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Women in Hip Hop: The Evolution of the Female in Rap Music

30 Jun 2017Other Essays

The evolution of the female is rap music has been an interesting journey, and the path is still being paved by the women who participate in the hip hop movement. With increasing intensity, women are moving away from allowing to be illustrated as ornaments and playthings and are using their success in the hip hop market to perpetuate an authentic feminism (Pough, 2002). This feminism speaks to the power of what is means to be a woman on the deepest levels, to be respected as wives and mothers, as professionals, and simply as people wanting to be loved. Although there are still forces out there which desire that women are simply cast as sex objects, women are increasingly resisting the ways in which their meaningful societal contributions are shunned. Bringing colorful soul to the hip hop movement, women are singing more about their deep spiritual needs and desires and less about their superficial beauty. Women are not tolerating being viewed as weak, stupid, or empty shells to be used by men and are aiming to define themselves as worthy and equal human beings with uniquely defining roles as females. It is refreshing to note that women in hip hop are increasingly celebrating what is means to be female, calling attention to the true value of the feminine spirit.

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It used to be that women in the rap scene were almost always defined as the cute little sex toy on the arm of a strong yet temporary player. The men sang about how they were able to score and play the women, use them up one by one, and the women sang about how they did not really need men and how they were happy to roam from bed to bed. This kind of dialogue and discourse has been the weakest point of the hip hop scene in regard to the state of the female psyche as well as the state of relationships in general. Women in hip hop were often cast as prostitutes, selling their sex on the free market to whoever was willing to buy (Watkins, 2010). It is important to identify women in the rap scene during their lowest point, in order to better understand how they are progressing. Although there has been intense pressure from the music industry to create a brand which sells, this market drive has often been purely focused on money and not on the best interests of women. However, the nature of the culture has been changing, in that people want to see and hear female hip hop singers as being able to offer something deeper than only sex.


The evolution of the female hip hop star moved from being centered on women as ornaments to being centered on women as artists. Where there was once an emphasis on how a woman looked or moved or allowed herself to be used, there was then an emphasis on how well she could perform, her vocal skills, her ability to harmonize, to dance, to utilize passion and emotionality. Although this transition was not the full transition to a true femininity, women and the people around them became more aware of women as contributing members to the artistic world of music. Women moved determinedly into the hip hop sphere of the music industry with the desire to be recognized as true artists, to somehow disrupt the male dominated industry and declare themselves as powerful musicians (Pough, 2004). Here, the focus was on competing with males and laying the groundwork for being considered competent artists. This phase of the evolution of women in the hip hop industry was geared towards being able to frame women as being meaningful participants in the industry, in that they could be successful, hold their own, and be just as much of an icon as their male counterparts. Although this movement was important step in the progression of women in the hip hop industry and in the wider culture in general, there was not yet a determined focus to highlight the ways in which women were called through their artistry to sing to the spiritual being, needs, and desires of women. The next step in the process is truly where women in hip hop began to shine, being able to passionately sing about their own feminine psyches and have this female energy be respected as something unique from masculine, yet just as awesome.


Finally, females in the hip hop movement began to better declare themselves as women, as girlfriends, wives, mothers, and professionals in need of a specific kind of feminine attention, of a certain kind of “yin” oriented love. Now, there is an increasing amount of women in the hip hop industry who are focused on a gentle kind of self expression, the kind of self expression which seeks true communication with men, a declaration of what it means to be a woman and what she truly needs from a man (Kitwana, 2003). There is a current diffusion of resentment between the sexes and an increasing desire for women to explain through the passion of their music what they think about themselves and what they hope for their relationships, their partnerships, with men. This shift towards true feminism has been the blossoming of women in the hip hop industry, in that they are beginning to truly be honest with themselves. The sadness, anger, disappointment, and bitterness of the past, the ugly shame of sexual exploitation, is falling by the wayside as women are increasingly secure in being truthful about their desire to better love themselves and the men in their lives. When women are able to sing from the heart about issues in their lives which speak directly to their spirits, their love, their sexuality, their professional lives, their relationships, their family members and children, then they are able to vocalize what is truly important about being a woman. Womanhood is then simply a beautiful topic, with all of its complexity and all of its depth. It is refreshing to note that the measure of success for women in the hip hop industry today is a much higher standard than what it was and has been in the past.


Although there is still much more evolving to be experienced by women in the world of hip hop, the progressive foundation of true feminism has been lovingly laid. Girls and women of future generations can only be blessed by the shift which has occurred for women in the hip hop industry. It has taken quite a few powerful women to find their way along the rough path of the music marketing industry, and this has occurred hand in hand with cultural ideological shifts. There is presently more significance placed on loving relationships, family life, monogamous sexuality, and gently discourse, and these progressions are definitely related to the emergence of true womanhood in the hip hop scene. There is an increasing tendency for women to be confident in speaking about their true needs and desires, without shame, without fear, and she sings about herself, about her life, about her man, with the passionate and intense love of a woman who will not give up her life without a struggle, a woman who is determined to have all of the good things in life, to be respected, loved, and cherished for her feminine qualities. The hip hop industry, and society in general, should take notice of the accomplishments of progressive female hip hop artists, as they help to shape the culture and world in which everyone lives and are changing it for the better.

Works Cited

  • Kitwana, B. The hip hop generation: young blacks and the crisis in African American culture. Basic Civitas Books, 2003.
  • Pough, G. Check it while I wreck it: Black womanhood, hip-hop culture, and the public sphere. UPNE, 2004.
  • Pough, G. “Love Feminism but Where’s My Hip Hop?” Hernandez, D. & Rehman, B. Colonize this!: young women of color on today's feminism. Seal Press, 2002.
  • Watkins, B. “Nicki Minaj and The Business of Hip Hop: Where are all the Women?” Black Voices, 2010.
Learn more:
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