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-- by James Sanders
"… suck him to sleep, I took the keys to the jeep, tell him I'll be back go fuck with some other cats." – Lil' Kim on "Not Tonight (Lady's Night)" featuring and produced by Jermaine Dupri
"Not Tonight" was one of the lead singles from Lil' Kim's classic debut album, Hardcore, released in 1996, and it featured ad libs and production from Jermaine Dupri. Just two years prior, he released Da Brat's debut project, Funkdafied, under his So So Def imprint. It was the first album from a solo female rapper to go platinum. While both rappers differ in lyrics, delivery, and image; Durpri's production on both projects helped bring platinum status to each debut.
Most recently, Durpri made headlines for comments he made about today's female rappers on People TV, and later on TMZ.
"I feel like they're all rapping about the same thing. They're not showing us who is the best rapper. For me, it's like strippers rapping," he said. Dupri then clarified his comments to TMZ and said that he was largely referring to three female rappers: Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, and Megan Thee Stallion.
After hearing his comments, Cardi B took to Instagram Live and said that there were plenty of female rappers who rapped about different things, but aren't getting the mainstream support they deserve.
Weeks later, our own "State Of The Culture" addressed the issue and co-host Remy Ma was asked by Joe Budden what female rappers she admired. The "Melanin Magic" femcee immediately credited battle rappers.
Hip hop is widely credited as having four elements: deejaying, graffiti, breakdancing, and rapping. People have battled in each element since 1976, when hip hop was said to have been born.
In 2002, the streets were hit with an underground culture craze in the form of the popular street series S.M.A.C.K. (Street Music, Arts, Culture & Knowledge) DVDs featuring full features and interviews with underground artists and producers. Together with Norbes and Eric Beasley, Troy "Smack" Mitchell started the Ultimate Rap League known worldwide as URL.
Around that same time, REVOLT Media & TV's own Sean "Diddy" Combs launched season two of "Making the Band" (the first season was managed by Lou Pearlman and featured the pop group O Town). Combs' goal was to create a super group with a singer, a reggae artist, male rappers, and one female rapper. Several episodes featured the singers and rappers battling each other. Of the women, when the smoke cleared, Babs Bunny stood victorious. She, along with singer Sara Stokes and their male counterparts, were called Da Band.
Battlers such as Sara Kana and Young Gattas existed, and battled with reputations and bars to rival the men, but were unable to break into mainstream notoriety.
In 2004, Remy Ma and Lady Luck battled on camera on the Viacom-powered Fight Klub platform. It was the first time that a female battle had been seen on a mainstream level since 1985's Round 1 on vinyl with battle rap icons Roxanne Shante and Sparky D.
URL had become the biggest and most important battle league, nurturing the careers of battle rap legends Murda Mook, Loaded Lux, and Hollow Da Don, just to name a few. Battles went viral in the streets and online. But, it wasn't until the first lady of URL handpicked and co-signed by Smack himself, Ms. Hustle, and battler EHart battled that the culture began paying serious attention to female battle MCs.
When Combs' Da Band dissolved, after releasing one album, which sold 600,000 copies, Babs – who Combs called "The First Lady of the Streets," together with Debo and Grindseason Vague created the all-female battle league Queen of the Ring.
A little over eight years after the Ms. Hustle/EHart's battle, Dupri's commented spark debate about a double standard in hip hop.
Amid news from Combs announcing the 2020 return of "Making the Band," REVOLT had a chance to sit down with Babs Bunny, URL first lady Ms. Hustle, Jaz the Rapper, Queen of the Ring battlers Bonnie Godiva and Couture, BossChick Battle League owner Raine, and free agent QB Black Diamond for a candid conversation about hip hop, Dupri, double standards and career highs. Check out the interview below.
Queen of the Ring is now a major player in battle rap culture. You've helped foster the careers of some talented female rappers, but how did Queen of the Ring get started?
Babs Bunny: Queen of the Ring is a spinoff of a battle league called King of the Ring, started by my partner Vague. He wanted to start a platform for females because chicks were asking him to battle. We tested the waters and nine years later, here we are, still standing. The 1st and only female battle league in the world.
You've specifically been mentioned by Jadakiss, Lady Leshurr, Camron, and Remy Ma on several occasions as one of the most talented female rappers out. For people who aren't familiar with battle rap, why do you think artists like yourself aren't as recognized?
Ms. Hustle: It's sexist, but it's also us. Females can be catty. The guys can get together and make music and do a project without it being anything. If we were more united and willing to work together, guys would take us seriously. Honestly, they (men) don't believe we can do the things men can do.
For years there have been rumors about females not writing their lyrics. Do you think this is a double standard?
Raine: It is a double standard because there are many male rappers who have writers, and then to top it off, I was just informed that from the beginning of hip hop, male rappers wrote for other male rappers. It's literally part of the culture, but that's another story.
It's also a double standard because it is used to downplay women in my opinion. If a woman says something exceptional, it's automatically assumed that she has a ghostwriter. What's even more upsetting is that even if she says something regular, it's still implied.
Battlers will say that a well-rounded battle rapper has bars, delivery, performance, jokes – the list goes on. Your battle against Ms. Pak was picked up by Worldstar Hip Hop and was said to be the first battle to get 1 million views on YouTube for Queen of the Ring. What would you say makes you one of the most unique female battle rappers in the culture?
Couture: My style is different because I'm unpredictable, unorthodox, and I'm not afraid to do the unthinkable. I bring a little bit of everything to the table: bars, humor, real talk, and performance. It's hard to compare me to other females. I'm Couture.
