Missy Elliot, who was born in Virginia but started her career after moving to New York in the 90’s, aimed to bring hip-hop back to “the rope” and make it all about the music, not too much about politics or other opinionated topics like other rappers were doing at the time, strictly the music and how the music makes you feel and the meaning behind it. (Peoples 2008 p. 19). Missy Elliot had a different approach to music and creating an impact at the time compared to Lauryn Hill, a singer and rapper who made her debut in New York in the 90’s.
“Female rap artists have not only proven that they have lyrical skills; in their struggle to survive and thrive within this tradition [of male rappers’ predominance] they have created spaces from which to deliver powerful messages from Black female and Black feminist perspectives”
– Keyes 2000 p. 255
Below is a Lauryn Hill song called Doo-Wop (That Thing). Not only does it show how successful a woman can be in a male dominated profession through the song’s extreme popularity and success, it also inspires and links emotions to those listening, especially as it has so many lyrics that are easily relatable for example: “How you think you’re really gon’ pretend / like you wasn’t down and you called him again” which is relating to every girl out there waiting for that phone call!
Although the lyrics in this song are clever and fun, it still sends a message of encouragement for women throughout the song through lyrics such as: “Don’t be a hard rock when you really are a gem” and “how you gon’ win when you ain’t right within?”
In terms of promoting her power and strength as a women in this male dominated industry Lauryn Hill writes in her 1998 song Everything is Everything saying “You can’t match this / Rapper slash actress / More powerful than two cleopatras”. She is referencing Cleopatra, one of the most famous female rulers in history, to emphasise her own female strength and talent.
Theorists have mixed opinions on the topic of gender in 90’s New York in the rap and hip-hop industry. Pough (2007) is accepting and encouraging of women in the industry’s possibilities, however Sharpley-Whiting (2007) thinks sexism, racism and misogyny are the controversies of this industry, especially for the women involved.
As a community, 1990s female rappers not only broke down a barrier for women in this industry, but they milked their power as a platform to reconstruct the visions of their identity as well as becoming a means of expression of seeking empowerment and create space for themselves and all other women (Keyes 2000)
“Women have always been a critical part of the foundation of hip-hop culture” Peoples 2008 p. 21
Not only does Peoples (2008) find it a form of communication, but she also explains how Missy Elliot speaks of her own songs and how she feels they links to Black American feminists in regards to “reworking black American feminism in the contemporary lives of black women and girls” (Peoples 2008 p. 20). Like Keyes (2000 p.265) projects, the 90’s female MC’s are what defined the “sexist repression” because of their passion and talent in writing, producing and recording their own songs.