some female rappers have tried their hand at going 'old school.' The likes of; Missy Elliot with her song 'Where they form' the beats are similar in rhythm and melody to Tupac Shakur's songs only that she raps much faster. The sensational singer is famous from the 90s and has a way of adapting to the changes that come with the 21st Century. She and several others had successfully carried out a re-invention of what used to be there when Hip Hop as a genre in music was born.
Hip hop is taking on a new twist to its history. Thanks to a crop of female artists that are trying to come up with unique and innovative to evolve Hip hop. A perfect example would have to be Cardi B. The fast-rising star has amassed fame and is known by millions across the globe. She has tried her chances with a fusion of Pop and Hip Hop music and was featured in Adam Levine's song 'Girls like you.' Such type of music called 'mash-ups' has become a new way of making music less monotonous. It's no wonder the song was leading in the hot 100 billboards for a record 34 weeks (January- September).
Fashion is commonly talked about in such a lucrative industry. It is not uncommon for female rappers to rock bold fashion statements that are mostly all about 'showing some skin' as Tatiana Ceballos in his Book, Discover your style, talks about. This has shaped dress-code culture across the world, among other things, e.g. plastic surgery and artificial body part enhancement. Nicki Minaj is rumoured to have enhanced her backside by using silicone implants. True or not true, this is up for debate.
In conclusion, it is clear that Hip Hop is no longer a male-dominated world. The female talent is catching up fast. It seems the goal is to either undergo revolution or evolution so as to stay relevant in such a volatile industry (Basalla, George p. 214). Artists, male and female alike, are impacting not just cultures but the future of many not only through their music but habits and practices. It would be prudent that people be themselves and only follow 'the trends of pop culture' out of genuine interest, not going with the wind.
Basalla, George. The evolution of technology. Cambridge University Press, 1988.
Qatari, Lucy Njeri, and Teaberry Nyakwana. "Factors Predisposing to Drug and Substance Abuse among the Youth in Gachie, Kiambu County, Kenya." Journal of Medicine, Nursing & Public Health 1.1 (2018): 1-12.
Oware, Matthew. "Break Beats in the Bronx: Rediscovering Hip-Hop's Early Years." (2018): e4-e4.
Papale, Falon. "Lesbian, Bisexual, and Queer Women Rappers: The Creation and Inhabitation of a New Sexual Landscape in Three Case Studies." (2017).
Phillips, Coretta, and Ben Bowling. "Ethnicities, racism, crime and criminal justice." The Oxford handbook of criminology. 6th ed. Oxford: OUP (2017): 190-212.
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