Retrospective: Underrated & Under Appreciated Women Pioneers in Hip Hop

We are aware of the many legendary men pioneers & innovators of Hip Hop like Grand-Master Flash, Cold Crush Brothers, and D.J Cool Herc. However, throughout Hip Hop’s history, there has always been iconic female artists who were influential MC’s, producers, and D.J’s. These ladies have never really gotten their full credit compared to their male counterparts. Here is a  brief description of some underrated women Hip Hop innovators & pioneers who deserve much more recognition than they have received so far. Of course, this list is not meant to be exclusive to only the women mentioned here. There are many equally notable underrated women pioneers not included, such as Nikki D, Oaktown’s 357, The Sequence, and so many more. Despite their lack of recognition, they will always be a major influential part of Hip Hop culture and it’s foundation.

238BEATS: #ClassicPic Sweet Tee & DJ Jazzy Joyce

Pioneer D.J Jazzy Joyce (left) with rapper Sweet Tee. 

Although D.J Jazzy Joyce is considered a pioneer female rap D.J/producer, she is still not as celebrated as her D.J/producer male counterparts. She was born in Bronx, New York and has collaborated with other female rappers such as Sweet Tee & produced her 1986 single ‘It’s My Beat’. She began recording in 1983 with Whiz Kid and Globe as a vocalist on the song ‘Play That Beat’.  She participated and won many D.J battles, including winning her first D.J award in 1983 at the New Music Seminar. Some of the artists she has deejayed for and collaborated with includes the 90’s rap trio ‘Digable Planets’,  M.C Lyte, Rich Nice, Africa Bambataa, and Nenah Cherry. Black Girls Rock awarded Jazzy Joyce and named their D.J award the ‘Jazzy Joyce D. J Award. Currently, she is a producer on New York’s Hot 97 radio station.

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D.J Debbie D (left) & D.j Wanda Dee

Here's a Tribute to Some of the Women MCs Who Raised Hip-Hop (THE ...

D.J Debbie D

D.J Debbie D was born in Harlem, but raised in the Bronx. She was the only female M.C with the 1979 rap group D.J Patty Duke & The Jazzy 5. She got her first start as a M.C while attending summer D.J block parties in 1977. After going solo in 1981, she began calling herself ‘The Grand Mistress’ and was one of the first Hip Hop female soloists. After joining the group US girls, she was featured in the film Beat Street, and collaborated with the Juice Crew as an M.C Soloist as well. D.J Debbie D is not only one of Hip Hop’s first female rappers, but a fashionable pioneering Fly Girl who is now a published author, earned a doctorate, and a preacher.  She has a non-profit organization called Us Girls, which aims to empower women and girls.

 

Sweet Tee | Discography | Discogs

Rapper Sweet Tee and her 1988 song ‘On The Smooth Tip’

M.C Sweet tee was born in Queens New York and was signed to Pioneer Records. Her first single was the 1986 ‘It’s My Beat’ featuring female D.J/producer Jazzy Joyce. Her debut album included the hit ‘On The Smooth Tip’ in 1988 . Some of her associated acts includes Kwame, Salt-n-Pepa, and Antoinette.

Bahamadia - Hip Hop Golden Age Hip Hop Golden Age

Rapper Bahamadia

Underrated lyricist and rapper Bahamadia was born in Philadelphia, and debuted her first album Kollage in 1996, which featured the classic single ‘Uknowhowwedu’. Throughout her career, she has collaborated with artists such as The Roots, Jedi Mind Tricks, Morcheeba, Guru, and Erykah Badu.

Exhibitions, events celebrate hip-hop culture | Cornell Chronicle

MC Sha Rock (center) of the ‘Funky Four Plus 1’

MC Sha Rock was born in North Carolina, but raised in the Bronx, New York. She is one of the first female rappers and is often dubbed as the ‘Mother of the Mic’. The Funky Four + 1 was one the first rap groups to appear on television and MC Sha Rock inspired many other legendary female rappers like MC Lyte and ‘DMC’ of rap trio Run DMC with her style of rapping on early mixtapes. She began rapping with the Funky Four + 1 in the late 70’s and also began her career as a b-girl/break dancer as well. She was affiliated with the Zulu Nation, and she had her first hit as a member of  The Funky Four + 1 with their 1979 hit ‘Rock The House’ on Sugar Hill Records and the 1980 hit ‘That’s The Joint’.

