DOPEfm’s Women in Hip-Hop Roundtable

Chase: “All right everybody, Chase March here for DOPEfm. Daddy J is on the boards, Gamma Krush is in the studio, along with a nice panel here, we are celebrating International Women’s Day DOPEfm style.

You can listen to this show with the player below, download the podcast for free,or just continue reading.

Let’s celebrate International Women’s Day with a roundtable discussion group and on the panel today we have Nilla, who is a talented MC. We have Kool Krys, once again, a wicked MC. We have Lady A.S.G., another dope MC, and we have Our Sis Sam, a hip-hop promoter. Welcome to the program everybody.”

Nilla: “Respect, thanks for having us.”
Chase: “We are dedicating our entire overnight programming today to celebrate women in hip-hop. You can listen to the show with the player below, download the podcast for free, or continue reading this transcript. We wanted to bring a panel together to discuss some of the issues involved in rap music and in particular women’s studies issues and see what we can do along that topic today. First question, does anybody on the panel identify themselves as a feminist?”
Our Sis Sam: “I love men, but I’d like to say I am a little bit of a feminist. I’d have to say so.”
Nilla: “I think it’s cool. You don’t have to hate men to be proud of being a woman and that doesn’t necessarily make you a feminist, ya know?”
Kool Krys: “I agree with Nilla. You need to stand for yourself.”
Lady A.S.G: “I don’t think you have to be feminist to believe in women and to have power in yourself. You just need knowledge of self. That’s what it’s about. Definitely.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think coming from an Eastern background though I’ve had to take a stronger stance in claiming that a little more to break ground in that area in my culture.”
Chase: “There is a little bit of a stigma attached to feminism that people don’t want to wear. I’m almost considering myself a feminist these days from what I’ve been doing. I mean, we think we’ve come a long way but especially in rap music but it’s male dominated for some reason. And I know we have some very talented artists here who we spin all the time and I love you ladies. It’s really cool to have you on the program.”
Nilla: “We love you too, Chase.”
Kool Krys: “Woo, Chase. Feminist!”
Chase; “Thanks. I wanted to bring this quote to you. It’s from Murs, another one of my favourite MCs, and he says, “Hip-hop is not a positive environment for a young women. I’d want my daughter fifty miles away from this place, honestly. His quote continues, but I want us to respond to it up to that point. So what do you think about having young girls exposed to rap music?”
Lady A.S.G: “You see, rap is a very broad genre. I guess you see it much more in what people consider the mainstream to be very negative towards women. In the underground, I mean, we’ve got three lady MCs in the house, so what more can I say?”
Nilla: “We have three MCs in the house. ‘A dope MC is a dope MC.’ Krs-One, ya know?”
Chase: “Yes, I definitely agree. But at the same time, I find that there are a lot of people that don’t want to listen to female rap. Case in point, there was a Sean Price video interview and he says, ‘I listen to no female rappers. None!’ The interviewer keep pressing him and he kept saying, ‘None!’ He finally said, ‘Well, MC Lyte. Lyte as a Rock, but that’s the only album.’
Lady A.S.G: “Yeah and only because his wife likes it, right? I saw that clip.”
Nilla: “I also believe it’s Sean Price who won’t do a track with Jean Grae either. I don’t know what it is. Hip-hop is supposed to be about each one – teach one, an inclusive community with everyone supporting one another. At the root of hip-hop, that’s how it started. It started in positivity and as soon as we start excluding people based on their gender we forget why we are all here and why we all vibe or music is good or not or whether or not you listen to someone. You don’t have to like the music but at least respect the art. So to say ‘I don’t listen to any female MCs’ that to me just says that you aren’t trying to grow. You’re not trying to broaden your own focus or your own frame of reference.”
Kool Krys: “Yeah, it’s straight up ignorant if you’re not even considering a music that could change you or inspire you. I think back to when cassette tapes were the way that we consumed music and I would buy a tape being a Wu-Tang 36 Chambers tape wouldn’t sound any different to me than an MC Lyte tape or a Salt ‘N Pepa tape or whatever it was, Paula Abdul at the time. 

