New film explores the decline in female rappers

Fri Aug 20, 2010 8:33am EDT
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By Sabrina Ford

NEW YORK (Reuters) - For more than a decade the number of women rappers signed to major American record labels has been in steady decline, leading hip-hop industry experts to ask, where have all the female rappers gone?

The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of women rap stars such as Queen Latifah, Salt-n-Pepa, Foxy Brown, Lil' Kim and Missy Elliot, but in recent years few acts have broken into the big time. The decline has been so pronounced that in 2005, the Grammys eliminated the best female rap categories from their annual music industry awards.

That drop is explored in the documentary, "My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip-Hop."

The hour-long film, to be aired on Black Entertainment Television (BET) on August 30, traces the history of women MCs from The Sequence's 1979 hit "Funk You Up" to Nicki Minaj, one of the few breakout successes of the 2000s and arguably the most visible woman in rap today.

Along the way, documentary explores several reasons why the decline has occurred.

One theory is that the emergence of sexually provocative women like Foxy Brown and Lil' Kim in the late 1990s brought pressure on other female MCs to follow suit -- something that did not always mesh with the tough, streetwise images those other rappers had already cultivated.

"You look at people like Da Brat and how their images changed and you really see the conundrum these women were in, now that this sexual thing took precedent," the documentary's producer and director Ava DuVernay, told Reuters.