This issue we herald the contributions of notable female emcees and performers as puzzle pieces of the complex landscape which is Hip Hop. Many an esteemed critic has pinpointed the rampant misogyny present in Hip Hop lyrics and the uneven playing field that is prevalent in business negotiations and artist development. Those realities none withstanding; there have been a lush handful of female pioneers who braved a rough and tumble urban wilderness in an infinite quest to allow their softer voices to be heard and recognized.
In my quest to decide upon and capture a song that truly encapsulates their balancing yonic energy on our hyper-masculine art form, I was stumped as to an appropriate example. The “Ladies First” movement of Queen Latifah laid the grown work for socially and gender conscious lyrics during the golden days of Hip Hop. The angst and beauty of Lauryn Hill’s “The Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill” was ripe with assertive femininity coupled with a swag that rivals even the hardest of male emcees. And lest I be short-sided, the dripping-wet sexuality of Lil Kim, Foxxy Brown and the newcomer Nicki Minaj provide a platform for women to embrace their personal sexuality and desires in a way that attempts to topple any constraints previously placed upon female expression.
I was at a loss.
These ladies all seemed like an obvious choice, but I felt there was something hidden just a bit deeper beneath the surface. Then it struck me. These ladies have risen to the status of icons. With each new verse, album or cameo; their vantage point became more and more skewed from that of the regular woman. Let’s be honest; a Chanel bag and Gucci sandals is not often in the average woman’s repertoire.
And then it hit me. I have been friends with the dopest, most dynamic female emcee/songwriter/accomplished musician I have ever witnessed for over 10 years. In a case that may seem to be nepotism, I decided that she deserves to bear the torch for her tireless work in the areas of feminine empowerment. She may be new to some, but if any of you ever noticed a grey Chevy Astro Van, wrapped in a cartoon image of a young girl with Raggedy-Ann pigtails and a hobo bandana wrapped around a stick; perched on the curb by the once-named Collegiate Sportswear, then you are in the know.
For everyone else: Allow me to re-introduce herself. Her name is Raggs!
A transplant from Venice Beach, California, Raggs hit the Atlanta underground scene with a fever pitch and an unbridled passion. Her two releases, “Hip-Hop’s Best Kept Secret” and “One Man’s Trash, Another Man’s Treasure,” created sonic ripples through an undeveloped Atlanta skyline.
Enough with the formalities. As Levar Burton once said, “You don’t have to take my word for it.”
Da Da Da (Song) is a personal account of one woman fighting the good fight between music and commerce as evidenced in the song’s introduction:
You know, I love music
I like the way it sounds to me
I like the way it feels to me
But when I look into the eyes of those who abuse it
And misuse it
I start to sing the song.
Simply stated, Raggs eats, shits and sleeps music. A classically trained pianist who has played with the London Symphony Orchestra and Cypress Hill, she channels her inner lyrical best at the song’s onset:
There ain’t no room for no improvement
Flows soothing for the soul
Here’s the load off of your back
That you prayed so long fo
Even though all the suffering has come to a close
Mama sent me here to tell you
Just to stay on your toes
I was instantly taken by the line in which Mama directed her to keep us motivated and stay on our toes. Such a nurturing tone is indicative of what we expect, but don’t often receive from our female counterparts. Forever an emcee, she does not tread lightly on the competition when she spits:
All that glitters isn’t gold
Platinum don’t make it talent
Misinterpreted Hip Hop and started
Rhyming off ballads
It is important to note that this song was crafted more than a decade ago, and its message still rings true. Far be it from me to begin a crusade against the new era of music, but it must be stated that the auto-tune and pseudo-rapper-turnt-sanger motif has been used far too often.
A consummate artist and occasional womanist, Raggs feels a great deal of comfort expressing her femininity while flaunting her feminine wiles as she raps:
The rest is “her-story”
The worst of me come out in the press
You can guess who ripped to groovy tunes
And never the less
If I don’t impress
I’ll give you sex
Like exercising is best…
Caress the symphony and lay your head
On top of my breast.
What becomes apparently clear while listening to this musical stroll down memory lane is that many Hip Hop heads and women alike have been disservice by not having the chance to consume such a magical elixir. It is a cool concoction that combines wit, passion and one of the funkiest bass lines ever picked by coarse and calloused fingertips.
I will say little more and allow the words of Raggs to complete my thoughts:
Is that your ever-lasting dream?
Or are you living a lie?
Just like I ask is that the heavens
Or just plain ol’ sky?
Rest in Peace, Floyd Blade. Hold your head, Nasir Brilliant.