Smithsonian Hip-Hop Anthology Honors Women Who Rap
Kierna Mayo, a media maverick and original contributor to a groundbreaking hip-hop magazine Source, was one of the first record holders of rap music. With a particular focus on women of the genre (the 1999 debut issue of the latest Mayo magazine, Darling, starred Lauryn Hill on the cover), she lovingly bridged the gap between lyricists and fans. Her essay “Hip-Hop Heroines” is a celebration of the contributions of women to hip-hop and is featured in the Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hop and Rap, which is available now.
“Hip-hop journalism and hip-hop feminism both come into the world as I come into the world,” Mayo says of the early days of her career. “This pivotal point where these two ideas which are not always the same thing, meet, collide and marry.”
The Smithsonian’s book almost bursts in appreciation for a sound born of glory and angst. Enlisting a team of dedicated journalists including Michael A. Gonzalez, Naima Cochrane and more, the 300-page book features 11 essays, as well as rare images and a separate set of 9 mixtape-style CDs that encapsulate nearly 50 years of culture. . Forefathers and ancestors are approached with the same reverence at every careful turn of the page.
Mayo begins and ends her ode with a nod to the legacy of Roxanne Shanté, the teenager who spat bars through suspenders and marked the moment she unsheathed the microphone. Like Shanté, Mayo is woven into hip-hop tapestry and is one of the ultimate reminders for ladies. “To me, she seemed like a real natural and central starting point,” Mayo says. Recalling the days of Jordache and Gloria Vanderbilt jeans and “noisy” parties, the writer takes us back to a time when women, rather girls, were first recognized as powers in this art form in full swing. boom.
Read on for an excerpt from Kierna Mayo’s essay, “Hip-Hop Heroines”.
In January 2017, the biopic Roxanne roxanne was crowned with the coveted Sundance Special Jury Prize. Before her public debut, DJ Envy of New York’s Power 105.1 FM “Breakfast Club” asked about the film, Lolita Shanté Gooden, if hip-hop culture had given it the credit it deserved. It was a good question. Gooden, aka Roxanne Shanté, is a true living legend, a true innovator in rap, but at that time a much forgotten part of history. Her 1984 hit, “Roxanne’s Revenge”, was a surprise response to the popular UTFO Crew song “Roxanne Roxanne”. The squeaky-voiced MC was only 14, but she had taken him straight to three guys with nothing but flow and a full-bodied swagger. They never saw it coming, and neither did the culture. Suddenly there was an obsession with Roxanne everywhere. She gained instant fame.
The battle rapper graciously spoke with the Breakfast Club hosts about the upcoming film and the tumultuous, albeit fortuitous, period of his teenage life that had inspired her. But one exchange was particularly revealing: “Do you have the impression that… you have never been appreciated as you should have been? … Watch hip-hop, and they don’t mention you a lot like they should, ”Envy started. Host Charlemagne the God rang the bell, “I’m going back to Salt-N-Pepa,… when I think of female rappers. He made up for it, “of course I’m very familiar, but when people talk about female rap it doesn’t seem to go back any further than Salt-N-Pepa.” Gooden pondered the question. Has she ever felt appreciated? “No,” she replied. “The reason is that Roxanne Shanté has never sought or sought the distinctions of others… I have always walked with a certain confidence. So I didn’t need anyone to validate me: I validate myself every morning. I didn’t need anyone to say, ‘Okay,… Roxanne Shanté started this.’ If you know you’ve started something, then no one needs to tell you what you started. You see, a lot of people need this validation, but I was fortunate enough to have it already in me. ”
Understanding this kind of relational dynamic between culture and self, and truly celebrating women in hip-hop, is a call to respect history. Beginnings matter, and there is an order of things. Admittedly, Gooden did not mean “started” because in Roxanne Shanté was the first female rapper in history. Rather, she understood that it was the circumstances of her life, and it was her skill, her black teenage bravado, her dookie ropes and bamboo earrings that made and kept space. for Salt-N-Pepa. That’s what started meant.
Everyone has an origin story. Hip-hop ancestors of the mid to late ’70s, early MCs and DJs, including The Mercedes Ladies, Sha-Rock, Lady B, and The Sequence, were just a handful of young female artists at the center of the fashion. -the alpha phase of hop, those of park jams, spitting rhymes, fighting and even occasionally strumming records. In 1979, the same year “Rapper’s Delight” arrived via Sylvia Robinson’s Sugar Hill Records label, at least nine other female rappers released albums. Carried on the hips of their fly-girl party rhymes was the indomitable spirit of the working class. Alas, these early designers were black and brunette girls named, who for all intents and purposes were the center of their own universe. They may have been invisible to other worlds, but filled with a brash spirit of self-confidence and self-esteem that is not uncommon among local girls, these young women and their contributions to culture could not. never be erased.
Extract Smithsonian Anthology of Hip-Hip and Rap, “Hip-Hop Heroines” by Kierna Mayo. Copyright © 2021. Buy a copy here.