Wipe Off The Dust: Female MC's Humble Mainstream Beginnings

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

A blast from my past! A long lost assignment I found that I did for a class (college rocks like that) with some edits (so forgive me if it's not "scholarly" enough), may your history lesson begin....

There seems to be a drought of female MC's as of now, especially in the mainstream market. Where are the Missy Elliott's? The Salt N' Pepa's? Even the Neneh Cherry's? This is all quite bizarre since females have been flowing since hip-hop was in it's baby crawling stages. Now the female rapper is lost in the shuffle with their voices muffled. Still they should remember their roots and know that females in the hip-hop movement have come a long way....The normality of rap cameos being wedged in between the choruses and bridges of pop and R&B songs has since transformed each genre in its sound and its delivery, respectively. This trend is not some new fangled thing that came out of nowhere, and believe it or not, the trend began commercially with female floacists. Well, to an extent. In one corner we have a raunchy soul singer, in another, a new wave punk babe and in the last nook, a ivory funkster. All of them females and all responsible for bringing hip-hop into mainstream American homes. So who really did it first? It's a three way tie naturally.

*Keep on wiping off the dust...more after the cut*

Soul singer, Millie Jackson is mostly known for being quite ballsy with her soul bravado as she has said things that we'd only express in the darkest caverns of our minds. If you own or at least have heard a Millie Jackson album (and it's an experience let me tell you), you'll immediately hear her soulful growl, but you will also partake in her "raps". Millie's "raps" or speeches mainly discuss the subject of the song. Call it the Stone Age era of rapping...but it is rapping nonetheless. Millie has been doing this style since the 70's, but she took it to another much more funkier level with the title track to her 1980 album, I Had To Say It. The song wasn't a huge hit, but soul fans tend to praise Millie for being the "First Queen of Rap and Soul". Flash to the new-wave scene and we have Debbie Harry, the lead singer of punk-rock group, Blondie. The band (and mainly Debbie herself) became intrigued with the underground hip-hop scene and decided to test it out. In a sort of tribute piece, the song "Rapture" was born, and it of course was a popular hit for the group and featured Debbie flowing about a car eating alien. This song, in short, brought hip-hop to the unaware rock and new wave crowd and radio lapped it up as the song shot to #1 on the charts. Just shy of a few months of "Rapture", in 1981, Teena Marie releases "Square Biz". This six minute long funk romp has the Queen of Ivory Soul rapping and educating us about her love for "hot water cornbread" and her literary favorites in "Maya Angelou and Nikki Giovanni"...just to name a few. The track gave budding break dancers a musical backdrop to break to, not to mention hip-hop found a permanent spot on soul-funk radio. While we can ponder on who did it first, or who did it better, there is no question that these three ladies shifted the hip-hop game to another voice entirely and made a bigger impact than anyone thought possible. So female MC's of today come out of hiding and continue to make history, you've already got the blueprint to guide you.


  1. Nice post, very informative!

    I need to check out Millie Jackson.

  2. Thanks! And yes, you need to get into Millie Jackson this instant, she's got a large catalog of albums to choose from, but I highly suggest you start with 'Feelin' Bitchy' or 'Caught Up' to getcha started!


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