 

 

A Homage: Marley Marl, Juice Crew & Cold Chillin’ Records Legacy

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During the ‘Golden Era of Hip-Hop’, innovative producer/DJ Marley Marl and DJ Mr. Magic (1956-2009) formed the legendary Juice Crew. Groundbreaking artists that were a part of the Juice Crew created music with Marley Marl on the Cold Chillin’ Records label, which includes Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, Masta Ace, Kool G Rap & DJ Polo, Roxanne Shante, and MC Shan. The collaborative music team helped usher in a new era in music, and of course…there was the well-known ‘beefs’ with the Boogie Down Productions. The famous ”Bridge Wars”, which partly started when lyrics were misinterpreted in MC Shan’s ”The Bridge” and then KRS-One/Boogie Down responded with ”The Bridge is Over” and ”South Bronx”. Not to mention the ”Roxanne Wars” series started by a then 14 year old Roxanne Shante (which influenced at least 100 response songs about the ”real Roxanne” created by different artists). The Juice Crew created a distinct collection of songs that are timeless and a great reference to the ”Golden Era”. Some of my personal favorites includes Biz Markie’s ”Vapors” and Big Daddy Kane’s ‘Long Live the Kane’ album. Marley Marl produced a variety of classic projects, which includes L.L Cool J’s ‘Mama Said Knock You Out’ album, and Marley Marl’s first album ‘In Control Volume 1’ introduced one of the most influential and recognized songs in classic rap…”The Symphony”. Some of the legendary artists who consider Marley Marl an influence are Biggie Smalls, RZA, DJ Premier, and Pete Rock. When paying homage to those who helped create the ”Golden Era of Hip Hop”, it is important to always remember innovator Marley Marl and the Juice Crew. Their music still sounds amazing and refreshing.

 

The Art of Funk Classics Sampled in Rap: Some of My Favorite Original Versions

Here are some of my favorite legendary songs that have been sampled and redone by rappers, who then recreated hits or classics all over again. These songs were already brilliant when first created, equally innovative/unique, and will always sound refreshing. The four videos I chose, in order are: ”Walk on By” Isaac Hayes Version, which was sampled by many including Notorious B.I.G in ”Warning”; Parliament Funkadelic’s ”Swing Down, Sweet Chariot (Let Me Ride), which was sampled by many including Dr.Dre & Snoop Dogg in ”Let Me Ride”; ”Funky Worm” by the Ohio Players, which was sampled by many including M.C Breed in ”Ain’t No Future in Yo Frontin” & N.W.A ”Dopeman”, and Taana Gardner’s ”Heartbeat”, which was sampled by many including De La Soul in ”Buddy”.  The words of Parliament Funkadelic from Swing Down Sweet Chariot (Let Me Ride) explains it all, ”….Light Years in time…ahead of our time….”

Boogie Down Bronx:Classic Photography

1520 Sedgwick Avenue and D.J Kool Herc are names forever synonymous with a part of the origins of rap music. In 1973 on August 11th, Kool Herc hosted a back to school party for his sister at the recreation room of 1520 Sedgwick Avenue apartment building. At the community house party, he introduced a technique that involved two turntables, a mixer, two copies of the same record, and playing another song at the beginning or middle of the record while focusing on ”the break” in each one. With D.J Kool Herc presenting his technique, his friend Coke La Rock began to rap and many legendary rappers like Afrika Bambaataa and Grand Master Flash all claimed to have witnessed this historic significant event in music history. In honor of The Boogie Down Bronx, here are some truly amazing and influential photos that shows why  The Boogie Down Bronx will always be considered a birthplace of the rhythmic poetic art we call Hip Hop.

