Why the Female Rapper Can’t Win

Metaphorically speaking.

As the media is literally forcing us to watch a fake feud between Nicki Minaj and Iggy Azalea broil, though I remained more concerned with the reality of why my girls haven’t been brought back home yet, I do have a surmise or two to share about the current news surrounding the two former topics. It may be an approximate date, but let’s say roughly some time around 2007, the female rapper became the black model of the 1990s. For a female rapper to reach the forefront, it was one at a time as if it was the longest conga line ever and when the chosen one reached such monumental success–ostensibly–she would react like a cavernous lioness at just the thought of another also given the same yet rare opportunity to shine in the spotlight and suddenly thrones had to be shared.

So while Naomi and Tyra felt as if they couldn’t be friends because it was every black beauty for herself on a Versace catwalk, it was actually the opposite for the female rapper in the ’90s. Female emcees almost couldn’t wait to join forces and collaborate. In embracing widespread camaraderie, some of the decade’s most fun and memorable tracks derived because of it, including Lil’ Kim’s “Ladies Night (Remix)” and the remix to Brandy’s “I Wanna Be Down” with Yo-Yo, MC Lyte, and Queen Latifah. Lately, it would be viewed as a novelty to see female rappers on a track together, especially if all involved happen to be as popular and bank-worthy as the next one. Lest, it’s not to say those back in the day ladies didn’t have beefs of their own. For every track Lil’ Kim had with Missy Elliott, Foxy Brown was nowhere to be found except for that one time they were both on the remix to Total’s “No One Else”. So while here and there, there were mutual disagreements, the female rapper was on a mission to breakthrough and show the love to the next sister for the most part. It seemed to be a pattern of when I win, you win and fans responded with lyrical verbatim glee.

The reason why the forced feud between Minaj and Azalea is unfortunate is mainly because anyone that pays attention to Minaj already knows she writes her own rhymes. For Minaj to remind us was an unnecessary move during her 2014 BET Awards acceptance speech and her reminder to the media only opened the door for another round of a potentially sassy catfight and an added chapter of publications, bloggers, and gossip reporters churning the pot of over-hyped antagonism. Plus, this recent case of Minaj vs. Azalea exemplifies how the female rapper has tangibly allowed others to ignite fires amongst each other and thus flames go down a path of potential friendships prematurely burned and at the very least, a future surprise collaborator. Honestly, it is also unfair that female rappers are expected to be best friends just because they are so few of them that obtain both cable and network TV status. The average woman is highly supportive of the basis of sisterhood but it’s not to say to that every woman also doesn’t have her personal, secretive list of females she just doesn’t trust or can’t stand until time has allowed for growth and understanding to flick them off the sheet. When female rappers are not friends or constant music buddies, they are labeled as anti-sisterhood or haters to their fellow emcees, and the underbelly of this criticism is that while every male rapper has his enemies–and it seems they each got plenty–it would not be hard to find tons of fraternizations within the Chris Brown or Drake catalogs respectively, even as these two at one point definite were not on each other’s speed dial. Yet, in recent years, the lack of female rapper friendships, even if just for business or tracks, is evident. A male rapper’s LP will have ten fellow male rapper features. Nicki Minaj’s first two, Pink Friday and Pink Friday: Roman Reloaded featured no female rappers. So while she claims that she makes superfluous comments like “when you hear Nicki Minaj spit, Nicki Minaj wrote it” for future female artists and rappers to aspire to, when is she going to artistically do her part? She’s already been here with the blueprint Lil’ Kim. Why haven’t more female rappers come together and dropped epic posse cuts to blow the lid of male rappers and critics alike (Minaj attempted, but on her own with “Lookin’ Ass N****” and the closest we’ve had is thanks to Ludacris and his “My Chick Bad (Remix) featuring Diamond, Trina, and Eve).

Minaj delivered a series of Twitter mea culpas and Azalea insisted on letting us all know she’s taking the high road is just grateful for her breakout song “Fancy” for being such a hit (she’s become Billboard’s first female rapper with the longest Hot 100 run at number one), Minaj may not want to very loudly declare support for the Australian rapper, Azalea’s current rise is an impressive run. It was easy for critics, professional or not, to label her recent popularity courtesy of being ultimately Caucasian (further provoked by a controversial piecer written by Forbes.com, the last place for urban or hip-hop commentary) the truth is, who was the last successful WHITE female rapper anyone can think of? Eminem broke the fourth wall since the days of Vanilla Ice and with the exception of the talented and very hip-hop lettered MC Serch for white men, paving the way for today’s Action Bronson and Macklemore, the white female rapper on the other hand has been given an even harder time than the black female rapper. They often translated as more campy than complex. SPIN.com had even compiled a list online of The Top 50 Biggest White Girl Rap Moments, which pre-Iggy Azalea, the average American could only count out Natalie Portman’s angry as f**k rap rant skit for Saturday Night Live’s Digital Shorts segment. Yes, Kreayshawn had a moment with her YouTube hit “Gucci Gucci” but it was literally a moment; Kitty Pryde and Brooke Candy remain of The Fader and VICE divisions of music coverage; somehow Amanda Blank was undeservedly ignored; and Lady Sovereign scored a Missy Elliott remix out of “Love Me or Hate Me” yet by her second album, American audiences had clearly picked a side.

Azalea’s travels from cleaning houses to the stage of 2014 BET Awards, like any female rapper before her, was not without tragedy, doubt, or rejection before triumph but it is being made Windex clear that as of right now, no of color female rappers are reaching out to the as equally curvaceous Azalea. Unlike Eminem, though he went through the storm for acceptance, with Dr. Dre by his side when he dropped The Slim Shady LP in 1999, by 2000, black male rappers were warming up to Marshall Mathers being one of the best rappers ever. Iggy on the other hand has been having a hard time finding the acceptance through her peers even with the backing of T.I., though she does have black male and female fans, who have been seen at her shows. Though still grasping the ability to convey lyrical ingenuity in her content, her album The New Classic is full of for “the struggle” jams that are distinctly charming and uplifting. Where she is right now, the pop charts absolutely adoring her, was where Minaj was about two years when she suddenly went from street Yo Gotti cuts to Radio Disney friendly cameos and dressing up like a movie theatre snack for the Nickelodeon Kids Choice Awards. For Azalea, it’s been from the raunchy “Pu$$y” of her mixtape Ignorant Art to the Top 40 material of Ariana Grande’s ’60s tweaked “Problem”.

I had written about the interesting case of the BET Awards’ category of Best Female Hip-Hop Artist for The Source last year, and clearly the rubic is still at an awkward place as Minaj has won for a fifth year in a row. Insecurity runs supreme in the music industry, more than any other in entertainment, and by no means is Minaj’s place in popular music edging on geriatric as Azalea becomes a favorite of a social-media heavy climate, but the manner in which their blackmailed feud amused pop culture addicts to the largest degree, both ladies would be better off moving on from here on out. Does Nicki Minaj want to be the Spike Lee to Iggy Azalea’s Quentin Tarantino? As the battered sodality of the female rapper will surely become a lot more interesting with the return of the Bronx’s cult fave Remy Ma once she’s officially released from jail July 31, 2014, we will continue to having to wait and see what happens to the few queens that have earned their space amongst the cash kings of hip-hop music and if they’ll find way to get along–if they choose to–in larger numbers.


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