Ever since the emergence of the hip-hop genre in the United States, female emcees cannot be said to have had much of a fair share, but at least to a reasonable extent they have contributed to the mainstream appeal of the art. Starting from the late 70s during the reign of rap pioneers such as Afrikan bambaata, The Sugarhill gang, Grandmaster flash and the likes, one of the true first ladies of hip-hop ‘Lady B’ in 1979 released her debut single “to the beat y’all” she was, as described by Bene Viera of the koalition, “the spark that women would be allowed into this pool of testosterone.” She amongst a few other women in her time laid the foundation for the emergence of other female emcees.
‘Femcees’ as female emcees are otherwise known, are relatively few when compared with the number of their male counterpart. This notwithstanding, they have managed to make an impact on the art form with their talent at both the underground and mainstream levels. In the underground scene, there have been classic cuts like Kollage by Bahamadia, who is said to have been the first substantial lady to have benefitted from the revolutionary rhyme skills of Rakim, “necessary roughness” by Lady of Rage, Jean Grae’s “Attack of the Attacking things” and “ The Bootleg of the Bootleg EP” and so many other underground notables. On the mainstream, hip-hop history is never complete without mentioning classic contributions of LPs such as “Black reign” and ‘Nature of a sistah’ by Queen latifah, who popularized feminism among not just black females but females in general. Other ones are MC Lyte’s ‘Lyte as a rock,’ ‘the mis-education of Lauryn Hill’ by Lauryn Hill, ‘Very necessary’ by the sexy group Salt ‘n’ Pepa and so on.
Even in this modern era where over-sexualization of the female emcee has become the norm, we can still mention a few number of classic albums from females such as ‘Ill na na’ and ‘broken silence’ by Foxy Brown, Missy Elliot’s ‘supa-dupa fly’ and some other highly rated albums from notables like Lil Kim, Eve amongst the few.
In spite of all this great antecedence of the womenfolk in the history of hip-hop, Nigeria is yet to produce a female emcee capable of emulating and making such impact on the game as the aforementioned. Well, some may argue the Nigerian hip-hop scene is just growing; it will only take some time. But not everyone would agree with that, because the Nigerian hip-hop scene has come a long way that we can now talk about those who have come and long gone, male as well as female emcees who have been in the game for long enough time now. For this reason, the time is long overdue to probe if we ‘do’ or ‘do not’ have female rappers with such clout on the mic.
Presently, we can only name three ‘prominent’ female rappers in the local industry which are, Weird MC, Sasha and BOUQUI (‘Prominent’ here means femcees with at least one released studio effort to their name). Without a doubt, they all have their respective fan base both home and abroad, but has anyone of them offered us that timeless material worthy of the exclusive archive that will define naija’s hip-hop history in years to come?
It is common knowledge that for an album to attain ‘classic’ status it must have sufficiently satisfied either conditions of ‘impact’ and ‘mass appeal’. Naija male rappers relatively have been able to prove their worth in this regard even though we can only name a few such as, Mode 9’s ‘E pluribus unum’, MI’s talk about it , Naeto-C’s U know my P, the Late Da Grin’s CEO amongst a few others. But how come the men folk keep getting the upper-hand in this regard?
Well, since both sexes obviously can easily secure the expertise of a good beat maker on an album project therefore, the x-factor in producing a classic goes well beyond just the beat quality but more in the areas of ‘content’ and ‘delivery’ which has a lot more to do with the individual skill of the artiste. ‘Content’ here reflects lyricism how deep and imaginative the thought of an emcee is, which lends a lot of weight to the entire song. While ‘delivery’ is the narrating skill or the manner in which the speech is delivered. Some emcees are just naturally gifted with that uncanny ability to play with words even when telling a story without drifting from the subject matter. This nonetheless does not mean this skill cannot be learned or acquired. So judging from these two qualities, male emcees stand out more frequently than the females and by means of that, they tend to get a higher replay value on their full length album.
Without bias, I think it is time the female emcees rose up to the challenge to claim their stake to relevance in this growing industry. While it is good to know new talented femcees such as Eva, Naira, Pryse all have some good stuff in the underground scene, the onus is now on them to not just make up the numbers, but turn things around by giving us that premium album that will earn them the respect of critics in the industry.