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 Art of Domesticity

The smell of the blue colored Mistolin reminds me of Saturday morning cartoons, dry frosted flakes in my bowl, legs up as my cousins and I sat on the couch for what seemed like an eternity. Abuela was cleaning the floor and we needed to wait until it was dry before our feet could touch the ground again. She would not allow us to ruin her work and she was not waiting until our parents picked us up so that she could do her work. We respected when our grandmother cleaned because she took it very seriously. Her floors were pristine; we could eat our dry ‘confle’ off of it, practice our moonwalk in our bleached white socks (which we did often) and still not disappoint Mami, slide across the floor “surfing” in California like Zack Morris and crew did. She never stopped us because number 1, we were entertaining ourselves and staying out of her hair as she made 12 o’ clock feast, and number 2 she was confident her house was clean. She created the perfect situation for us and our mamas. It has always been her joy to teach us how to start cleaning and she believed that people would maintain their lives in tune with the upkeep of their private space (…and vice versa). Needless to say, spring cleaning happens 4 times a year in my house because we need to create a new positive space at the change of every season. That is the finest piece of psychology that has ever been worked on me.

I am a 23-yr old woman now. I identify as feminist and Latina, and cleaning is certainly not against my religion. It’s the talent I’m learning to perfect as I mold myself into a woman that respects herself, her morals and values, her spirituality, her ancestry, and her home. Contrary to popular belief, feminists are indeed women who want to be women. There is this huge misconception that feminists are only women, and that feminists put down men. I am a self-proclaimed feminist not because I witnessed men disrespect the women in my family, or because I refuse to play a woman’s “role” but rather because I was taught to respect the labor of creating home as equal to the work that brings money home. My grandmother never expressed disdain to being attached to the kitchen. She enjoyed cooking for her family, I enjoy the art of cooking for myself.

We are women who are proud of this domestic space that allows us to be innovative, and sometimes we are celebrated for it, in this place. I started cooking when I was 12 years old and it was not by choice or admiration of my grandmother. It was because my grandmother decided it was time I learned the craft of being a woman: white rice, red beans, sazon, and meat. She made me cook it all by myself and it was horrible, but it was worse for the rest of my family who had to eat my meal because she wasn’t saving anyone.

I recognize this rule as one my grandfather upheld. I do not recall ever hearing my grandfather disrespect my grandmother’s work; he would always make us eat what was placed on the table because it was the food she made. Even when she started cooking with less salt and cut rice and red meat from their diet, I don’t remember him fighting her. Abuela’s cooking bettered them, and they now enjoy great-grandchildren together. They taught me a marriage is partnership; man and woman recognize and respect each others contributions daily through their actions. In her eyes, women were in charge of keeping the family alive and creating harmony at home. Now this is an extremely large feat and I don’t think she is being too fair, but whether in the kitchen or not the mother ‘nurturer’ is an innate feature.

It is an art to exemplify nurture through domestic traits well, and I do not believe every woman has to perform these traits nor do I agree men are exempt from these talents. I write this piece to highlight that domestic work is neither demeaning nor subordinate work. I use the example of my family Matriarch because she is my inspiration. Because that was my example, I enjoy cooking for others (so long as they don’t insist I do it their way) and I enjoy cleaning my home. I want it to be a place of love, comfort, and peace …much like Abuela’s house was for me. She and I both share the same love and understanding of art. Where she had boleros blasting, I jam to the likes of Jill Scott and Ms. Keys for peace. Where she plays psychologist and shares her wisdom, I read books. Where she makes her infamous tea that cures every disease (as far as I’m convinced), I get inspired to write and bake pies. The kitchen is our meditation room. Every meal she made was to feed everyone she could, every time she cleaned it was so that her family could live comfortably in the confines of their home. She was in charge of creating home. When my grandfather and all my uncles came home from work, it was her pride to present them with café bustelo, seasoned with a hint of cinnamon; her added twist furthered her family’s enjoyment of her creations.

I sing the Spanish spirituals learned in church, just as she does when she cooks and cleans, and I have a slight obsession with mopping my floor. I share my art with myself and my roommate for now, but she has always taught me there is greatness in tradition and innumerable strength in a nurturer’s role.