Salt N Pepa Add Real FlavourLetter by Sophie Jongman, June 2004Hip-hop has been evolving over almost three decades, and is a militant form of music ('Hip-hop takes the rap', May SR).
Nowadays MCs fight each other in lyrical battles where they attack one another on a personal basis. In the early days of hip-hop, bands such as Public Enemy saw the system as their main enemy and gave solidarity to their black sisters, for example in their album Fear of a Black Planet. There were respected political female rappers such as Roxanne Shante, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah and Wee Papa Girl Rappers, and it was the plethora of female rappers that added to the excitement of early hip-hop. It was massively popular, and so the market got hold of the hip-hop phenomenon.
Whereas the female rappers wanted to talk about all the good things and the bad things about sex, the market made products out of women's bodies in the videos. Gangsta rap evolved and destroyed good artists such as Tupac Shakur, as Brian Richardson pointed out in Socialist Review. Yet the women in hip-hop did not challenge the sexism in the industry. Missy Elliott was saying that women were somehow 'ahead of the game' for being paid in the sex industry.
50 Cent, in his song 'Wanksta', says that being a gangster is not cool - he should know, he was shot nine times and now walks with a limp. His song 'P.I.M.
P.' was massively popular probably because of the catchy kettledrums and rhythm rather than the lyrics. The lyrics show the attitude of a pimp to the women he 'owns', and how recognisable that attitude is in relations between men and women in general. Many mainstream hip-hop artists of late - JayZ, Nas, Ja Rule - make references to revolution and being warriors (the influence of the anti-capitalist and anti-war movement perhaps?).
However, the attitude to women as the 'ho business' definitely has to be challenged for hip-hop to again be as inspiring as it was originally. Sophie JongmanGillingham
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