Hey, Feminist Music Critics
The reason that people don’t like female rappers isn’t because women can’t rap. It’s because most the ones who do fucking suck, and the ones who get successful implode (Lil’ Kim, Rye Rye), disappear (Lauryn Hill) or exchange rapping for sex iconography (Nicky Minaj) or more commercialized pastures (Queen Latifah, Fergie). Of those mentioned, only Lauryn Hill was really anything special, and let’s give credit to Nicky Minaj’s verse on Kanye West’s “Monster”, which is one of the best raps of the best ten years.
So we’re left with two categories:
The buzzed about, hyped up shit shows and the criminally under-appreciated.
The buzzed about, hyped up shit shows include Kreashawn, Chippy Nonstop, Kitty and Sirah. Okay, nobody likes Kreashawn, but let’s agree she had a spotlight moment and probably set back female rappers another ten years with “Gucci Gucci”. For some reason Chippy Nonstop and Kitty are getting accolades and mentions in the alternative, underground circles from which they’re emerging, despite the fact that their flow is astoundingly poor and annoying. None of these rappers have anything interesting to say, and they don’t say it in an interesting way either, which is the saving grace of most rappers anyway.
Proof? Let’s take Kitty, easily the best of this sloppy group, and analyze a quick stanza. In the interest of fairness I have clicked upon a random song of hers and skipped to a couple minutes in, so this way I’m not intentionally picking a line that is known to be her worst or best.
What? I’m fairly speechless, and not in a good way. This verse exemplifies the issue I have with this crowd of rappers (as well as many male rappers, don’t think they are all peaches too). Female rappers can’t really pull of the “Look at my drugs, money and ho’s” that ignorant men can, though I’d fucking love to hear that, so they’re relegated to either attempting to be honest, clever, subversive or the feminine counterpoint to swag.
I’m not sure which of those this is trying to be. I’m all for random observations of where one is, and using that to create a sort of affect through it’s imagery but that’s not what’s happening here. This isn’t “Sittin’ on the Dock of the Bay”. After saying she can see the Ocean, Kitty jumps to three lines that are… well they aren’t really puns, they are more just blatant references to witchcraft.
Yep, witchcraft was a thing. Nothing was really just said, though, and the only reason I can think of for this stanza progressing as it does is that Kitty thinks it’s really cool that balcony and ocean rhyme with alchemy and potion. They also rhyme with Falconry and motion, by the way.
Anyway, then we get to the last two lines, which once again make very little sense to me. Who is she wishing well? The song never references itself as being in dialogue with another person. Why is she wishing them well?
And why is she joking when she calls her city hell? That could actually be an interesting line in a different context, but here it just seems to be another random observation that’s included into this stanza because it rhymes.
From what I can tell, “Florida”, the song which I took this stanza from, is about the thoughts running through Kitty’s head as she is in Florida. And she’s wishing that she could always be in Florida, I guess? She continually says she wants to be “Spirited Away”, which other than being a Miyazaki reference doesn’t really mean shit. Perhaps the song is about desiring to be removed from the corporeal world and the every day pressures inherent in this realm. Well.. that’s not only a saccharine bland sentiment, it’s not communicated clearly or in a clever, inventive way.
"But, Josh!" some will say, "You rap absolute fucking nonsense all the time! Your favorite rappers include Das Racist, Cities Aviv and Action Bronson who also like to say things that seemingly make no sense!”
The difference, and the thing I like about these rappers, and hope to emulate in my own half-assed rap career, is that part of the point is that it IS nonsense. But it’s also not nonsense, and through their seemingly stream of consciousness lines, with each stanza often filled with two or three layers of meaning, Das Racist can communicate more than one could ever do through explicit statements.
