Chula Talks Women and Hip Hop

“Some think that we can’t flow, stereotypes they got to go” – Latifah

Queen Latifah’s Black Reign (1993) creates the setting for this writing session. This record rocks hard amongst the classic hip hop alums of the Golden Age like Tribe’s Midnight Marauder (1993), and Common’s Resurrection (1994). These records take precedence in the history of hip-hop, and yes I am a girl writing this passage.

It is true I learned hip hop from the boys in my neighborhood, I fell in love with the culture because they were living it…I had to experience it a little differently than them. I learned Tupac in the back of my cousin’s bright red Electra around 1995. I learned A Tribe Called Quest through my uncle’s affinity for “Scenario.” I learned Biggie through my brothers fascination with the Ready to Die album, and Busta Rhymes through MTV. Big Pun sampled salsa music, and Mos Def did poetry slams. Common dated Queen Erykah, The Fugees remade “Killing Me Softly” introducing Lauryn Hill. “The Sweetest Thing” wins female record of the CENTURY, in my hip hop mind. But my experience as a lover of hip-hop cannot be discounted simply because I am a girl, my reality was depicted in the rhymes of these and more like Queen Latifah, Salt n Pepa, Monie Love, and MC Lyte… but was the hip hop community willing to listen? Are they still looking to listen to women MC’s who rhyme less about sexuality and more about demanding respect for who they are, women. And creating new rules on how to treat these women.

If you’ve ever listened in on a hip hop cypher you understand that every MC is a Braggadocio who your mother wants to misuse and abuse to cue in to her girlfriends she still cute like Who Got It. Women take this a step further when they enter the rap game…they want to talk about wack game and use their voice to praise men a lot less than they do themselves. In the 80’s and early 90s women still did not maintain a position of respected work order outside and within of the domestication of home, especially in urban neighborhoods amongst minority women. So excuse the idea of women MC’s promoting feminism and writing flows that could be less relative to the experience of men. There were already a ton of hip-hop artists doing just that.

This need to expose some of hip hop’s noted women rappers comes on a highly anticipated week in hip hop as Kanye West dropped his new LP “Yeezus”, J. Cole dropped his sophomore LP “Born Sinner”, and Jay Z announces the coming of yet another LP “Magna Carta Holy Grail.” It is world news, so naturally this sparked a conversation at the bar with 2 male friends who are also fans of hip-hop. We agree on a lot, and we disagree on certain points, and as most of conversations the main point boils down to gender. “Women don’t buy tickets to see hip-hop shows” one says, “And if they go to shows they go as dates” the other says. Last line, “I can get with MC Lyte because she hung out with the dudes,” I put my drink down and call this the end of our hip-hop conversation; they are officially gaining their spot on Project Chula and I will convince myself that is the reason such statements are made. There are PLENTY of women who live by the words of hip-hop and can teach a lot of men a few things about this culture and music. I sure have.

One of my first concerts was a Missy Elliot show, my repertoire of concerts attended is not too long but I’ve seen Lupe Fiasco, J. Cole, Talib Kweli, Jay Z, Kanye West, N.E.R.D, Fabulous, Consequence, A$AP Rocky have purchased to see J. Cole and Jay Z once again this summer. Not to mention in college and high school I was introduced to plenty underground hip hop names like Kidz in the Hall, Immortal Technique, (at the time he was underground) Joell Ortiz, etc. Granted, my experience is limited to the 2000s and up wherein everyone praises Kanye, and to an extent rightfully so, but my culture dates back to the 1970s in the South Bronx with DJ Kool Herc not 2007. How did I learn about hip hop? I listened.

Whoever the MC’s I praise shout out in their rhymes are who I take the time to rediscover now, it is of my interest and less because I am a girl who wants to be cool amongst the guys.

I am a girl who loves hip hop because I hate being told who I am and what I must do and be like. I am a girl who loves hip hop because I appreciate the influence of internal and tight end rhyme schemes, word play, and call it poetry. My favorite artists reflect my daily thoughts and so people who believe socially aware hip hop is wack, are wack to me. I am a girl who enjoys music that excites me, whether physically or mentally, through dance beat, percussion and sound, or words worth time and reflection because they create purpose.

