So, I have two entries drafted on Almost Famous and Sonic Youth’s cameo on last night’s Gossip Girl. Now, I could finish one of them and rush it to publication for you kind, attentive readers. But, I started watching season one of Friday Night Lights this weekend and some profound race relations stuff is going down and I intend to finish disc four tonight. If you’ve watched the show, you understand. If you haven’t, then I highly recommend starting, especially if you’re like me and grew up in a rural Texas suburb.
That said, two dude-friends pointed me in an interesting direction this morning and I thought I’d write a quick post on it. Peter reminded me of one artist I forgot about and David pointed out another act I didn’t know existed (but whose work I had heard sampled on Fergie’s “Fergalicious“). Thanks, guys. That these artists were obscure female rap artists who got support from members of rap group N.W.A. should not be overlooked, especially alongside the widely-held belief that N.W.A., and the subgenre of gangsta rap that they helped pioneer, were sexist and misogynistic (and also homophobic). And I don’t want to discredit those claims, as they have considerable merit. Barring examples from Ice-T, Dr. Dre, and Eazy-E’s solo careers, and Dre’s assault on Dee Barnes while still in the group, I don’t think we have to look much further than “One Less Bitch” and “She Swallowed It” off Efil4zaggin).
That said, I think this argument gets challenged by the presence Tairrie B, who was signed to Ruthless Records, who also housed N.W.A. for a time, and was mentored by Eazy-E. It gets further complicated by J.J. Fad, who originally used their initials to form the group’s name, whose debut album, Supersonic was produced by Dr. Dre, DJ Yella, and Arabian Prince’s production credits. Now, this isn’t to overlook the gendered dimensions of the mentor-protégée relationship (though it would behoove us to remember that N.W.A.’s records often contained samples of records by female artists like Lyn Collins and E.S.G.). It also isn’t to overlook Tairrie’s normative white, blonde good looks, or that her metal career further temper the waters.
But it does emphasize the oft-overlooked presence women and girls of multiple racial and ethnic categories have always had in hip-hop and the support some men in positions of power in the game have given. It may not forgive a statement like “bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks” or level the playing field, but it sure as hell complicates standard conceptions of gender roles and racial norms in hip-hop’s industrial practices.