Women rappers Grammy nominations International Womens Day

Do the Grammys respond to the renaissance of women rappers?

 December 02, 2019

Women rappers are rule breakers, change makers and ground shakers. They’re changing and redefining what it means to be a modern female artist.

It was a woman, Sylvia Robinson, who produced the first commercially successful rap track.

Now, rappers such as Megan Thee Stallion, Lizzo, Rico Nasty, Rapsody, Doja Cat, City Girls, Cardi B, Iggy Azalea, and Nicki Minaj are huge sensations in music.

In an about-turn move against gender equality, the Grammys over many years has seen little to no nominations for female rappers despite their domination of the music scene.

Confusion? Check. Uproar? Check. Change? Yet to be seen.

But why is it so hard for female rappers to gain the same industry respect as men?

Female rappers are a novelty

There’s an unhealthy narrative in the music industry that there can only be one big female rapper at a time. It was Nicki Minaj, now it’s Cardi B...meanwhile there can be multiple highly-acclaimed male rappers.

Raising up one woman on a pedestal not only puts women in competition with one another, but also narrows the range and richness of rap. One woman  doesn’t speak for the experiences of all women. By pitting women against one another, you push out up-and-coming artists with their new talent and fresh perspectives.

Women are defined separately to men

It’s the problematic term ‘female rappers’ that contributes to the novelty of female rap. When asked: “who’s your favorite rapper?” people tend to deviate towards men – until the unwanted clarification “I meant female rappers”. Separating male and women artists into separate definitions, and keeping women on the margins, isn’t going to help equalize the rap industry.

Women aren’t always the ones writing

Even if women are spitting the lyrics, they might not necessarily be writing them.

A big issue in the rap industry is a lot of men are ghost-writing for women. On the surface, or in the eyes of the public, women are in the spotlight, but behind the scenes men are putting words into their mouths.

Rap, like most music genres, is about personal stories and experiences. If men are telling these stories for women, is that really equality? Even if a women is holding the mic, isn’t there more power in the pen?

For a true renaissance of women’s rap, the industry needs to encourage more women writers as well as singers to give a voice to the female experience – in all its many forms.

Women are still seen and not heard

This issue is common for a lot of women in arts and entertainment: the expectation of meeting beauty standards as well as artistic standards.

Of course, a lot of female rappers are empowered by their appearance. Take the hyper-feminine figures of Cardi B and Nicki Minaj, who use their bodies as a weapon against the male-dominated industry in a way that is unapologetically and proudly feminine.

However, women shouldn’t be under pressure to conform to certain standards, nor should they be judged by appearance.

Rap is traditionally and intrinsically misogynistic

Now here’s the big issue – the inequality encoded in rap itself. It’s known as one of the most – if not the most – sexist music genre, from the lyrics all the way to the music videos.

Gangster violence and pornography are two overriding aesthetics of rap that force women into a position of submission, passivity and objectification.

Unfortunately sex sells, and the rap industry is more focused on profit-making than diversity-creating, which means women need to make their own space and write their own narratives outside that of male rap that's healthy, empowering and inspiring.

Define rappers by their talent, not their gender

Women rappers aren’t a monolith. They’re as diverse and individual as male rappers.

The music industry needs to define women by their talent, not their gender, and normalize women rappers. Women’s rap needs to have equal authority, equal importance, and equal respect by music fans and critics alike.

If art imitates life, than life certainly imitates art. The gender inequalities we see in society are oozing into the music industry – and it has to stop, one Grammy nomination at a time.

For International Women’s Day, celebrate women in rap

One of the focuses of International Women’s Day is women in rap, so we’re calling women rappers worldwide to collaborate on IWD raps and change the narrative around women in rap.


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