DOPEfm’s Women in Hip-Hop Roundtable Concludes

Chase: “All right, DOPEfm, we are celebrating International Women’s Day. This is Chase March on the microphone, Gamma Krush is hiding in the shadows, and Daddy J is on the boards.

We are lucky enough to have some lovely ladies in our studio today. We have Our Sis Sam representing the behind the scenes hip-hop promotion. And representing the microphone, we’ve got Lady A.S.G., Kool Krys, and we’ve got Nilla. Really nice to have you on the program.

We’ve covered a lot of topics so far. If you missed any of it, you can download the entire roundtable discussion or stream it with the player below, or go back to the beginning and read the transcript from the very start.
International Women’s Day is March 8th every year and this is our special tribute to recognize the achievements of women within hip-hop music and culture. Let’s talk about Judith Butler. She’s a feminist theorist and author and she looks at how we talk, act, and dress. She has a theory called performativity, basically it means that we agree to certain gender roles and everything we do is performing.
So for me. what it means to be a man is agreed upon most of us who carry out this fiction of manhood, which sets up an artificial binary between the genders. Hip-hop reinforces this binary with its over the top imagery. It’s a vicious cycle that we probably need to break, or at least call attention to so that men can stop painting the feminine as something undesirable and thus break the artificial binary between the genders. That’s the gist of an article I wrote entitled ‘Redefining What It Means to be a Man in Hip-Hop.’ I wanted to see your take on that now that we have some females representing hip-hop here.”
Kool Krys: “I’m also a scholar, who studied sociology in university. I definitely believe in a stereotype threat, which means when you are fixed into a category, you feel a certain pressure to act the way that you think people perceive you. So maybe there is something to be said about how that translates to being a women in hip-hop, even if you don’t like to be called a femcee, you still might take on a role where you want to emphasize your sexual appeal or stereotypical feminine approaches, whether it’s becoming a feminist on the mic or hyper-sexual. There are so many different ways we can go. That stereotype threat does loom over female performers in general.”
Nilla: “Most definitely, but regardless of my music or my expression, every day I dress different. I dress according to how I feel. So today I was feeling like wearing my hat, hoodie, and kicks. And tomorrow I might put some heels on, slick my hair back, and wear a long, nice jacket. I think women have more of an ability to challenge those perceptions, but more so, express yourself on a daily. Some days I do want to wear a skirt and some days I don’t.”
Kool Krys: “I recently did a song called ‘Show Stopper’ and I really wanted to encompass all the different forms women take on, whether it is the powerful office women, a dancer, a rapper, or a videographer. I collected a beautiful group of women, all from different backgrounds, sizes, and ages. I’ve never seen so many outfit changes in one day, but we really encompassed the beauty. At the end of the shoot, it was so amazing to see all these different girls grinding in so many different ways but coming together. It was one of the best things I ever experienced.”
Chase: “That’s awesome. I’m a teacher and a DJ and a rappers and sometimes when I tell the kids that, they’re like, ‘Woah, you don’t dress like a rapper.’ I think it’s important for teachers to model a professional level of dress so I regularly wear a tie to work.”
Nilla: “I can speak to that, ‘You don’t look like a rapper.’ I get that a lot because I show up looking like me and people don’t think I do that. For example, my given name is Galyn Esmé and people can’t remember that or say it properly so people call me G and they say, ‘Yo, what up G? You rap? What are you a rapper?’ and when I say I am, they’re like, ‘What?’”
Lady A.S.G: “Bust a freestyle.”
Nilla: “Yeah, ‘Kick a free. Kick a free, and it goes on from there. I think it’s important to challenge people’s perceptions on that. I remember rocking open mics and going in sweater vests and knee-high socks and getting up there and they think I’m going to be singing Kumbayah and I drop 16 bars on them and they don’t know what to do. I like that though. That’s like my ace in my pocket and I use it to my advantage. I can’t speak for any of the other ladies here. I just think no matter what your job is, whether you are a powerful business suit-wearer, to challenge people’s perceptions. In today’s day you can be something different by day and something different by night, but that doesn’t mean that you aren’t both of those things.”
Kool Krys: “That’s my life. I have to wear two different outfits all the time.”
Our Sis Sam: “Most women have to wear multiple hats no matter what.”
Chase: “I have about 17 different hats and I’m not talking about the physical hats because I have about 300 of those. I love hats.”
Nilla: “Me too.”
Lady A.S.G: “For me it’s shoes.”
Nilla: “See, Lady A.S.G. doesn’t consider herself very girly and yet she has this affinity for shoes.”
Lady A.S.G: “I just can’t afford them.”
Nilla: “Stereotypically they’d say that’s a women thing but men really flip it too. They have whole rooms dedicated to shows in boxes in pristine condition.”