You didn’t think of it as a woman. You thought of it as music that made you dance, music that made you feel something. And I think that’s the difference. We don’t experience music like we used to. We experience music in a very quick way on the Internet where we can decide just as fast as whether we like a picture or not, when we’re taking digital pictures, I don’t like this. This is a girl, I don’t like this. And depending on who’s in the room, you’re going to have a very different perspective on the music, I think.”
Chase: “I guess it’s just a product of the day and age we live in but that doesn’t change. Good music is good music. To me, it’s colourless and it’s genderless, but it’s not necessarily that way because I know as artists, you’ve probably had a lot of barriers to overcome being female.”
Nilla: “You have to work at least a thousand time harder. At least, just to get on the mic.”
Lady A.S.G: “Maybe two thousand.”
Nilla: “Just to get on the mic. I know from myself a lot of people will be like, ‘Oh you rap. Are you any good?’ and I’ll just say, ‘No’ because that will satisfy their answer and then I’ll go up on stage and do my thing and 90% of the time, those people come back and say, ‘Yo, we gotta do tracks together. Blah, blah, blah.’ But it’s like, ‘How you gonna ask somebody if their good?’ If I wasn’t, would I be dedicating my life to being on a mic and making music and expressing myself in this way?

I didn’t choose this. I didn’t wake up one day, saying, ‘I’m gonna be a rapper and I’m gonna make it really hard for myself. I’m gonna choose a really hard area to break in to.’ No, it’s just the course of my life that brought me to this point. and so I don’t focus on it too hard. I just do what I do and make my music proper. I just work hard. I think that’s the base of any MC, that’s what they’re trying to do, Work hard, gain some respect, but I don’t want any respect from someone who is going to judge me before I even jump up on stage.”