For example, check this group of lines by Kool A.D. on the song “SWATE”:
"Chico Marx/The Ego/Zizek’s too sexy/’Right?’ said Fred/He’s Alexi/KFC/Original Recipe/Is demonology/Gucci Boots and Wallabees is modern day pottery/Only crackers win the lottery/Hackers is a quality film shot at Stuyvesant High School/Am I cool?/A young SFJ writing Haikus/Ordering Thai food/Watching Hulu, new Youtube/Smooch a dude who’s with the you do you crew/True true true/Baby guap/Goo goo/Ga Ga/Go Go/Gadget/Cabbage/Half African Erasmus"
Theres a LOT of content in this, even though it seems like absolute nonsense. In the interest of saving time, I won’t go through every single line, but just here we have references to the Marx Brothers, Slavoj Zizek and Lacanian cultural theory, Right Said Fred (disguised as discourse), fellow rapper Lakutis, Fast food and corporations grip upon the masses, Greek status symbols and the 1%, racial inequality both socially and economically, a jab at fellow rapper Heems and his high school, music critic Sasha Frere Jones and Das Racist’s feud with him, a parody of new york hipsters while also making fun of those who make fun of hipsters, a reference to another Das Racist song followed by a Kanye West reference, baby talk, Inspector Gadget and finally positioning himself as a new intellectual, philosophical force who comes from a background alien to the current zeitgeist. All of this ties together into a verse that serves as a scathing cultural critique, a parody of the state of main stream rap, and a reinforcement of art’s ability to communicate great ideas and change the world.
And if you’d like a quick glossing over of my own lyrics, to prove I’m not an asshole who thinks he’s better than Kitty without proving it scroll to the bottom of the page.
The criminally under-appreciated include K.Flay, Jean Grae and Angel Haze (who is slowly rising however). K.Flay can get a little maudlin at time but she’s got skills, her voice suits her style and she is lyrically easily to relate to. I’m particularly a fan of her song Hail Mary in which she makes a fairly interesting and personal post-feminist, existential statement.
"It’s a bogus land/I got no demands/Just a croque madam in my open hand/Evil men gonna bleed me out/Gonna cut me down/Gonna vote vote for them/Fuck a lemon/Yeah I’m sucking on a glowstick"
It’s a bit depressing. Essentially K.Flay says in Hail Mary that she gets fucked up and lives her life in a haze of drugs and debauchery because she’s given up on the likelihood of equality, both sexually and economically, but please don’t think this makes her a bad person, because she’d love to still have the energy to fight the battle. Also I love the reference to a croque madam, a version of a french sandwich called a croque monsieur that adds an egg to the recipe. Breaking down the metaphor is a bit pointless, but essentially men and women are essentially the same except the distinction created due to the presence of differing genitals still exists, despite the fact women may in fact be worth more (the addition of the egg being key in this interpretation) specifically because they are the ones who recognize this distinction. Yet even though she points it out, she doesn’t really care to say anything anymore. Just be aware, and move on.
And Jean Grae. Well. Just listen to this and tell me she doesn’t kick ass.
Maybe Jean Grae and K.Flay don’t get enough credit because they aren’t blatantly sexual or ignorant, and thus not easily marketable. Maybe it’s because, just like most male rap listeners, female rap fans don’t wish to be challenged lyrically and would rather listen to Kitty, Kreashawn and Chippy Nonstop validate their femininity and emotions via stupid iconography. Either way, please don’t claim that the reason there aren’t many successful female rappers is because men think women can’t rap. It’s because most the female rappers out there really can’t rap, and nobody on a mass scale wants to pay attention to the ones that do, regardless of race.
I’m doing this because I’ve had similar conversations and been told that I couldn’t do what the rapper I claimed was terrible can. I definitely can. Even if I’m not great, I’m better than fucking Kitty.
This is from my song Cigarettes and Ritalin, which I’ve chosen due to the seeming similarity to Florida by Kitty’s intent (to capture a specific feeling at a specific point in time):
Forever Rainbows through a Prism/Warm alabaster prison/Trapped inside my own skin/Cigarettes & Ritalin/Set me free from truth/Our Oppressor/Forget the pressure/On the wound to keep my hurt in/Absolve me of this heavy burden”
The general idea here is pretty basic. I wrote this sitting on a stoop, three years ago, smoking cigarettes on ritalin. Clearly I was depressed as shit, and also I sort of dislike the sentimentality of the song, but I also recognize that it was an honest sentiment and not everyone is against having emotions communicated clearly.
Anyway, the desire is to be not of this world, similar to Kitty’s desire to be spirited away, but the reasoning is actually clear. I’m sick of trying to maintain a straight face, while starkly aware of the fact that what I’m doing is making things worse. Hopefully it’s relatable, and if it’s not whatever, I made this song three years ago. But 19 year old me is still better than Kitty, a rapper with an actual career.