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80s Fresh: The Classic Jamel Shabazz Photo Collection

Jamel Shabazz, a fashion/fine art/documentary photographer created a book called Back in The Day in 2001, and this photography book has some of the best photos of everyday people in the 80s. His other amazing photography books includes A Time Before Crack, Alex Fakso, & The Last Sunday In June. The significance of these classic photographs are a major part of fashion, culture, music, lifestyle, and art. These people were living and a part of a golden era and innovative time in music and lived in New York City, a place that is home to Boogie Down Bronx/ 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. If anyone loves old school rap and knows it’s history/birthplace, then those locations/references are significant and means a lot when it comes to music history/culture. It is interesting seeing photos of everyday people who were in the midst of it all. Here are just some of my favorites.

Ain’t No Half Steppin-Big Daddy Kane’s Classic Revisited

The Golden Era included legendary rappers like this one. Big Daddy Kane not only created classic songs like ”Ain’t No Half Steppin” and ”Raw”, but he is also a man whose style/hair cut is often imitated and the inspiration behind many popular looks.  Classic rap (80s and 90s) & the culture/trends of these eras will never get old or go out of style.

Blurred Genre Lines: Early 90’s ”Jazz Rap” Groups

   

In the late 80s & early 90s, there were a lot of ”jazz rap” groups that were bringing something different & innovative to music. Some of these groups were A Tribe Called Quest, Digable Planets, US3, & De La Soul. I love how they infused jazz with rap to help blur the lines of simply placing music in one genre & still to this day, many people love these groups & their positivism theory inspired messages.

90’s Bad Boy: The Start of A New Culture

90’s r&b and rap cannot be described without mentioning P.Diddy ( known as Puff Daddy in the 90s) and his record label that was home to legendary music acts such as 112, Biggie, Lil Kim,, and Total. Although I am not a big fan of most of Lil Kim’s music, this is one of my favorite music videos. It is just so fabulously ”late rap/R&B 90’s”.  Even though he was not shown in this video as much, I love how P. Diddy was dancing & ”all up in the videos” despite what a hating Suge Knight had to say during that era. Bad Boy in the 90’s was untouchable and Sean Combs helped bring something new to the rap/r&b scene that was different compared to the early 90s. The New Jack Swing era was ending & the vibe in r&b was changing. P Diddy & his musical acts were some of the very first to bring in the new ”flashy” era of rap and helped paved the way for ”remixes”. 90’s Bad Boy will always have a timeless and legendary mark in music because it was successful & Sean Combs is a businessman who visualized a portrait that is still being seen today.

Planet Rock: The Glamorization of Crack/Cocaine In Hip Hop

There is nothing wrong with a rapper discussing selling drugs on a song. People go through different situations, have different views, and have different mindsets. However, there is a difference between speaking about something to describe a whole portrait, and glamourizing it. For an example, The Lost Boyz “Lifestyles of the Rich and Shameless” is a classic cautionary tale about selling drugs. The song is not trying to influence people in a good way by painting a glamorous portrait. The prime era of the Crack/cocaine time is over, but it is still glamourized and influential to many. In my generation, it seems as if there are still many popular rappers who paint a glamorous portrait about selling drugs like crack/cocaine even when the reality is far from what is imitated. A young boy with no real positive father figure or mentor sees a wealthy rapper glamourizing selling narcotics, and this could affect him in a negative way. He sees a big-time drug dealer with a flashy car and makes it look as if it is the best option to make money. Too many times, we see the ‘’good’’ side of the drug game being rapped about in songs.. Even though there are rappers who try not to depict these images, the popular mainstream rappers are still seen to the masses and the youth are always watching. Selling crack/cocaine and other hardcore drugs are detrimental and destructive to communities. Children have witnessed their mothers overdose on what is often glamourized in some artists songs.  I guess some people don’t really care, but if you’re one of the many people in the world who claim to be think lyrics are just as important as the beat…then shouldn’t you be mindful of the overall portrait music artists are creating in songs?