Lady of War: The Female Rapper

Late Nineties, First Ladies, and the Millennials

As the new millennium moved in within arms reach, our heroines either got tougher or raunchier.  Many were lyrical powerhouses… others were rap harlots… and few were both.  Some ladies of war dove into gladiator battles; women battle rapping are among the most gruesome fights you’d ever witness.  MCs such as Jean Grae (Tsidi Ibrahim) and Lady Luck (Shanell Jones) remain underground favorites, Female Gladiators who will slay anyone before them — man or woman.

With record companies becoming the new crews and teams, the late nineties gave us the concept of the “crew girl”, a concept that pushed every record label to have their First Lady representing them.  The ladies who were crowned First Lady of a record label crew was usually highly skilled lyricists and made their way through the dredges, battling their way to the top.  Rah Digga (Rashia Fisher, 1995) represented Flipmode Squad, Amil (Amil Whitehead, 1997) Rocafella Records, Eve (Eve Jihan Jeffers, 1998) Ruff Ryders, and Remy Ma (Reminisce Smith, 1999) Terror Squad, respectively.  The first lady seems new when it took place, but if you read this far you’d realize that this is just a call-back to the style of the old; MC Sha-Rock — the first lady MC — was technically the first lady of a crew herself.  The first lady concept was largely a composite of a few prior rap concepts:  1. Rap Harlot, got to have sexiness up front; 2. Battle Rapper, must be as hard as the guys; with 3. allowing space for other variables.  With the different crews, the first lady rapper is certainly an idea that continues to have staying power.

The Future and Beyond?

Filling a void for the new generation of listeners, Nicki Menaj (Onika Tanya Maraj)  signed to Young Money Entertainment.  She released the LP Pink Friday in 2010, peaking number one on billboard 200 and was certified platinum.  In fact, her single Super Bass, went platinum eight times.  Also, Minaj became the first female solo artist to have seven singles charting on the Billboard Hot 100… at the same time.

“I really loved [Foxy Brown] as a female rapper.  I was really interested in her mind and her aura, I was really, really into Jay-Z.  Me and my friends in high school, we were reciting all of the Jay lyrics.  His words were our words in our conversations all the time.  I never really told Foxy how much she has influenced me and how much she changed my life, and you’ve gotta tell people that when they’re alive to even be able to take the compliment, instead of paying tribute to them when they’re no longer here.”

“Foxy [Brown], [Lil] Kim, Lauryn [Hill], and then Remy [Ma].  You know when Remy came out, I was very, very excited about her.  They were all from New York too.  It’s no disrespect to any other female rappers, but those are the ones that I felt like, ‘Ok, yeah. I could get into that.’  They sounded like me when I spoke, and I just thought they really made an impact.” ~ Nicki Menaj on rap influences

Nicki Menaj is a composite rapper; taking a bit of eccentricity of Missy Elliott, the harlot styles of Foxy and Trina, the wigs of Lil’ Kim; Nicki Menaj became the most-charted female rapper in the history.  She is noted for her fast flow, and her ability to shift styles (and personalities, “alter-egos”) throughout her songs to the point of doing British accents.

“She picked a fight with Foxy, then she picked a fight with Eve, then she picked a fight with Remy, then it was Mrs. Wallace, then it was Nicki Minaj.  Every time you in the news, it’s ’cause you gettin’ at somebody!  Where’s your music?  Put your music out, and when I see your name on Billboard, that’s when I’ll respond to you.  Other than that, goodbye.  It’s Barbie, bitch” ~ Nicki Menaj on Lil’ Kim’s beef with her

It is a thing known that the pioneer divas — our first harlot rappers — get into a LOT of fights.  With a new highly successful composite rapper and a few wrong words, it’s only a matter of time before beef begins.  Nicki Menaj’s biggest beef was with Lil’ Kim, being that Pink Friday and Nicki’s style of dress (pink and blonde wigs, dead-giveaway) is a play taken directly out of Lil’ Kim’s playbook.  Lil’ Kim’s response to her was an album called “Black Friday” which depicted artwork with Kim cutting Minaj’s head off.  Rappers from all sides have things to say about this beef.  Some say Nicki should respect those who paved the way for her; others say Kim is wrong for jump starting a beef.

While there’s other lady rappers out there, Nicki Menaj is on top of the world right now… not done all by herself, but by being well-studied and utilizing the different ways that went before her.  She also has a profound social media presence, using Twitter more than any other rapper.  Perhaps this is the future of our artists?

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