Lady A.S.G: “I have to say one thing about women and shopping. I think it’s embedded in our DNA because our role as women through the ages was to nurture and gather so we gather all these things and we want to show it off. It’s a role that we cannot break but we must embrace and use it to work for us.”
Chase: “Has anyone seen the hip-hop documentary Beyond Beats and Rhymes?”
Lady A.S.G: “Yes.”
Chase: “I really love that film. It’s by Byron Hurt and there’s an amazing quote from Dr. Michael Eric Dyson. He say, “The greatest insult that a man can imagine for another man is to assume that he’s less than a man and to assign him the very derogatory terms that one usually associates with women. The insult is double. It’s both an assault on women but its also a reinforcement of a negative and malicious form of masculine identity.’ We hear these male voices all the time and that’s why we put together this female roundtable. I don’t know how we can fix the problem of masculine identity that paints the feminine as negative. So I want to talk about positives and what we can do here as DJs on DOPEfm and what you do as party promoters and MCs.”
Kool Krys: “Who’s been to Rock the Bells? One of the best things I ever heard on stage there, because there aren’t a lot of female MCs that get invited to perform there, there have been some but they can do much better there. Krs-One was talking about how his wife developed this mantra of L.A.D.Y which is ‘Love and develop yourself’ and he was really advocating for women to see themselves as performers and follow their dreams. I found that very empowering being that he is an educator and very respected amongst scholars and music lovers. I think men do have an influence in having such a positive message.”
Chase: “Speaking of Rock the Bells, we have Money Stax on later and she played Rock the Bells in Dallas with her group, Viscous Cycle. So there are some female artists opening for big name artists and at major venues, but they are very few and far between.
Murs was speaking about this very topic and he addressed why there weren’t more women at Rock The Bells. He said, ‘You can expect a woman to feel comfortable being in an art that is so degrading. It’s so misogynistic. It’s an awful music if you’re a woman and you have any sort of self-respect. You have to have a lot of self-respect, you have to be borderline obsessed with yourself to be an MC because it’s me. me. me. But if every song you ever heard growing up is ‘Bitches Ain’t Shit.’ it’s hard for that woman to grow up and want to take the stage and have the confidence. Everyone says they seem a little less confident, of course they do because you beat them over the head with how worthless they are and then say ‘Here’s a mic, you can try and do what we do.’”
Kool Krys: “Who headlined Rock the Bells last year?”
Chase March: “Lauryn Hill.”
Nilla: “And then she gave a tragic performance and everyone remembered it as a tragic performance instead of evaluating what had brought her to that level. In terms of changing it up a little bit, I work with young girls and young boys to empower them. Big up to Queen Cee, in Hamilton, doing her Be-You-tiful Girls Club and putting together When Sisters Get Together and totally pushing that idea of solidarity and oneness and unified fronts to gain a better understanding of self and identity and strength and confidence and self-esteem.
I’m also an artist educator so when I go into schools and communities I try to, in a non-cheesy way but in a relatable way, because they will spot that from a mile away, just to take note of who you are and to feel good about yourself. If I sit here and I pay attention to the degradation of women in hip-hop, I’m not going to be focusing on what my strengths are or what my gift to hip-hop is or to myself. If I take on all these negative attributes of hip-hop then I’m not going to switch anything, I’m not going to change the game. But if I walk in like I’m not paying attention to these factors and I’m just doing me in a positive way and I’m trying to give back and educate the community in a positive way, then I feel good. My humanitarianism is satisfied. I’m ensuring the future of women, the future of the youth and these communities have at least heard somebody tell them there’s a different way. That’s how I’m trying to affect change, through my lyrics and my teaching.”
Our Sis Sam: “Even for myself, running Steel Gold, a monthly hip-hop show here in Hamilton at the Casbah. I run a Facebook page as well and one of my rules is that any negative or derogatory content or postings or comments will be deleted. If you post a track that has negative derogatory content it will not be kept on the page. And even in the environment I try to hone in the Steel Gold scene. it’s conscious, it’s love, it’s peace, it’s the roots of hip-hop and everything that was ever good in hip-hop when it started and in embracing the elements of hip-hop. Both Nilla and I have participated in Be-You-tiful Girls Club with Queen cee and When Sisters Get Together and I tagged her when that whole Chris Brown and Rihanna thing had come up and we saw all those girls posted how Chris Brown could beat them anytime he wanted. This is why the work we do is so important.