Women are rarely recognized for their talents when put up against men, but the music scene is one in which I feel we stand out. Salt-N-Pepa’s “None of Your Business” gave me life as I discovered it around the time traditional ideologies of women and dating no longer applied to me. “Whatta Man” exuded sex appeal and expressed a woman’s right to lust out loud. MC’s like Lil Kim, Eve, Rah Digga, Remy Ma, Foxy Brown, and Missy Elliot left their mark on the evolution of hip hop as we entered another stage in the late 90s and into the 2000s. We were hearing them at every house party, rocking brown lipstick and tight hot pants. Women were taking part in producing their own tracks and writing rhymes that were cohesive and understood so their purpose could not be mistaken. They were marking their place in hip hop.

I respect the tongue twisting, verbial breakdown Nicki Minaj’s sound produces… but she represents a hip hop that has chosen to perform for the mainstream. It plays in the club, does not necessarily make any sense, and years from now people won’t be passing it down to their children due to its lack of creative cohesive anything. She produces zero U.N.I.T.Y. joints like Latifah made. This generation of women have stories to tell and issues to address… hence the creation of Chula. Women can BE relevant MC’s right now. Minaj, Iggy Azaela, and Azaela Banks have a platform they use to ridicule their talents with antics and outfits instead of producing quality hip hop rhymes. As a woman of hip hop, I pray to the talents of the fast paced rhymers like Monie Love, internal/tight end rhyme schemers like Roxanne Shante (who is known for having created Roxanne’s Revenge in one shot), story tellers of the likes of Lauryn Hill.

Who is your Hip Hop Queen?

❤ Mary B.

The Trick to Raising Daughters: Don Chulo Edition

I write this piece to commemorate a little girl in Texas that I have only met through a skype session in which we booty bumped to Beyonce. I am absolutely in love with her. It is imperative that I let her know just how special she is, for her birth was a moment of conversion for her father…who was scared to his wits ends to raise a girl. And he is not the only one, I have lost count of the many men I have heard utter the words “I would hate to raise a daughter” to which I only have to say…You are too grown for Pampers and it is time for the boxer briefs, Big Boy Style.

My father, too, had a challenge in raising his little girl. She was a curious soul, energetic, and constantly around boys. My family is first generation in the United States and my father was lucky enough to have the female breeding sperm before my aunts and uncles could reproduce them. All in all, it was an experiment raising me and with no female cousins to back me up my father and I had hella fun deciding whether or not I’d go to prom with my cousin or if a brand new car was enough to bribe me to stay home and drive to the nearby Rutgers, instead of choosing the far Rutgers where I would dorm on a Co-ed floor. All of the above are true stories of my life to which my pop had to learn some things: trust being the most important. He learned to put his faith in the fact that he was doing the best he could as a parent, and any mistake that I made he would be there to do exactly what I needed him to… parent. As an adult I continue to work to maintain this unspoken trust because more than growing our relationship as father and daughter I wanted him to believe in himself and the work he had done thus far.


I am his only girl amongst three sons and I was allowed to inherit his foul mouth after the age of 21. He sees himself in me and I share the same pride with him. My father is a jovial spirit and he is never mean to me, even though he is capable of being really mean to people. The trick is to be kind to your daughters, so she can approach you with the ease she approaches mom. The moments my dad has tried to correct me with an attitude or an aggressive stance has never worked. I didn’t get hit (except for that one time to which I threatened to run away and stayed downstairs at my grandmothers for the night) and I was obsessed with receiving and giving him hugs. He knows himself well and has learned to get to know my evolving personality along the way. He always tries to talk to me after he has taken his time mulling over the thoughts and thinking of the right words to say. He wants me to listen, and I always have because he takes the time to listen to me.  It’s the way he shows he respects me.

