You Might Be Shocked To Hear Who This Panel Thinks Is The Most Feminist Hip Hop Artist Today

missy-elliott

As part of the White House Council on Women and Girls, a daylong forum dedicated to discussing Advancing Equity for Women and Girls of Color was held in November. The forum brought together people from the academic, private, government and philanthropic sectors to discuss ways to break down barriers to success and create more ladders of opportunity for all Americans, including women and girls of color.  Forum participants highlighted a range of issues, including economic development, healthcare, criminal justice, vulnerability to violence, hip-hop, and images of women in the media.

The event discussed ways to help women and girls of color who are disproportionately affected in certain areas of society. They want to encourage more participation in STEM careers, prevent teen pregnancies, and engage the media and entertainment sectors in encouraging the mission to uplift the public participation of young black women.

One of the panels held during the day was ‘Hip Hop: Women’s Vulnerability and Voices’ which included Charlene Carruthers, Executive Director of the Black Youth Project 100, Dr. Johnnetta B Cole, Director of the Smithsonian National Museum of African Art, rapper MC Lyte, and a few more. Given that hip hop has had a massive influence in the way that is has become a public narrative of the often private struggles in the lives of black men and women, it was a great way to discuss how the genre portrays women and how it can do better.

The Panel moderator talked about an incident where a group of protesters and activists were in a jail cell together after disrupting a police conference recently, and the topic of feminism and hip hop came up among the group while they were waiting to be processed. One of the women asked “who do you think is the most feminist hip hop artist today?” and someone responded “Fetty Wap”.

fetty-wap

The moderator talks about how interesting it was that the group being arrested, a movement of black liberation activists, were coming together to talk about this important topic given the current climate of disproportionate violence toward black men and women. Some of the people involved questioned whether you can even be a feminist in hip hop.

At this point, MC Lyte jumped into the conversation and offers her support of the view that Fetty Wap is the most feminist hip hop artist right now.

“I agree, I think at this point it is Fetty Wap. He may have a very unique way of presenting his ideas, but he does love women. For what he’s up against in this climate, with all of the other MCs, he’s taking a stand, he’s being pretty courageous with what he presents in his music,” she says before continuing her explanation.

MC Lyte lists Big Sean, Kendrick Lamar, Common and Talib Kweli as other male artists who have included some sort of feminist lyrics in their tracks, but they have been around for a long time and don’t always present women in the best light in some cases. And although one of the other women on the panel pushes back by saying the point of hip hop is to be challenging and allow people to question what is going on in society, MC Lyte has a great response.

fetty-wap

“I think you win the challenge when you’re able to get your message across without degrading your sister. Or your woman, or your mother. There’s a woman in the lives of these men that have done right by them, so to persecute every woman publicly, forever, on the microphone, these are recorded vocals that will last through the test of time in the way that it is being done today, is not fair,” she said.

At the same time, on the topic of persecution, she says it is important to recognize that although not every artist seems to be helping the cause of equality by the way they talk about women in their lyrics, there needs to be room to allow them to grow and develop more feminist view points.

“I know when I started I used a whole lot of profanity. I wasn’t good at communicating, so I used what I knew. But the more you understand that…these words are going out across the entire globe, at that point you have to take responsibility. Fetty Wap and some of these guys I mentioned are on the forefront of what could be great change in hip hop if we show them they are heading in the right direction. They get a lot of pats on the back for the disruptive things that are said, but are we there to give them that extra push to let them know they’re headed in the right direction by showing the African American women love,” she concluded.

While it may be a surprise to her a woman in hip hop declare that a male artist is currently the most feminist voice right now, she makes a great point about including the good things they are doing, especially in light of the need to include more men in the modern feminist movement.

nicki-minaj

As for allowing men to “turn a new leaf”, we’ve seen it happen to Jay-Z where he went from a guy known for his catchy hit ‘Big Pimpin’ to being married to undoubtedly one of the most visible feminist artists in pop music today.

But MC Lyte is not the first person to comment that Fetty Wap is indeed a feminist. Writer Sesali B argued that Fetty is bringing romance into trap music on Feministing.com, and his way of expressing love for women is pretty radical compared to the rest.

“In Fetty’s world, it is not simply the support of a woman in a business venture that makes her a Trap Queen; it is the effort that a Trap Queen puts into learning the ins and outs of said business, her willingness to perform the same amount of labor, take the same amount of risk, and most importantly reap the same benefits and create the same opportunities for herself. I love that Fetty has moved beyond female partners as uninvolved and unimportant in relation to their male bae/assumed breadwinner. In Fetty’s world, the bond between him and his boo is strengthened by their personal and business relationship, uplifting a romance trope that is refreshing. I like to think that he is indirectly suggesting that men should use their privilege to make room for more women in business,” she writes.

Elite Daily compiled a list of Fetty Wap’s 10 most feminist lyrics which at times subverts the sexual messages often present in hip hop from a woman being an object to someone whose decisions and needs he values just as much as his own. It is certainly a far cry from the era of music videos were women’s bodies were equated alongside inanimate objects like cars, money, accessories etc. Of course, if it means Fetty Wap is eventually going to spit lyrics about equal pay, domestic violence and intersectionality, MC Lyte could have hit the nail on the head about needing to give these men time to develop into equality mouthpieces.

missy-elliott

In the meantime, feminism certainly hasn’t been missing from the hip hop landscape by a long shot, despite the overtly male dominance in mainstream consciousness. Lil Kim, TLC, Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliott and but a few names of popular female hip hop artists who have successfully disrupted the way black women are perceived and portrayed in music, they have caused controversy and divided many on the way they choose to control their aesthetic and sexuality, and have added a much needed voice to the struggle of African Americans in pop music today.

Callia Hargrove at Racked.com sums up the feminist voice in hip hop well by sharing her exposure to this important persona in the genre and how it affected the feminist she is today.

“Becoming a hip-hop [fan] meant acknowledging that it was mainly a boy’s game. Luckily for me, the ’90s boom of female MCs provided me with lessons in feminism that would stick with me for life. Idols like Missy Elliott and Aaliyah played with the boys and dressed like them, yet they still owned their femininity. They stood up for themselves, and were ultimate boss ladies. At a time when so many women in music videos were barely more than window dressing, they were the stars of the show. And when you saw their music videos or live performances, you knew that every element, from their music to their choice of outfits, was aligned with their strong, self-created feminist personas,” she writes.

Just to reiterate how important and needed feminism is in hip hop today and that we shouldn’t just be OK with one female artist each decade carrying the torch, look at how Missy Elliott’s new single ‘WTF’ has already become a huge hit since its release in November. Ever since her badass surprise performance at the Super Bowl this year with Katy Perry, many have been waiting for her comeback. And with 18 million views and counting, it was a long time coming.

Fetty Wap and co. take note: we need more feminism in hip hop music especially and if you are willing to lead a group of guys in this direction, we will happily support that!

You can watch a snippet of the White House Hip Hop panel below:


 

 

One Comment

  1. Pingback: Mexican Hip Hop Artist Uses Her Voice To Make Rap Less Misogynistic, More Feminist - GirlTalkHQ

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.