“Women are The Future of Rap and This is the Time to Take What’s ours”
Note from BW of Brazil: Obviously, anyone who gets into “the Brazil thing” will some time or another plunge into the country’s music industry. And Brazil most def has something to offer in terms of its music. Mind you, this is not to say that everyone’s gonna love Brazilian music. There are certain genres of Brazilian music that, no matter how much I try to give a chance, I’m just not feeling it. Styles such as Brega, Forro and Sertaneja are just styles that, if I never heard them again, I probably wouldn’t miss them. This isn’t to say that there aren’t songs from those genres that I might actually like, it just means that if a Brega, Forro or Sertaneja song came on the radio, there’s a 95% chance that I’ll change the station.
No harm, no foul. Not hatin’ on anyone who likes those styles, I’m just not one of them. I mean, there’s plenty of American music that I’ll pass on as well. Now, back in the early 2000s is when I first became aware of Brazilian Hip Hop. I remember very well some of the popular names of the day, such as Racionais MCs, MV Bill, Rappin’ Hood, Sabotage, DMN, Marcelo D2 and others. But thinking back, in light of a conversation I recently had about Old School Hip Hop, I noted how our conversation on Hip Hop history was filled with just male artists. When we go down memory lane, from to time, names such as MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Boss, Sista Souljah, or the women involved in the whole Roxanne phenomenon would come up, but for the most part, the conversation would be dominated by male rappers.
I LOVE female rappers, there just aren’t as many out there as there are men. Since the 90s, I’ve bumped my fair share of Lauryn Hill, Da Brat, Eve, Rah Digga, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, but it seems that, for every one female rapper, there are probably 20-30 male rappers. Maybe I’m wrong, but it sure seems that way. I mean, if we live in a sexist society, it wouldn’t be realistic to believe that it doesn’t go down this way in the music industry as well. And this is also the case in Brazil.
I remember in the early 2000s, I came across a CD of all female Brazilian rappers. I can’t remember the name of that joint or even the rappers, but still today, the genre remains male dominated. In my early collection of Brazilian music, I had CDs by artists such as Nega Gizza and Negra Li, who I don’t really consider a rapper, but there were were slim pickings when it came to women rappers. Of course, there are many more today including perhaps the most popular, Karol Conká, the now teenager MC Soffia, and artists such as Tássia Reis (who I don’t really consider a rapper) with the list growing if you include some of the funkeiras out there.
The fact is that, women DO sell. The success of the newest generation of preta e parda (black and brown) artists such as Ludmilla, IZA, Anitta, and several other talented women is proof of this. And as we saw in an article back in October, some of these ladies are even getting play internationally. As such, it’s long been time for the world of Hip Hop to starting putting the ladies first. Because, as we’ve seen time and time again, they can hold their own on the mic.
Girl’s rhyme: Rappers want to make Hip Hop a women’s music genre
They are young activists who want to make Hip Hop the musical genre of women. Marie Claire talked to the new generation rappers, authors and performers of songs that reflect the reality in the peripheries of major Brazilian cities. Here, Tássia, Clara, Drik and Stefanie remember their trajectories
By Priscilla Gereminas
It was at age 10, with a stack of cassette tapes, that rapper Stefanie, 36, began to hear her first rhymes. At the time, she was fascinated by the beat of the Wu-Tang Clan, New Yorkers, the treble of Erykah Badu, the verses of Brazilians Thaíde and DJ Hum, groups that her cousin and brother listened to. Although inspired by the melodies, the girl who was born and raised in Santo André, in São Paulo’s ABC region, she could never imagine that she would make a living with songs like those, only written by herself. “I fell in love with Hip-Hop culture, b-boys and b-girls, but I had that mind that I needed to graduate from college,” she says. At age 15, she began to put lyrics on paper that popped in her head. “I showed it to my friends who made fun of it. No one had much faith – neither did I.” It was a friend, MC Kamau, who, admiring the compositions, bet on the girl and invited her to sing in a show of his. She was 20 years old.
The following year Stefanie joined the group that his friend was part of, the Simples. From there it was a leap until invitations to sing solo began to come. “I was afraid,” she confesses. “I ended up with a female rappers show in 2007.” In 2008, she wrote the lyrics that would become her hit song, “Mulher MC” (I go on stage, I sing loud / I’m the team, I don’t slip/ If they call me, I don’t miss/ Because I’m MC! / Of all the options, I preferred to make songs / My choice was to be a Woman MC!). “It was a message mostly to men, who thought I shouldn’t be on stage. At that time, a girl singing rap was crazy,” she recalls. To earn her place in the scene, she rocked looks that resembled the rapper closet of the early 2000s. “I wore baggy pants and a large T-shirt. I even liked it, but I adopted it to be accepted. I was ashamed to even put on makeup,” she says. Since then, Stefanie has performed throughout Brazil. After a career break to have her second daughter, Malena, 8 months old, she’s now preparing to release her first album in 2020. “I want to give an answer to those who still call me crazy for being a black woman with two kids, insisting on rap.”
Stefanie’s persistence is an important point in the long journey to female insertion within the genre, dominated by men from its inception. Hip-hop, the rap movement, was born in the New York ghettos in the 1970s, in African American, Caribbean, and Latino communities. The women only appeared on the scene ten years later with names like Roxanne Shante, the trio Salt-N-Pepa and MC Lyte. It was not until the mid-1990s that major female representatives such as Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott burst onto the global scene.
