Welcome to Know Your History, your monthly dose of hip-hop knowledge. You can download this show for free, stream it with the player below, or just continue reading.
This is Part 2 of our 3-part series on female emcees. We put together eight hours of radio in tribute to the Women in Hip-Hop for DOPEfm`s broadcast on International Women`s Day earlier this year.
As we discussed in the last episode, women have been involved in hip-hop since its very humble beginnings. We looked closely at only first decade of this art form last time. Today we will be focusing on the second decade and shine a spotlight on the Ladies of the 80s.
I have a hard time calling her The Real Roxanne since she most definitely wasn’t the first Roxanne. Roxanne Shante put a record out a year earlier and kept it pretty real in the process. She was a writer, an avid freestyler, and she adopted the persona of Roxanne in a real and honest way. In my humble opinion, she deserves the title of “The Real Roxanne.”
Of course, this little battle and controversy that started with one UTFO record, helped call attention to female rappers in a brand new way. There had always been female rappers but up until about 1984, none had managed to sell a lot of records.
That all changed with a group that originally called themselves Super Nature. There were three ladies in this group; 2 MCs and 1 DJ. Coincidentally, they established themselves with an answer record as well. “Tha Show Stoppa” was a response record to Doug E. Fresh and Slick Rick’s “The Show.”
The group I am talking about went on to release 5 very successful albums. They were the first female rap group to earn a platinum record, and they did so with their debut “Hot, Cool, and Vicious.” They sold millions of records worldwide over their careers. Their 1993 release even went 5-times platinum. But we are getting ahead of ourselves here.
This program is dealing with the Ladies of the 80s. So, let’s play the song that launched their career. This is “Tha Show Stoppa” by Salt N Pepa.
That was “Tha Show Stoppa” by Salt N Pepa from their debut album “Hot, Cool, and Vicious.” It was the first commercially successful album from a female hip-hop act.
Women have been part of hip-hop since its very inception. But for some reason, up to this point, they had been conspicuously absent from the world stage.
Plenty of parties in and around the New York area featured some amazing rappers. The only reason we don’t know their names and celebrate their music is that hip-hop culture had to be experienced back in those early days.
It was a community event to go to a show. People taped the shows on cassette and played those tapes until they wore out. Some of those tapes survive and I’d like to thank the people who have taken the time and effort to share them on the Internet.
We can hear theses strong female voices that never made it to a recording studio on those homemade tapes. In the last episode, I played one that feature the Inner City Disco and The Mercedes Ladies.
Of course another reason females weren’t heard in the early days of hip-hop is that rap was seen as a fad. It was expensive to get to a recording studio to produce rap music and not a lot of females had the opportunity to do so.
Fortunately, things changed in the 1980s as the records started to sell like crazy, big tours made a lot of money, and hip-hop was now seen as a hot commodity.
For a lot of people, hip-hop was associated with masculinity. However, hearing a female on the microphone never used to be unusual. The Inner City Disco and The Mercedes Ladies were accepted by their peers and could rock stages in New York without having a record out. They put on amazing shows and concerts and there didn’t seem to be a gender barrier there at all.
Everyone saw them as equals. It wasn’t unusual to see them on stage. It wasn’t unusual to see a female rapper. This changed with the advent of recorded rap music for some reason.
When hip-hop became a business, the men dominated it and it took a while for the women to break through. Fortunately, we had groups like Salt N Pepa that really cracked that wide open to show that there was an audience for female hip-hop. All of their albums were very successful, going gold, platinum, or better. This helped pave the way for what was to come.
Of course, any show focusing on the Ladies of the 80s in hip-hop would be remiss not to include MC Lyte and Queen Latifah. Unquestionably, they are two of hip-hop’s biggest and brightest stars. They will be the focus of the very next episode of Know Your History to conclude this three part series on the Women in Hip-Hop.
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Thanks for tuning in. See you soon for the nest installment of Know Your History!