It’s so essential that we keep doing this. Being the change that we want to see in the world and starting with addressing and putting a spotlight on things. When you see brothers using the words ‘bitch’ or ‘hoe’ and correcting them and asking them if they can use better terms or words to describe the type of person they are trying to describe. Or questioning youths and fully grown adults with the way they are thinking and conducting themselves, or creating positive actions and vibrations through ourselves. That’s where it’s all gonna start. It’s gonna start with us and when we create that vibration, hopefully it carries through in our societies and immediate ciphers
Chase: “Yeah, language is very powerful and I don’t think we actually dwell on that, or contemplate it, or reflect on it enough. I remember a long time ago when Queen Latifah came out with ‘U.N.I.T.Y.’ The first time I saw that on Much Music and the chorus didn’t blank out the word bitch, ‘Who you calling a bitch?’ I thought it was awesome and it would wake a lot of people up. But even now, I still hear that word so many times a day, but only through the music I listen to. With the company I keep, nobody is saying it, but I keep hearing it over my speakers and headphones. And you think, this is the message kids are getting, every day they are hearing this.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think one of the worst things that happened was when media accepted the term ‘bitch’ and would no longer ban it from TV shows and radios and it was accepted. And now they say it all the time. It’s just like, really?”
Chase: “I didn’t know they did that. I thought when they did that with the Queen Latifah song, I thought it was an exception to prove the point that she was saying.”
Nilla: “It was at that time because it was years later that they decriminalized the word.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think that was in the late 90s.”
Kool Krys: “It comes down to education. You can’t shield children from what’s out there. You just have to teach them what self-respect is, and if they respect themselves, it’s much easier for them to respect the women in their lives. So I’m not just saying that it has to be men that respect women, it has to be women that respect women.”
Lady A.S.G: “We have to respect ourselves first and foremost because if we show no respect for ourselves, how do we show respect for others?”
Nilla: “I take that into huge consideration with my artistry and what I’m putting out there because I believe in what Lauryn Hill says, ‘What you through out comes back to you, Star. Karma, karma. karma come back to you hard.’ I have a line too, ‘I want boys to become men and girls to feel strength from within and I want them both to recognize we’re in the same game to win.’
It goes back to gender issues, like you said before. ‘You throw like a girl.’ Well that girl threw pretty far. It is just about education like Krys is saying. We need to practise what we preach and be true to ourselves like Lady A.S.G is saying right here. That’s the change. That’s the root. You gotta be the change you want to see.
If this is what we all believe in and we are being true to ourselves, that’s going to come out in all aspects of our art and our business and how we conduct ourselves in our homes, on the stage, and in the street, on the streets, ya know?”
Chase: “You know what’s hilarious? We keep talking about education and I’m a teacher. I’m an elementary school teacher and here’s a funny story. I’m supply teaching right now so I’m in different classrooms every day and I will say ‘Girls and Boys’ instead of ‘Boys and Girls’ and sometimes saying that in a Grade 1 classroom, the boys will stand up and say, ‘No, it’s boys and girls.’ They’ve never heard someone put ladies first before. And I’ll say, ‘We can put girls first sometimes, why does it always have to be boys first?”
Nilla; “Chivalry ain’t dead.”
Kool Krys: “That’s interesting.”
Chase: “Some classes I do that for don’t get it and they’ll argue with me about it. There is so much to be conscious of with what words we use.”
Lady A.S.G: “That’s the thing with the English language, one word can have so many meanings.”
Our Sis Sam: “I think in any language, right? That’s why when people ask me what my ethnic group is. I’ve lived in five different countries, so I always say, ‘I’m a child of the world’ or what’s your religion, ‘I am’ and I don’t finish it. Don’t use any labels to define you, just be.
And if everybody comes to that one state of being and acceptance of whatever it is that you are claiming or not claiming or whatever you are, you’re not going run into those dilemmas. It’s acceptance of self, and through that, acceptance of one another regardless of what it is.
Chase: “Hear that silence. That’s because that’s the closing thought right there. That’s brilliant. This has been amazing. It’s been so awesome having you in the studio today for DOPEfm’s International Women’s Day Roundtable Discussion. So let’s just go through the panel right now with any last thoughts.
Kool Krys: “How ya doing ladies? I just have one last thought. The power in your head exceeds all limits. That’s one of my lines, so keep doing your thing girls, whether it’s rapping or just being yourself.”
Lady A.S.G: “My closing thought, is to give a big shout out and warm hug to all you lovely ladies out there, Keep doing your thing and believe in yourself because I believe in you.”
Nilla: “In closing, I’d like to say to all the men and all the women, stay true to yourself. Much respect to everyone who is on a higher level of understanding and compassion and pressing forward, willing to change the game. Stay courageous and stay brave. Peace!”
Chase: ‘That’s amazing. Thanks a lot everyone for being part of this. Daddy J has been behind the boards, running the show all night long. Gamma Krush is in the studio here, he’s going to be spinning for you in a second. This is Chase March on the microphone.
This is historic. This has been DOPEfm’s coverage for International Women’s Day. It’s an annual event where we spend all seven hours of our programming to the Women in Hip-Hop. Thanks for tuning in, we’re only getting started here and thanks to all the panelists. This has been amazing.”