Black History Month is upon us, and the honorary holiday initially started as a one-week celebration. Originally, African-Americans wished to celebrate Frederick Douglas’ birthday, which took place in the month February. Douglas is a black hero, who escaped slavery to become a leader in the abolitionist movement. His legend reached such a fanatical status that African-Americans celebrated his birthday for decades. It wasn’t until Carter G. Woodson, a reputable historian, created Negro History Week that the honorary occurrence started to gain national traction. Churches were the biggest supporters the annual observance, handing out pamphlets and spreading awareness through African-American communities nationwide. Soon, schools all across America followed suit and began to observe “Negro History Week” as it was known.
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African-American scholars at Kent State University are credited with expanding the week-long history lesson. In 1970, Kent State hosted the first Black History Month. Less than a decade later, Gerald Ford publicly recognized the celebration, and it has been a national occurrence ever since. Many times, when people discuss Black History Month they talk about the brave men who stood up to Jim Crow. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X, Huey Newton, and Muhammad Ali are the first names that come to mind. In hip-hop culture, it’s no different. When Black excellence is mentioned in rap, names like Jay-Z, Tupac, Chuck D, Ice Cube, Nas, and KRS One are the first to be mentioned. With respect to each those men’s careers… it’s a damn shame no one ever talks about the ladies.
They say that women and men aren’t equal; women are much smarter. and they have an emotional depth that surpasses the shallow well masculine simplicity. Perhaps that is why some the best artists all time have been women. Sure, the male greats such as Jay-Z, Tupac, Nas, and Andre 3000 have created music that captures emotions vividly. Still, nothing resonates with the soul more than Lauryn Hill, and no rapper will ever produce visuals more stunning than Missy Elliott. In fact, Lauryn Hill put hip-hop on her back in the ’90s, and scored several firsts for the genre. Without our goddesses, hip-hop wouldn’t be where it is today, and they should be respected just as much, if not more, than the men in this game.
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Lyricists such as MC Lyte, Salt-N-Peppa, Roxanne Shanté, Da Brat, Queen Latifah and Left Eye deserve your respect. Roxanne Shanté, for example, showed hip-hop that women could battle too. She was a member the legendary Juice Crew, who was responsible for bringing the world Marley Marl, Big Daddy Kane, and Biz Markie. Her quick thinking made her one the most famous rappers in the 80’s, all because she wasn’t scared to brawl with the boys. She cleverly remixed U.T.F.O.’s “Roxanne, Roxanne,” posing as the fictional woman that curved the group in their hit song. Her record, “Roxanne’s Revenge” was more successful than the original, and the 14-year old established herself as a lead artist. The fact that Shanté was able to flip a song where men made disparaging comments about a woman who wasn’t impressed by their advances and turn it into a moment where the woman ruled supreme, is both heroic and historic.
Let’s not forget about Eve, Rah Digga, Remy Ma, Da Brat, Gangsta Boo and Monie Love as well. All those women’s names get lost in the 90’s and early 00’s, but why? Gangsta Boo had some the hardest bars out all the men in Three 6 Mafia. Rah Digga has out-rhymed her Flipmode Squad captain Busta Rhymes on numerous occasions (which is not an easy task). At least J. Cole gives her due props on “Villuminati.” Eve’s debut album peaked at number one on Billboard, something that many “rap’s greats” didn’t accomplish with their first projects.
Trina, Lil Kim, and Foxy Brown invented all the sexual paradigms that female rappers follow to this day. Nicki Minaj and Cardi B’s fashion statements are heavily inspired by the sexy hip-hop fashionista’s the 90’s. That isn’t a statement meant to throw shade either. When rappers like Kendrick or Cole are compared to ‘Pac or Nas, people nod their heads in agreeance. Why is it that when a female rapper is compared to a legend, people decide it’s suddenly disrespectful? Nicki and Cardi are allowed to have inspirations too.
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Lauryn Hill, Left Eye, Missy Elliot, and Lil Kim get the most public praise and respect, but there are a plethora ladies that helped elevate rap music into the worldwide phenomenon it is now. Black women are an essential part hip-hop culture, and their names should be honoured with the same prestigious respect bestowed upon the males. This Black History Month, give the mothers our children and the bearers life a spot on your playlists. Because listening to braggadocios men rhyme about their overinflated masculinity seems mundane when appreciating the art the divine feminine.
Let us know some your favourite tracks by the many goddesses hip-hop.