by Herschel Mackelina
A little more than a decade ago the rap scene was heavily male-dominated. A rap music video consisted of the same generic visual - a man clad in gold chains, the diamond grill to match, a couple of video vixens and most probably a car, mansion, and pool scenes to complete the set. This style of video saw little change or variance, until her arrival.
The female presence in rap brought with it an unprecedented wave of change, not only to the lyrical nature of rap but the visuals as well. Women were starting to reclaim their bodies and how they chose to express their sexuality. They refused to remain in the backseat, to be onlookers and props catering to the male ego.
Rap was born as a tool of liberation, to make heard the lives and stories of those not often given the opportunity to, and who better to defy the status quo and take on this bold style of self-expression than the marginalized black woman herself. Unapologetically and provocatively wielding her femininity, a trait once viewed to be weak and constricting of her being, now made powerful. Thus, challenging the very nature of Hip-Hop.
The first pioneers, such as the likes of MC Lyte, Lil Kim, and Da Brat, fought hard against the biased views held against women in rap and sought to break the mould of how they were portrayed. One of the definitive rap voices of the ’80s, Salt-N-Pepa, commandeered the sex-positive revolution of that era, their fashions expressing their strengths and femininity giving no shred of doubt as to what they represent.
In a time where concern was mounting over the sexist nature of rap lyrics and the continued objectification of women, their sultry and bold lyrics candidly spoke on the topics of women's sexuality, further emphasised through their colourful trademark jackets. Fast forward to today, where the digitized era has intrinsically linked music with visuals, it’s almost as though they’re expected to further complete the musicians' vision, and the experience for the listeners. Following from the tail-end of 2019, which undoubtedly was a phenomenal year for women in rap, 2020 has provided nothing short of empowering and brilliantly "provocative" music videos from female rappers.
Despite the pandemic, the start of the decade saw major female collabs between artists like Beyoncé and Megan the Stallion, as well as Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat - all collabs were unprecedented chart-toppers. Though no visuals have accompanied these songs yet, fans are eagerly anticipating what could be iconic visuals. Megan again teamed up with none other than Cardi B and blessed us with the visual treat of their single "WAP".
The sexually liberating video should’ve come as no surprise given the tongue-in-cheek lyrics of the song. Having racked up an impressive 123 million views, this new anthem for sexual-empowerment speaks to the power of pussy - and, more importantly, the power of women. The song, in a direct way, challenges the long-held double standard in Hip-Hop where men have pretty much gotten away with explicitly rapping about the same activities, whilst women get lambasted for it and blamed for tainting the culture.
May the years to come to see women breaking free from the moulds and constraints society places on how they express themselves. For as long as there are RAP girls, we are led!