He was a bonafide gentleman from the minute I was born, and it was his goal to show me just how well I deserved to be treated by a man. If men are mad I have standards that are too high for their liking, I suggest they take that issue up with my pop. He showed me wild amounts of love and rarely yelled at me. Needless to say, I don’t respond well to loud and aggressive men.


At some point I would have to live my life as I saw fit. I wasn’t as sheltered as most girls I knew. In high school I had a natural curfew of  “whenever we drop my friend Meli home” because her parents did the work for mine, and my dad always waited up for me on the couch, even when my mom went to bed. I had my first boyfriend at the age of 16 and I remember the day I had to tell my father he existed. He didn’t offer me a huge smile and dinner to celebrate, but he said “okay”  for we had agreed 2 weeks before my birthday that 16 was an appropriate age to start getting to know boys and I could bring him home so they could meet. He set it up so I would feel comfortable. I can honestly say I don’t recall ever having to make up a lie to protect my father, he could pretty much handle everything his crazy daughter brought his way. Whether or not my boyfriends could handle whatever craziness he brought their way on that first meeting was always interesting for me to see.

At 22 I fell in love and my father did not pretend he didn’t know. He was mindful of the nights I was upset, I’m sure of it, because on one of those nights he took me to dinner by the waterfront and we split a bottle of champagne. I came home that night clear headed and handled my situation way better than I would have before that dinner. Smart man he was, he handled the boyfriend through his daughter instead of for his daughter.

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He obviously didn’t do this on his own, I think my mom always clued him in to my girl issues, but when it came to raising his kids he knew how to work well with his partner.

My dad once had to deal with his daughter’s life being threatened at the hand of an armed robber. We don’t live in a perfect neighborhood but my dad taught me this was home. My father didn’t panic or run around the block looking to attack the man who thankfully ended up walking away from me. I was 21 and although I was expecting to hear “you should have known better,” I got a more sympathetic reaction to which he taught me to be more forgiving of the man who committed the crime…I have been more blessed than he. That was the first lesson I got in forgiving my neighborhood, and it didn’t instill fear… it instilled humility and practice of instinct. I could have gotten a boastful version of my father, who was upset and only displacing his anger on me. I was not detained in my house or sheltered more after that, but we did develop a texting system for when I would be out late.

He let me cherish my independence and reminded me he will always remain the helping hand when “shit happens.” That is just the way life goes.

He never held me back from making a decision I was sure about…much like that summer before I started college.

He was scared when he needed to be, but taught me I could tell him the truth, always.

He respectfully teaches me to believe in love because there are good men.

He has never in my life told me I look ugly (unless I look really pretty).

He thought things like Daddy-Daughter Prom were more important than working the extra hours at work.


(Most adorable thing about going to an All-girls high school)

He taught me to eat my steak medium to have a really good time, & shares a glass of white wine with me weekly.

He shares my love of music & jokes.

We are one in the same when it comes to dedicating our selves to our work and the people around us.


My Pop, known to you as Don Chulo, is the greatest. Here are some of his tricks to raising this Chula successfully.

❤ Mary B.

Notes from an Intimidating Woman

Hair slicked back with a part down the middle made to perfection like Moses parted the Red Sea, her hand is usually met with a lipstick pressed bottle of Heineken before it reaches yours, and she can recite the words to “Juicy” before she can “Call Me Maybe”. Maybe you love “Party and Bulls**t” instead? No? Okay. She’ll teach Biggie 101 later on.


She smiles a smile that is hard to trust…there is a Heineken in her hand. In an unlikely matter, this is the woman that deems it appropriate to crack a joke before her counterpart does. She calls it breaking the ice; others may crown her the title “intimidating.” It is true, she judges all those who cannot recite Biggie’s “Juicy” with her, everyone should know at least the first lyric and her expectations cannot be met. This appreciation for classic tracks is enough to decide whether or not she’d be a challenge one wills to accept or not. If she takes her music this serious, what else does she take too seriously? Her beer purchasing talents must prove she has a higher degree of testosterone in her system than the vodka-loving queens, and the joke that was actually funny couldn’t be developed from the mind of a simply wit-filled woman…those are only found in the movies. She can only be Mila Kunis.

