REKINDLING MY RELATIONSHIP WITH RAP
WRITTEN BY JOANA SILVA
“We break up to makeup” is the line I hear most used in those R&B power ballads we love to belt out. The ones that we listen to, eagerly waiting for that climactic bridge we just have to get to before hitting ‘skip’. Despite it being a cliché however, it perfectly encapsulates my relationship with music of an urban origin. I fell in love. It was the lover of literature in me, the lover of writing, the lover of words that drew me to the ‘urban’ game. I’d like to say that I haven’t looked back since, but I have. The feminist in me screams at the many misogynies it hears.
Now, for those who dwell on technicalities, I am simply a lover of music – not an expert. I’m not here to debate the controversies surrounding ‘urban’ as a label but see it primarily as music of black origin. From Hip-Hop and R&B to trap music and grime, the boundaries these days can be so blurry. We could spend a whole Sunday afternoon debating over a cuppa but whether you agree, or are currently considering exiting this article, I urge you to go beyond technicality. Read on.
I grew up on a balanced musical diet: from 112 and Destiny’s Child to Curtis Jackson himself. I always – always – received mixed reactions when I revealed my Top 10 on iTunes. My teachers were shocked when they discovered me writing about Tupac Shakur as an influential figure for my GCSE. I was quite possibly the only white girl who did not know the lyrics to The Killers’ ‘Mr Brightside’ at my first university night out. I’ve since learnt them…you gotta do what you gotta do. Point is, they didn’t expect this from the 5ft-nothing white girl.
Because of this, I never felt like I was the right fit for Hip-Hop. I wasn’t entitled to bless my ear drums with a genre of music that so powerfully commented on the experience of communities I would never be able to empathise with. How could I possibly be entitled to listen to a medium that so beautifully captured the essence of what it feels like to experience prejudice? I never had to carry that weight myself. How could I possibly understand? It’s because I couldn’t ignore the pure suffering and reality in Immortal Technique’s ‘Dance with the Devil’ or the go-getter spirit of Biggie’s ‘Juicy’. Having experienced spurts of both privilege and hardship, something spoke to me. But the feminist in me also raged. How could I admire Eminem saying he would “put anthrax on a Tampax and slap” his ex-wife? How could I overlook the number of times I heard a fellow female being referred to as a ‘b****’? Hence the agony I endured during my break-up with rap. But I remembered Tupac’s adoration for Jada and that “we all came from a woman, got our name from a woman and our game from a woman”. I was flirting with rap again. There’s never been a better time to be a woman.
Will the romance last? It most certainly will and I owe it to the surfacing (or should I say re-surfacing, thank you Lauryn Hill, Missy, Lil Kim) of female success in the rap world. I am thankful that the female experience is making the cut, making the conversation, making the playlists of young men. I cannot wait for its growth, particularly in the UK scene. So whilst many may criticise Cardi B or Nicki for exposing their flesh and view them as novelty additions to the genre, I can’t help but praise Miss Minaj for her lyricism on ‘Monster’ or Cardi’s work ethic. She did drop two mixtapes in sixth months if you haven’t already heard. They are profiting from decisions they are making. I respect and applaud their entrepreneurship.
It’s cuffing season. I’ve secured my relationship with the game yet again.
Recently, I had the pleasure of recording a radio interview with UK law-graduate turned rapper Mz Jazzy (who impressively opened up for Notes a mere three months after starting her career). She agreed: we want to see UK females collaborating even further. Imagine a collective of fierce verses on the right trap beat. And how? Jazzy and I couldn’t agree more on this point: let’s adopt the culture of “bring-ins” that so many moguls and empires, from Death Row to Bad Boy, have profited from. Your success does not have to mean my failure. It’s no longer about the pie Drizzy claimed he wasn’t cutting any more slices of on ‘I’m Goin’ In’. It’s about networks and connections that will elevate female music to being seen as more than a “good try”. Stefflon Don, Nadia Rose and so many others are just getting started. Don’t sleep on the female experience.