Chase: “You just heard Nilla right there. This is the DOPEfm roundtable discussion for International Women’s Day. We have a lot more ladies in the house including Kool Krys. Have you heard Shad’s ‘Keep Shining?’”
Kool Krys: “Yeah, it’s my favourite song by Shad. I love it!”
Chase: “It’s a great track. There are a couple lines in it that I’d like to focus on. I interviewed Eternia and I asked her about the lack of female MCs and she said, ‘There isn’t any.’”
Kool Krys: “She’s right.”
Chase: “She said, “Everywhere I go, I run into them. And Shad touches on ‘We need more women in rap.’ Well, we have a lot of women in rap. But we don’t hear from them. I just want to read his lyric for anyone who might not be familiar with it.
“I’ve been know to talk about a women on a track or two.
I talk to women. I just can’t talk for women, that’s for you.
We need women for that, more women in rap . . .
but that’s still only half the view of the world,
there’s no girls rapping so we only hearing half the truth.
What we have to lose? Too much.
Half our youth aren’t represented, the better halves of dudes.”
Chase: “So my question is, half our youth seemingly aren’t being represented even though we have female MCs out there doing their thing. It’s because they are not being heard. So my question to the panel is how can we improve this and get the other half of the truth out there?”
Lady A.S.G: “By doing shows like these. DOPEfm, college radio stations, university radio stations, Internet radio stations, that’s where it’s at now for the grassroots music where we come from. People have to support that stuff.”
Kool Krys: “It comes down to promotion. I don’t think female MCs aren’t heard. I just don’t think they aren’t promoted in a way that is repetitive and recognizable the same way another MC in the city might be more well known. I think, like any artist, we need to work hard to promote ourselves, be visible, be recognized, be reviewed. And it’s an on-going, underground commitment as an artist when you don’t have a team behind you necessarily. You can’t expect anybody to make you famous. It’s not about being famous. It’s about influencing people with your music and you have to make a commitment to do that, and until you make a full commitment, you are not going to be heard. That’s the reality of it because there are so many people doing this. So how are you going to be different?”
Nilla: “I think we just need to make them comfortable. I work with a lot of youth and just this week alone I was on the East Coast running workshops in high schools and I find there are a lot of budding female MCs, and I don’t even like the term ‘female emcee’ because we don’t call guys ‘maleCs’ of ‘mencees.’ We should call them ‘mencees,’ that would just be hilarious. That would really flip it on them.
I think that the perception of women is not, I don’t want to get off on a tangent. Michie Mee was the first hip-hop artist signed out of Canada before Maestro yet everyone credits Maestro to that. I see a lot of poets. I see a lot of spoken word artists. Females seem more comfortable being poets but they don’t necessarily feel comfortable on a mic. Now the spoken word are has opened it up and they’ve embraced women. It makes me wonder, ‘Are you scared?’ Like, we’re not trying to take anything, ya know? I have my lane, guys have their lane. So why would you take the shine away or why wouldn’t you promote them?”
Lasy A.S.G: “Where’s the love?”
Nilla: “Or where’s the inclusive nature of it? I’m not sure.”
Chase: “I don’t know either because hip-hop to me embraces that. I’ve been in battles before where you tear the guy apart and then shake hands afterwards. As much as hip-hop is competitive, there is a camaraderie. Once again, I just don’t want to scapegoat rap and say rap is the problem here. There is a bigger problem with the lack of respect for women in general and we can’t blame it on rap music.”
Nilla: “I just thing people are more comfortable seeing women as country artists, they’re more comfortable seeing R&B singer as women, roles that are typically more feminine. They’re more used to that. You can still be feminine within hip-hop except that there is a certain divide in what women’s role is in hip-hop and I think that is emulated in hip-hop videos and through their lyrics and whatnot. So, the perception of what a woman is, and when you try to challenge that, as all four of us on this panel do, people don’t know how to recognize something that they’re not used to or that they fear or that they’ve been told is not respectable. I personally feel that if you have any women in your camp, you are that much stronger.”
Chase: “Three of the panel members here are visible. You’re in front of the mic, you’re on stage, and you’re doing it. Is it any different for you, Our Sis Sam, being behind the scenes and promoting it or do you find some barriers there as well.”
Our Sis Sam: “Definitely I found a lot of barriers just getting any credibility from venue owners, even from artists that I’m booking. My name is Our Sis Sam, Our Sister Sam, and you wouldn’t even believe that 90% of the time they’ll be like, ‘What up, bro?’ and they’ll just assume that I’m a guy just because I happen to be doing something in hip-hop. And the fact that I even need to clarify that, but I do clarify it because I want to clarify that, that I am indeed a woman and I am indeed making moves in hip-hop.
Dudes that you deal with at any level of the industry like automatically taking some kind of sexual approach to you at some point in time and trying to make some sort of moves and I automatically have to have my D up or put it words like ‘homie’ and ‘brubs’ to make it clear that this is not a sexual relationship whatsoever just because I am working in hip-hop. And even when it comes down to the money part because I am the one who pays the artists and make arrangements with the venue owners, sometimes it seems that you have to work a little harder to make sure that the playing field is fair or equivalent to what a man would have to deal with if he were doing the same thing. So definitely I’d say it works on all levels of the industry.
Hip-hop is in a younger phase of the evolution that we’ve taken over the last 50 years or how ever long we’ve been going through this gradual transition in our societies on a global scale. Hip-hop is a lot younger and the revolution that women are taking part in, we’re a little bit further behind. Again with the media tapping in to that and the way that they market hip-hop commercially and the mainstream is about T&A and objectifying women. Those of us who are trying to make something in hip-hop for the love of real, true hip-hop, we have to work that much harder to break down those walls and those barriers that are being built up faster than we can even blink or breathe.”

I hope you’ve enjoyed the first portion of the transcript of DOPEfm’s Roundtable discussion for International Women’s Day. You can listen to the entire roundtable with the player below or download it now for free. Please come back tomorrow for Part 2.

Read Part 2

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