Cover Photo Credit: Dimitrios Kambouris / Kevin Winter / Getty Images / Instagram.com
By: Brianna Adams, Contributor, Regional Music Journal
The exact and true history of the Rap and Hip Hop music genre is subject to various interpretations but can generally be said to have officially started in the Bronx, NY during the late 1970s. It began with a party DJ wanting to find unique ways of keeping party-goers engaged and entertained. After that, rap music turned into a fad that grew into one of the most popular music genres.
When some imagine a typical rapper, an image of a stone-faced Black man in an oversized jersey and baggy jeans comes to mind. That is a stereotypical and outdated image of those who create and listen to rap music. However, that image has grown and evolved over the last few decades to include few other than Black women and Latinx artists. Even then, there are still major roadblocks for female rappers intent on making a career out of it. Rappers like Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion are so popular because they are the lone few who made it past the sexist hierarchy present in the music business.
Representation in the media of traditionally marginalized groups has been a big issue overall in recent years. Mainstream films are casting more minority leads and supporting characters every day. A minority lead used to guarantee a film’s designation as independent, foreign or Black. Last year’s Crazy Rich Asians, featuring a majority Asian cast, became the highest-grossing romantic comedy in a decade making more than $230 million worldwide. Will Smith recently portrayed the Genie in Disney’s live-action Aladdin adaptation. And Halle Bailey of Chloe x Halle is set to play Ariel in the upcoming Little Mermaid live-action remake. As criticized as all of those casting decisions have been, they have been for the better to make the general public accept diversity in mainstream media. Because people do not like change. Superhero fans were outraged when Fox announced Michael B. Jordan’s upcoming role as the Human Torch in Fantastic Four’s 2015 reboot. There were similar pourings of outrage for Jason Mamoa’s Aquaman portrayal and Zendaya’s role as MJ in the new Spiderman movies. They claim the title of “die-hard comic fans” when all they can really be described as are close-minded individuals who lack vision and imagination.
When comics were first made popular and produced, it was very much a White world. So obviously the superheroes and protagonists of the stories were White with blonde hair and blue eyes. Few characters were minorities because they didn’t matter back then. We are in a totally different world where Black, White, Asian, Latinx, etc. exist as more than just background fillers. This means that modern adaptations of old concepts should reflect that change.
This idea on change in mainstream media is not unique to the film industry, the music industry is also due for an awakening. Eminem rocked the Hip Hop genre in the late 1990s as he earned his first Grammy for Best Rap Album as a White rapper. He proved to the Rap community that rapping is not just for the Black community. Since then, it has grown as an increasingly diverse music genre, including female, Latinx and Asian artists. The number of Asian rappers gaining notoriety in the US has actually increased exponentially in recent years. So Black male and female rappers are out there. Latinx male and female rappers are out there. White male rappers are out there and accepted. And the number of popular Asian rappers are growing. But White female rappers are still virtually unheard-of.
There’s Iggy Azalea and Bhad Bhabie when thinking in terms of mainstream notoriety, and both have many critics. Internet critics and established rappers alike criticize every picture, every hairstyle and every bar even more so than the average rapper. Earlier this month, Bhad Bhabie posted that she was done rapping because she doesn’t get the support or respect she deserves as a female rapper because she’s White. It was a brazen statement calling out other rappers in the game and Rap fans, and she was right.
Bhabie became famous following an infamous Dr. Phil appearance and quickly capitalized on her 15 minutes by releasing “These Heaux” which ended up on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. She didn’t stop there and went on to release several other hit songs. She also recently launched a Snapchat series and $1 million publishing deal with Pulse Music Group. But despite her obvious talent and hard work ethic at just 16 years old, she has received very little recognition in the Rap community which can’t just be attributed to her Dr. Phil origin story. Most Rap artists come from tough upbringings and shady backgrounds, and in fact, profit from it. The main difference between Bhad Bhabie and other rappers, however, is her race. As diverse as the Rap community is, it’s time for it to become even more so because artists like Iggy and Bhabie have worked so hard to get to where they are but don’t receive nearly enough recognition for their talent or their effort. The game no longer belongs to just Black or Hispanic artists; it belongs to anyone with a creative voice who has a story to tell and it’s time for the Rap community to listen to them when they tell it.
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