Rap is a black male dominated genre and has been since its inception. The reasoning for that, to me is I view Rap music as a contact sport, sort of like football, its essence is aggressive, competitive and very ego-driven. Those characteristics I’ve just named have been used to keep women out of actual sports since forever. With rap from the gate being very much about how you’re better than the next man, a lot of bragging tools that male rappers would speak on is how many women they get. At that point Women were viewed as the accessories and the status symbol you attain for being “The man”. Of course even early on there were female emcees , with the first being Sha Rock of rap group, Funky 4 + 1 during the late 70’s and early 80’s. Despite the fact that there were women who were into rap during the early days, they had to go harder for there respect.For white emcees it’s particularly interesting. Rap in essence speaks for the minority inner city experience. Ghetto black and spanish kids cultivated this art form on the streets to stay out of trouble. However,with the world noticing rap’s innovative value many other cultures would embrace this rebellious art form. Since Rap is indeed a revolutionary art form, minorities seeing whites inhabiting their spaces , of course drew some tension. It most likely reminded blacks of Jazz and Rock which were first curated by people of African descent then taken and utilized for profit by white faces. Regardless, music is music and one thing about rap is as long as you have skills and you’re authentic you can earn respect, and some white rappers did in the early days. Of course the earliest notable white rappers were the Beastie Boys.
For female rappers, the 80’s saw the likes of Salt N Pepa , Roxanne Shante, Monie Love, Queen Latifah, and more. As time went on the number of female rappers increased, but they just weren’t as popular. I suppose due to the perceived misogyny there was in Hip-Hop, it was harder for a female rapper to be taken seriously, or the number of male rappers just outnumbered female rappers so much that from a consumption standpoint people just gravitated to what they normally heard. Regardless,the 90’s would see an increase in the popularity of female rappers. You had artists like Lauryn Hill who was arguably the best rapper in her all male crew, then puts out a classic solo album. Also artists like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, and more were going platinum. Foxy and Lil Kim took an interesting approach on their rise to prominence. While female rappers of the early 90’s would sometimes try to match the male aggressiveness of rap from their delivery to even wearing baggy clothes, Kim and Foxy owned their sexuality and used it for their own gain. They or their label heads realized that a female rapper that’s sexy and can rap circles around dudes would be successful, it’s two things that the male hip hop fan like the most; sex and dope lyrics.
As far as successful white emcees, In the late 80’s the rap world saw 3rd bass, a New York based group with two white rappers at the helm. They gained much success simply because they seemed authentic enough and were able to rhyme. Unfortunately after them was Vanilla Ice, who represented rap’s biggest fear coming true. Rappers like Vanilla Ice was why the purist rap community was so hard on white rappers to begin with. Rap purists feared that white rappers who don’t understand the culture , would just come in and water down the genre and make millions off of it and milk it until it wasn’t the rap they recognize anymore. vanilla Ice would come in with sub par raps, sell 7 million records and be one of the most popular mainstream rappers of the early 90’s. As time went on Vanilla Ice’s act got stale and he would become a non-factor. But it really set a bad reputation for white rappers. White rappers would not recover until the Rise and lyrical dominance of Eminem a half a decade later.
The immense popularity that female rappers gained during the mid to late 90’s would be short-lived to say the least. By the late 2000’s when record sales decreased , there was only one female rapper that mirrored the success of her predecessors and that’s Nicki Minaj. Nicki used the blueprint laid down by Kim and Foxy and it worked for her but not so much for others. Since we’ve seen female rappers prosper before, what’s the problem right now? Are the new crop of female rappers simply not good enough? or is the patriarchal rap society holding female rappers back from reaching their full potential?Are the A & R’s, distributors, and label heads responsible for not promoting female rappers as much as male rappers? Do male fans just not respect female rappers enough unless they’re selling sex? all great questions and there could be a multitude of answers.
Currently White rappers are dealing with a tough time in Hip-Hop. In regards to financial success,the few white rappers there are have no problem making money. The problem is that right now racial issues have seen a resurgence due to the excessive use of force by police officers to black civilians. Rap being the voice of the people has sounded off on these atrocious acts and a greater sense of unity is permeating the black masses. Now white rappers who have been part of rap culture have been silent on issues affecting the black community. You add that to the fact that Female white rapper, Iggy Azalea is having the Vanilla-Ice effect on the Hip-hop community now you have a real issue. So currently we have white rappers who are arguably not as talented having mainstream success, and not speaking about issues that are important to the culture they say they love. So yea it’s a tough place for white rappers right now.
White rappers and female rappers’ struggle with consistent success has some similarities. For example, for both of them, it seems like there could only be one premier respected and successful artist at a time. For female rappers right now it’s of course Nicki Minaj; who seems to be getting bored with being unchallenged for her crown. As far as white rappers go, for the last 15 years or so it’s really just been Eminem that’s the most widely respected. There are of course other white rappers who are making money but for the most part they seem like flashes in the pan and their respect tends to wane. Other similarities are just the fact that they have to work harder for their respect as emcees. Also in order to get on, both had to mimic what the popular rap style was and had to be cosigned. Eminem was cosigned heavily by Dr. Dre and Nicki Minaj was cosigned heavily by Lil’Wayne. Lil Kim was cosigned by Biggie, Foxy by nas, Beastie boys by Run-DMC and Def Jam, 3rd bass by the Bomb Squad , etc. The main contrast though is that it seems easier for white rappers to gain mainstream success, and for obvious reasons. Also white rappers have the luxury of transcending genres without being called a sellout, because the other genres they could experiment with is a part of their culture and it doesn’t seem like they’re just catering to an audience to make money.
Regardless it seems like in rap society, both female and white emcees have it a little bit hard. What it really comes down to is, rap is very important to black culture. I would argue that this genre of music has saved more lives than any other genre. Individuals that would’ve been dead, jailed, criminals, or drug addicts had their lives saved by dedicating themselves to art. Not to mention the number of kids that rappers have inspired by showing that they could make it out of their circumstances and do anything. Hip-Hop gave the hood confidence and self-esteem. My point is we’re very protective of rap and hip-hop culture in general because it did so much for us. In that protectiveness sometimes we end up shutting people out who have valuable things to add to the culture. We always resist change in Hip-hop and want to remember it how it was when we first heard it. Our rigidness and protective mentality may be holding us back.