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Today's Women of Hip-Hop: Where Are They?

Salt-n-Pepa and Sean Diddy Combs in 2001 at the MTV 20th anniversary party in New York City (Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect)
Salt-n-Pepa and Sean Diddy Combs in 2001 at the MTV 20th anniversary party in New York City (Frank Micelotta/ImageDirect)

Because music executives have little faith in the profitability of female solo artists, women, who were once a dominant force in hip-hop, have become almost completely invisible in the industry today, Feminista Jones writes at Salon.

But who are the notable women in mainstream hip-hop today? There is Nicki Minaj who, while often charismatic and occasionally entertaining to watch, admits that she is generally written off by others, particularly older black women. She often touts the commercial accomplishments she's achieved and claims she's working on behalf of all women — but not everyone buys her expressions of feminism. There was once a time when you could turn on the radio and hear more than one female MC rhyming over beats by the hottest producers. If you're into the independent or underground scene, you have probably heard the names Jean Grae, Persia, Amanda Diva and Eternia, but you are not likely to hear their music on mainstream radio stations.

Women have become almost completely invisible in popular hip-hop today, a consequence of the current state of hip-hop culture. Over the years, hip-hop has been bought, sold and mass-produced by people with little authentic connection to the culture's birth and development. Because of its global appeal, hip-hop became one of America's most profitable exports. This changed the way hip-hop manifested itself artistically, as money became more of a motivation for many performers than the counterculture rebellion and free expression of the past. No longer are graffiti and break-dancing the popular art forms they once were, and DJs who once spun vinyl and scratched records have become producers who download electronic samples and piece them together on their computers. MCs rarely freestyle or battle anymore, and even their penned lyrics tend to be simplistic.

The more commercial hip-hop becomes, the more image plays a role in whether an artist is deemed marketable.


Read Feminista Jones' entire piece at Salon.

The Root aims to foster and advance conversations about issues relevant to the black Diaspora by presenting a variety of opinions from all perspectives, whether or not those opinions are shared by our editorial staff.

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