"I'll throw hands with this man, hit him with the left-right, but if I pull out and go ham, I hope this trans vest tight (transvestite)." – Couture from her classic battle on Queen of the Ring against Jada Raye
As a battler with a reputation for making your competition choke in the middle of their rounds, you declared in your battle with QB Black Diamond that it's 'bars over everything' in response to what makes a good battler. Being known as one of the wittiest battle rappers in the culture, why do you think your style and bars make your opponents choke?
Jaz the Rapper: I think it's because I'm very captivating and I have a lot of presence in person. Normally, they choke in round three and I believe it's because by then, they know their round isn't better than mine. My third rounds are deadly!
With artists like Cardi B, Nicki Minaj, City Girls, and Megan Thee Stallion selling records on the same level as male rappers, what's been the biggest challenge for an unsigned female rapper when it comes to breaking into the industry?
Babs Bunny: I feel like every female rapper has a different challenge trying to get in this game. It depends on what type of rapper you are and how you look. The biggest challenge will be staying true to yourself.
You are a battle rapper, writer, producer and actress. Most recently, you were a season regular on MTV's 'Wild 'n Out.' You are also one of the only females in the culture to battle men on a regular basis. How is that different from battling women, and do double standards exist in those situations?
Bonnie Godiva: It's a little more fun and creative because men don't talk about the same things over and over. The guys have skills. I like battling people who are not going to talk about sexual things as much and have bars and wordplay.
You are a female battle rapper who makes music on a regular basis. Your freestyle on Hot 97 with DJ KaySlay put you on the map in New York. Your double mixtape project from two years ago got a lot of radio play. What's been the hardest thing about transitioning into an artist?
Ms. Hustle: The hardest thing is when you are already someone and trying to rebrand because people already love you for one thing. It wasn't totally easy, but being as though I had KaySlay in my corner, it was easier to get on radio and have the industry looks. It's difficult, but I love doing both. Me doing music is second nature. One day, I wouldn't mind giving up battle rap completely.
Battle rap has become a lucrative business where male battle rappers are able to perform full time and live comfortably. Is there a double standard where female battlers are concerned, when it comes to booking fees, deposits, and finances overall?
QB Black Diamond: Of course, the women are underpaid. Isn't it like that everywhere? I always stand my ground though. I know some guys are getting paid more than me, but I know for a fact I'm one of the highest paid females, if not the highest paid.
Your style since your debut as a battle rapper has always been known as disrespectful. You're known to rattle opponents for this. What's your process for writing rounds?
QB Black Diamond: I have disrespectful bars, so I stand out a lot. Many people try to imitate my style of rapping by throwing out a few disrespectful things from time to time, but it's not rap. They can't form the disrespect into a bar, so [the] majority of the time, it doesn't work for them, especially when they try it against me.
By now, you've all heard the comments made by Jermaine Dupri about female rappers. What's your opinion on the matter?
Babs Bunny: I think Jermaine Dupri was right about what he said. But, what people need to understand is that he's not really checking for female rappers. He only hears the chicks who are popping on the radio and shit. But, I bet you he can name a few male rappers that's not popping on the radio because he checking for them niggas. If he was checking for female artists, then he would have never said that.
What he would have said is that he don't like the music on the radio and he can name a few chicks with bars that have a buzz online. Shit! I can tell you 50 chicks with bars right now, but that's only because I'm checking for them.
Ms. Hustle: What Jermaine Dupri said is 100 percent true because look at it: It's women like me that really rap, that aren't looked upon as much as other women, because they're twerking onstage, or half naked, or strippers. It's not a competition of who is the best rapper anymore. It's about whose nails are better, whose ass is fatter. Lyrics are non-existent. I can't wait until it gets back to who is the better rapper.
Jaz the Rapper: I'm indifferent towards it. Females always get boxed in, so I'm used to it. I know that I can rap well, so honestly it doesn't bother me. That's just how people look at female rappers and I think it'll be that way for a long time.
Bonnie Godiva: To a certain extent, I agree. He could have made note that there are exceptions. A lot of female rap is now talking to niggas and prostitution. All the females that's making it are rapping about strippers and stuff. Do they know about us?
It's still the stigma of will it translate to music or is she going to be commercial enough? And people need to understand. It's all about the hit, and being original and creating a catchy jingle -- being able to do a hook and a bridge by yourself is what separates great artists from rappers. That's why I tell these girls I battle, y'all all punches and no hits.
Raine: I went off when I first heard what JD said. I think he's a bit disconnected. Again, there are so many women rapping. There is literally a female compatible for every style of male rapper. For him to focus on strippers or reduce the music to stripper music was a tad misogynistic in my opinion because it's not something he would have ever said about male drug dealers who can't rap. Hip hop has accepted them, but now we have a problem with strippers rapping? It doesn't make sense because these girls can actually rap and all of them are not strippers.
QB Black Diamond: Jermaine Dupri is a legend and I respect him, but that comment was ignorant. However, ignorance comes from not knowing. He doesn't know it's so many dope female rappers out there rapping about a variety of things. If he does his research, I bet that will change his mind. Salute to Jermaine Dupri though.
If you love Atlanta stars and hip hop, you'll definitely want to join us and AT&T in the ATL on Sept. 12- Sept. 14 for our three-day REVOLT Summit, where Jermaine Dupri will be featured in a music vets panel. Head to REVOLTSummit.com for more info and to get your passes now!
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