Rolling Stone Music Now podcast released a new, necessary episode called “The Women Who Helped Create Hip-Hop” where Clover Hope, author and contributing editor, discussed her book “Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop” with host Brian Hiatt.
This episode is important because for a long time women were left out of the credit for the curation of hip-hop as a genre. Additionally, it is important to comprehend women’s contribution in hip-hop to understand women in today’s industry.
“You can tell the story of hip hop through women if you choose to, which I chose to. We [normally] choose to tell it through men,” Hope said. “I tried to center each story around a larger idea about hip-hop. You can see these trends through women as well.”
My favorite thing about this podcast was how much I learned from it. Sadly, I only recognized a couple of women mentioned in it. All these influential, notable women made such an impact, and I had hardly heard of them before.
“There're so many chapters [in “Motherlode”] that could and should be books of their own. What I took away from it are the number of stories that are sort of frustrated potential… They never got to where they should’ve been because of sexism and structural factors,” Hiatt said.
In the early days of hip-hop, even if women were a force in the industry, old power dynamics always ended up playing out. “The vehicle for this message [of change] is [through] the women and the person with the actual power and control is [through a man] making the decisions,” Hope said.
Arist Roxanne Shante wanted to rock these structural factors and reverse roles in efforts to reclaim ownership and authorship. Hope said of Shante’s song “Roxanne’s Revenge,” “it’s like the subject of the painting leaking out of the frame and coming to life. That is such an important moment in these lyrics of rap because it’s women not allowing themselves to be the subject rapped about. There’s something profound about what happened in that moment.”
Women in the industry today constantly redefine this trend originated by Shante. Oftentimes, women take songs by male artists and flip them. One current example of this is a style choice by Meg thee Stallion. Meg loves to sample music, and her primary source of inspiration is 90s rap, which had been dominated by men at the time. Meg’s song “Girls in the Hood” used the same beat and melody as Eazy-E’s “Boyz-N-The Hood.”
“You felt the power of reversal… ‘They’re doing what the guys always do and that’s cool’... This was their way of taking something popular and putting a female stamp on it,” Hope said.
We saw this phenomenon with the controversial track “WAP'' by Cardi B and Meg thee Stallion. Women were being provocative, as men have done for years in hip-hop, and everybody lost their minds.
As the story of hip-hop is told through the lens of the women, the podcast allows the listeners to catch a glimpse of the double standard women still face in the industry.
“There are so many things that women in the business have to think about that doesn’t even have to cross the mind of the male artist,” Hope said.
They used the example of motherhood with artists like Lauryn Hill and Cardi B. Lauryn Hill capitalized her pregnancy with the track “To Zion” on “The Miseducation.” The song emphasized the importance of choice for women. She also wanted to convey to listeners that she could have it all, a baby and a career. Unfortunately, Lauryn’s career did settle down after a while for various reasons—one of these being for her children.
However, as we fast forward to 2021, we see mothers and rappers, like Cardi B, who maintain their careers and raise a child.
Through this podcast I was able to see a few changes in the climate of the industry; however, I wouldn’t say all the problems are solved that had been present at the conception of hip-hop. This podcast is worth a listen to reframe how we think about hip-hop, and any other genres for that matter.
“Rolling Stone Music Now” is available on Apple Podcast and Spotify.