In Brazil it was no different. About 30 years ago, groups of men from the outskirts of São Paulo gathered at Galeria 24 de Maio or around the São Bento subway station to compose rhymes. “In the early 1990s, all young people from the outskirts like me identified with rap. This recognition, although often stereotyped and negative, was very important in shaping our identity, both by social chronicle and body expression,” explains historian Liliane Braga, a student of the subject.
It was because of one such expression, breakdance, a street dance style, that Tássia Reis, 30, took her first rhyme to the stage. “I went with my dance group from Jacareí to São Paulo. We always played freestyle. That day there was a Kamau show and he called two people to the stage. I had no self-esteem for that, but my friends started screaming my name,” she recalls. “I went up and rhymed about dance, that’s what came to my head.” Tássia majored in Fashion Design, but it was in music that she saw hope. “I built my career up one step after another, I never took the elevator. I have a solid trajectory, there was no boom of views out of nowhere. And having millions of views like men usually have doesn’t mean they’re better,” she says.
In Próspera, an album released last June, Tássia expresses her versatility in rap, pop, blues, jazz and samba. “In Brazil, rap still doesn’t see women, they call it ‘female rap’, which leads us to be independent. I’m not on the circuits, but I know the audience that listens to me,” she says. On Spotify she has 2 million streams and 347,000 fans spread across 65 countries. This year, she rocked the Supernova Stage at Rock in Rio and toured Europe, performing in four cities and two festivals. “I was in the dressing room next to Lizzo [American singer who, until the close of this article, spent six weeks at the top of the Billboard Hot 100 ranking]. I freaked out,” she recalls.
Increasing women’s participation in national rap is the mission of Eliane Dias, manager of Brazil’s biggest rap group, Racional MC’s, and columnist for Marie Claire. A lawyer, she was the coordinator of SOS Racismo, served on the Human Rights Commission of the Legislative Assembly of the State of São Paulo (Alesp) and began working with the Racionais because they “needed someone to organize their 25 year career”. When she took the post in 2012, the plan was to stay three years ahead of the business, which she continues to do today. To prove her ability to manage the group’s career (led by her husband, Mano Brown), Eliane says she had to work hard. “I entered the market earning much less and had to compete unequally. It took me a long time to understand some things.” That’s why one of her struggles is for gender equity in the sector. “Women still don’t have their numbers and fees, even though we’re at the festivals, in business,” she says. Since taking over Racional MC’s and producer Boogie Naipe, Eliane has pledged to increase women’s representation by inviting MCs and rappers to open the group’s shows.
Drik Barbosa was one of the businesswoman’s picks for the opening concert of the Racionais tour of 30 years, which began in July of this year. Among rhymes that sometimes exploit machismo and racism, sometimes cry out for self-love and for love of others, the 27-year-old São Paulo native echoes about the same equality demanded by Eliane. “In ‘Mandume’ [featuring rapper Emicida], for example, I was in a personal process of understanding myself as a black woman and how I help other women who identify with my run,” she says. The rapper released her first album, Herança, in October, of which three singles have amassed 3 million views on YouTube. Drik is also part of the musical group Rimas & Melodias, formed in 2015 by Alt Niss, Karol de Souza, Mayra Maldjian, Tatiana Bishop, Stefanie and Tássia Reis. In November, the singer participated in the Festival No Ar Coquetel Molotov in Recife (Pernambuco) and the Dosol Festival in Natal (Rio Grande do Norte). “I’m glad to be on these stages, which could host many other rappers. Unfortunately it’s normal for contractors for only one or two women to be called. But we have been dedicated to doing it differently. In addition to the MCs already on the scene, a more conscious and empowered generation is coming,” she says.
It was on the Internet, the natural habitat of generation Z and today the biggest driving force to launching new names, that the Minas Gerais native Clara Lima, 20, found her space. With about 5 million views on YouTube, she began participating in rhyming battles until he won a mixed national tournament in 2014. She recalls that it was almost two hours by bus on the way from the Ribeiro de Abreu neighborhood, north zone Belo Horizonte (capital of Minas Gerais), where she was born, to the Santa Tereza Viaduct, at the other end of the city, to personally attend the competitions that took place there. Shy, she used to remain in the corner. It was with the encouragement of her brother Chris, also an MC, that she ventured into her first verses. In most battles the taunts were pejorative, alluding to being a woman, her race, and sexual orientation. “Men wouldn’t accept losing to me. My answer was in battle, combating it with my talent and posture,” she says, remembering rhymes such as “this is a freestyle battle / my brother / doesn’t win with sex / but improvisation”, which she used in duels.
From there, the singer came to music in 2016, being part of the group DV Tribo, which also included Djonga – the most influential rapper out of Minas Gerais of this new generation. “I spent all week in the studio working with people I only knew from the internet,” she recalls. In November, Clara released her first album, Selfie, which she describes as “a genuine look at me and understanding myself as a black, from the peripheral, and lesbian.” The rapper also participates in the first edition of the CENA 2k19 Festival, an event featuring the American artist Young Thug, where she will share the lineup of ten attractions with veteran singer Negra Li and Stefanie. “I’m lucky for these women who dug out the space. Everything I could learn better, I learned, and I want to pass it on. Women are the future of rap and this is the time to take what’s ours.”
Source: Justiça de Saia