Her taste is impressive yet put in question when she orders whiskey. Who taught you about Jameson? From a woman that is consistently considered for questioning (and I am fully aware that my taste in drink, music, and hair style has only half to do with the reason for being donned intimidating), my brother taught me dark liquor was the better way to go and I listened. Maybe the past 4 years of different Cognac and Jack have enhanced my funnies? I am told I inherit more of my brother and father’s jovial personality after a couple of those.


The answer to the above questions can be found in this Chula’s upbringing, and amazingly enough has more to do with what my mother taught me rather than my uncles, cousins, brothers, and father taught me.

My beautiful mother taught me my greatest lessons right after basketball practice: stand tall and walk well in your heels. I spent 15 minutes against a wall every night Monday-Friday for the latter part of my grammar school career while my mom cooked and looked over my homework at the same time. She would test me by making me walk a straight line in heels while bearing her choice of books on top of my head and force merengue parties for 2 in my room on Fridays. There was no way the hips of a Dominican woman would stay stiff for life. I was to learn to have pride in my femininity while playing basketball, and building ramps, and running neighborhood-wide games of manhunt and red rover, which added a new scar to my growing collection every time.


As the mother to the only young female in her United States family, Mami had quite a challenge on her hands. All this child loved was wrapping her hands in oversized tube socks and learning how to fight with her brother via Jean Claude Van Damme: Street Fighter edition. Her favorite pastime consisted of practicing Michael Jackson’s Bad video, and beating her score on Crash Bandicoot. She was super good at the Crash Bandicoot and the Snowboard Kids (got lucky on Tekken, Sonic the Hedgehog was Eh once she couldn’t get past a certain level) and she wanted to be just like her older brother. She tried breakdancing, but was never really balanced enough to do that correctly. She picked up the piano for 10 years, but chose to develop writing skills instead of furthering a music career. She was coming into her own and  had a rather unique rhythm to her femininity because Mami said she could do it all, so long as she remembered to stand tall, practiced her walk in heels, and dance while she could still swiftly move her hips.

When I re-tell this story, people who are opposed to gender roles are astonished and look at me with sympathetic eyes. I know they don’t understand yet, my mother was teaching me to be proud of myself. I would become an American woman with traditional values tuned to Dominican culture. A good woman, as much she gave to her husband and family, had certain demands to be respected. She would work to not give anyone, especially a man, a reason to throw something in her face. She’d work hard, play what/when she saw fit, and could not be told what to do. She knew what needed to be done, and would make sure she could count on her partner for their part as well.

Mami Chula was fierce, and it took me about 23 years to appreciate her purpose.

This intimidating woman has pride, the good kind, and rarely seeks for attention further from the one her style or Heineken may attract. She may only speak when spoken to, or have high expectations of herself and her ambitious goals, but it is doubtful she seeks to be compared to. She has standards, as all people should, and only seeks to be tended to correctly by a potential partner with whom she can mutually understand and meet needs. Mutual is the key word in this intimidating Chula’s standards.

I can admit to being the type that is usually surrounded by friends, dancing, and then when I do get approached I have the nerve to poke fun at a bad pick-up line to make the situation less awkward. I once got asked if my personality matched my face, IT’S AWKWARD. I rarely feel the need to walk up and start conversations with strangers, but I LOVE meeting people randomly…when it isn’t uncomfortably forced. The bar is not the place where I am considering anything too seriously (unless a you invade my personal space or threaten my life) so no one else should either. I am usually hoping for someone who dances well, can talk music, and has a beautiful smile. I choose whether or not I’d hand out a number based on how well a person smiles and dance, yet I’m met with men who would think it proves intelligent to start a debate or test my vocabulary. I ONLY care if you can say “drink?” and are wise enough to extend your hand to ask for a dance. If you happen to get excited when the DJ plays some 90s hits, that is just a drizzle of Hersey’s chocolate syrup. . .

Too much?

With Love,

Mary B: The Intimidating Chula

‘Hood Talk.

