Thursday, November 18, 2010

"How These N****s So One-Track Minded" - Five Female Rappers Who Are Not Nicki Minaj

The only female rapper on planet earth is releasing her album tomorrow. Or so the current climate of musical criticism would have you believe. It's probably more convenient to tell people that a faux-rawkus rapper who has repeatedly stated Drake is a “genius” is the only good rapper with a vagina in the building, certainly makes it easier to take. Blogs must think of ladies rapping the same way most think of the Highlander: there can only be one. This is completely untrue.

As much pious “Nicki is the best thing on 'Monster'” -talk you hear from people who've listened to four rap albums this year, there's still a good chance this could all go Craig Mack on her after people hear how boring most of Pink Friday is (I've heard it). Sure Nicki has that unique delivery that makes some of guest verses pop (which ones do presumably depends on which ghostwriter is available) but when she doesn't go crazy, she can't sustain an album. Just like Craig Mack. And don't get me wrong, I love Nicki's verse on 'Monster' just like I love 'Flava In Ya Ear' (well, 35% as much but I really love that song). It's just I can see the same inability to sustain. I might be wrong, I usually am, but time will tell.

I was asked to do a blog post about “femcees” that weren't Nicki Minaj. This is unfortunate for two reasons. Firstly because all female rap does genuinely seem to be split into those two categories these days. And secondly, “femcee” isn't a word I like and I try to never use it. It's a category that doesn't indicate anything aside from the lack of a penis and regularly acts as an semi-cloaked apology. So this isn't a list of “femcees” or even a list of all good female rappers. Nowhere close, there are a multitude. This is just five ladies who are doing cool stuff right now and whose music may have evaded you.

Jean Grae is better than your favourite rapper and needs you to get out of the way. Any conversation about slept-on MC's that any rap nerd like myself has had in the last 10 years inevitably includes a defeated retread of the "why-isn't-Jean-Grae-famous" conversation. Jean Grae has been effortlessly dropping as sick rhymes as seems humanly possible for longer than it's polite for me to say. She is regularly supplied beats by the peerless 9th Wonder, is her own creature and possesses one of the nerdiest and most wicked sense of humor in the rap game. And you guys still pay her no attention. Shame on you.

She and Pharoahe Monch have been touring a lot recently and they seem like a good fit for each other. And as you probably know, being a good fit for Pharoahe Monch is about the highest compliment you can give a rapper. Her new album Cake Or Death is about to drop and you should pick it up, if only to assuage your guilt for sleeping this long on one of rap's true originals.

Rah Digga is a legend and the legend is back. It's been ten since she last dropped an album but she's back in the game in 2010. I love this song, the flow is amazing and the lyrics are hilarious. Indie music critics who don't actually listen to rap music tend to use this next phrase a lot but this song “is about something rarely touched upon in rap songs”. Still though, name me ten other songs about how grown-ass women need a good song to put on when they get home from work and how they despair when confronted with new rap aimed at the kiddies. You can't not love Rah Digga but she doesn't leave you in any doubt with the swagger she brings to this and the rest of her new album Classic.

Rita J is serious business and this track is a powerful proof of just that. Earnest backpacker rhymes over crazy hooks, delivered with a large whack of panache. Rita J clearly misses the nineties quite a bit, if you do too you'd be best advised to catch up with her with her great efforts in bringing it back.

Eternia is canadian, a lady and white. Despite (and probably because of) this she's a fantastic MC and a great lyricist. Her album with Moss is definitely her best and 32 bars is a great example of her burning a track down like few can. Also, take notice of the multi-lingustic spittin'. She can get a bit earnest at times but I don't know of any Canadian you can't say that about. A class act.

Dessa is a serious artist and a weirdo. But, crucially, she can rap so even though sometimes she dips into a some self-consciously artiness the wide variety of bizarre angles she spits her game from will keep you on your toes at all times. She also regularly drops some incredible late-nineties sounding R&B vocals, far better than the annoyingly tinny and weightless pop vocals that are plastered over the current crop of popular rap. Now Dessa has struck out from her crew Doomtree there's not telling what strange place she's going to take her sound next.

--Seán McTiernan

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