As a Hip Hop Mogul Drake would undoubtedly benefit from signing a female MC. Most of the greatest Hip Hop moguls have done so, including Eazy-E who signed Tairrie B to his record label in 1989. Tairrie B, went on to release the album Power of a Woman which produced hit singles like “Murder She Wrote” and “Swingin’ Wit ‘T’.” Nearly a decade later Sean “P.Diddy” Combs solidified Bad Boy’s Legacy with none other than Biggie and Lil Kim who continued to revolutionize the game long after Biggie’s passing. In 2009, Lil Wayne made a bold move when he signed Nicki Minaj to Young Money Records who went on to become a rap sensation much like Drake himself.
When we think of women in hip hop we sometimes think of the highly sexualized image that rose post 1980’s with Lil Kim setting the standard in her cheetah lingerie on the cover of her 1996 album Hard Core. Flash-forward to 2008 and Nicki Minaj replicated the same pose in candy pink delicates. Trina and Lola Munroe have also succeeded with that same approach but it’s important to note that not all female rappers have taken this route.
While sex appeal may be encouraged for female rappers; it’s certainly not required. Legends like MC Lyte, Queen Latifiah, Bahamadia, the poetic Lauryn Hill and Toronto’s Michie Mee have all proven that it’s not necessary. These women have all influenced hip hop with highly tamed appearances. The tom-boy look is even a style that many of them flaunted during their rap careers. And while the tom-boy look, is out of style, female rappers are not. Due to their contribution, hip hop has is exceptionally well rounded like many of the artists coming out of the Greater Toronto Area (GTA).
At a time where Toronto is booming with new artists it’s odd that female rappers aren’t receiving as much attention as their male contemporaries. The city has a lot to offer and based on the Toronto Female Teambackpack Cypher – which amassed over 52,000 views we’re sure that people want to hear it. We caught up with a few femcee’s from the 6ix to get their opinion on the state of hip hop.
Read our interview with Toronto legend Michie Mee below:
I was told that you were one of first if not the first Canadian hip hop artist to be signed to a major label. That’s HUGE because it meant that being a rapper was a possibility for anyone in this city…male or female…were you conscious of that at that time?
Yeah of course, we were well aware because we were the only ones doing it at the time, it was all new.
You achieved success when you were very young, was there ever any pressure to objectify yourself as a sex symbol like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown and later Trina?
No, because I came out amongst, Queen Latifah and Mc Lyte – that era… there was no pressure for that…For Lil Kim and those women it made sense at the time…
Why do you think that the 90’s and early 2000’s had more female rappers that shared the mic? Missy Elliot, Lauryn Hill, Da Brat and yourself…Right now, Nicki Minaj is arguably the only mainstream female rapper holding it down.
It’s a Business…Nobody’s been willing to invest as much money as Baby (also, Birdman) has into Cash Money Records with Nicki Minaj. There’s a lot women out here doing hip hop, we’re not lost.
What’s worth noting here is that Michie Mee talked about the importance of investing in female talents and the obvious payoff it can have for a label if not the entire genre. We also noted that the vast majority of these labels are owned by men (no surprise here) and that female hip hop moguls could be even more influential if they started their own labels (i.e Lil Kim with International Rock Star Records, formerly Queen Bee Entertainment).
In a short interview with Xolisa we asked her about whether she thought women play a certain role in Hip Hop:
Speaking specifically on the element of emceeing. If you are a woman and you rap- then that is it. Period. What that woman chooses to deliver in her lyrical content, is HER message and HER story and not a role that has to be played. Whether that woman chooses to focus her lyrics on how bad of a bitch she is, how dope of a spitter she is, how hard she and her crew goes, that is up to her. Whether she chooses to tell life stories on struggle and pain, whether she chooses to be an advocate for other women and preach a message of positive encouragement, or whether she chooses to focus her lyrics on how sexy she believes she is, that is up to her. Whether that woman chooses to bounce back and forth from all mentioned topics in her lyrical content and image, or chooses to stick to one- that is her empowerment and that is her choice as a writer, a wordsmith and a master of ceremonies to create.
When it comes to Toronto Wondagurl, Bambii and Hustlegrl have gained a lot of popularity in Toronto hip hop circles, what do you think that means for the genre?
Wondagurl is a producer. Bambii is a DJ and Hustlegirl is a DJ, a graphic designer and an overall tastemaker within the city – they each create and provide platforms for rappers (and beyond) to thrive from and are dope and powerful individuals in their own rights. They each do what it is they do to the fullest and because they are each women and because once again, we are in an industry where it is mainly men who hold the titles of producers, DJ’s, etc. it just means there is a further push in having strong examples of women who are, have been and will continue to be capable of contributing positively to this genre.
And yes, we asked if she had any upcoming projects:
On May 29th, I release my first full-length, self-produced LP entitled, “And Gaps Do Lead To Bridges” and I cannot wait to share this new music with the world! In light of the new album, I’ll also be embarking on my very first tour, the “Gaps To Bridges Tour” where I’ll be visiting: Australia as well as cities within America and Canada! There are so many aspects of this album that I am stoked to share and roll out within the next year from music videos, travelling, new merchandise and more. Stay posted at xolisamusic.com on all things to come!
If you’ve watched the Teambackpack cypher above then you know how talented each of those rappers are. Keysha Freshh was one of the rappers that participated in the cypher and rapped over Lil Sister’s instrumental (who also happens to be her cousin) – and who we had the pleasure of speaking to:
You’ve been writing songs for a long time, what got you involved in hip hop?
I always kind of just had a love for music and the art. First it was more so singing for me, but then just falling in love with hip-hop at an early age watching Missy videos on BET and wanting to do that.
How are females being represented in the game and how hard is it for them to come up? What’s been your personal experience with this?
Female representation isn’t as widespread or as visible as it should be, but I feel like there are steps being taken in that direction, like Team Backpack doing a Women’s day cypher, that was huge, that was a statement, that was a few statements. We do have to work twice as hard, and be twice as creative. Personally, I’ve had my share of dealings with the male ego and etc. but nothing that would ever derail me from my goals and my dreams.
How does collaboration and adversary blend together in Toronto?
I mean humans are competitive by nature I think, so it will always be some sort of, competition even amongst best friends. Also, people will try to pin you up against someone else by comparing your sound or your style but me personally, I don’t play into it at all. I don’t look at any of my peers in a way where I feel like “they’re my competition, so I can’t work with them” I’ve worked with many female MC’s from Toronto, JellyTooFly was on my Mona Lisa project and also, as you can see, the cypher.
Some other notable rappers in the city include Layla Hendrix who released the EP Out of Time as well as Kris who released an EP entitled Don’t Feed the Animals with recent visuals that include an all-female cast. Check out the video below:
The bottom line here is that there’s a lot of female rappers from the GTA that shouldn’t be slept on. Apart from the TBP cypher, there’s also a series called 6ix Female Cypher hosted by Maizy F (The Cypher 4.0, June 25 and 5.0, Sept. 11 will be coming up soon) and there’s yet another cypher in the Jane and Finch Area. If Drake really plans on being the next HOV he better start paying attention to these women and the influence they may have on the music industry *sips lemonade*.
**All interviews have been condensed and edited by Leandre
**Xolisa and Keysha Freshh interviews were conducted by email