If where you come from taught you to disrespect where I come from, what’s so great about not being from the “hood”?

In my definition education encompasses more than what we are taught at school and through textbooks, for the textbooks have forgotten to mention a lot of the history that has created my presence in the United States. I was born and raised in an urban center, less politically referred to as the “hood”, and I learned how to be a woman of morals, respect, wit, and intellect in this place. I have encountered situations that have challenged my naivety, at the same token my city has instilled in me an innocence and a childhood filled with an imagination that created and nurtured my talent for reading and writing. In the ‘hood we don’t swim easily, but for the most part…we refuse to drown.

I am disturbed by the amount of ignorant comments some folks make when referring to people that come from these communities. Some like to call us “uneducated” because our people react negatively, sometimes violently, to abandonment, discrimination, racism, stereotyping, etc, on a daily basis. Some like to judge our culture, and call our style of dress and music “thuggish” or say we are “gang bangers”. Some, especially, like to remind us that because our school systems are “failing”…so will we. I am a product of this very neighborhood that taught me to not be so outlandish with my judgements of people because one day I would find myself needing them. And for the people who judge us as though we have created this bad reputation for ourselves and state their opinions strongly…I strongly suggest you create more consciousness for yourself. Most of our history isn’t in the books.

We epitomize human behavior in the ‘hood. Acts of violence, need for family, love of pride, attachment to an escape factor. Mine was art over drugs, that exists in the hood too.

It is true we speak loudly, we learn to be defensive because sometimes we are judged just a little too easily and a little too harshly in a society that should know better.

I am a graduate student, an entrepreneur, an idealist…contrary to popular belief, I am not the only one of my kind. The spirit that drives me can be found in the heart of your favorite revolutionary figure. The odds were against them, the odds continue to be against the “hood”…folks around here just fight the cause a little differently. Malcolm X vs. Martin Luther King, Jr. There is not a way for our streets to constantly be clean and our individual issues to consistently be solved and monitored.

I was taught to value my family, to question my neighbors, work hard to move forward and gain respect, and keep my head high at all times so people don’t take advantage of me. As a woman, I was taught to be a little less friendly so a man would take me a little more seriously. As a spirit, I was taught to humble myself…I never know where this life will lead me.

Hip hop is my culture and its poetry and integrates me to popular society. I’m afraid it’s the only thing greater society may respect of me.

I’ve never tried drugs, but went away to college and witnessed most of the action there…from kids who weren’t from the ‘hood.

My mother is a big believer in Christ and as a result I am too. I carry her words constantly in my brain because I trust her.

I am not better than anyone because I am a college graduate, rather I am better equipped to fight administrators and continue to uplift the younger generation of my neighborhood. We respect each others history in these parts, and we take the time to listen and get to know the path which we all come from.

I understand that gang violence is detrimental to our community, but I also understand that a lot of our mothers and fathers need to work beyond 9-5’s to pay for rent and food, and I also understand that more public programs need to be implemented to occupy the time and minds of children so they can grow in purpose, and I mostly understand that the outside world needs to stop doubting where we come from. As we all know, school is forced upon us in our early age and a lot of students have greater issues than getting an A. I AM proud to say that more and more of our children are learning about college, career, and a world outside of their own. They are finding more mentors to look up to, more books they can relate to, and listen to stories that keep them motivated.

This piece is a personal one. I share my thoughts as a woman who was born, raised, and still resides in my neighborhood. I come from an immigrant family who started their work in factories as they saved enough money to own businesses and perfect their craft. I don’t condemn those who express their disdain negatively, I don’t congratulate them either. I speak a certain dialect, it does not make me less capable of communicating and understanding my surroundings. I have a different and more flexible way of adjusting to the world. I don’t hate it.

I am openminded and opinionated because I want to extend and explore my intellect across different worlds. The lack of respect for mine has created my will to learn as many cultures and worlds as I can. 

My pride comes from a sense of confidence I have in myself. I know I could not be who I am without my knowledge of how things work in the ‘hood.

Mary B.