37-year-old Dr. Amber Epps, also known as HollyHood, is a strong, educated, powerful rapper. The multi-faceted HollyHood is a successful Pittsburgh native who uses her resources and education to further her rap career for herself and other female artists in Pittsburgh. HollyHood has many identities and talents that cannot be defined into one category.
Listen to HollyHood’s music here.
On February 7th, Dr. Epps hosted a lecture on campus entitled “Gender and Hip Hop” in which she discussed sexism and misogyny in the hip-hop community. HollyHood mentioned some of the double standards in the hip-hop community while giving examples of artists who directly challenged the sexism, such as Queen Latifah.
Watch the video for Queen Latifah’s feminist anthem “U.N.I.T.Y.” here.
Although HollyHood discussed sexism as a whole in the hip-hop community, I would have like to of heard of her personal experience with misogyny in her career as a rapper. HollyHood, however, did bring up some interesting theories that relate to hip-hop and how important the community is to black people. Even though the hip-hop world is so pivotal to black culture, the topic was thoroughly addressed as to why women and other people of color are not able to participate. She did offer some insight as to why not everyone can participate by explaining the systematic oppression that deters women and minorities from becoming successful which brought light to the tabooed topic of sexism. However, the oppression originates from generations of systematic oppression that has bled into all aspects of society and culture.
Why are rappers who are female grouped into a different category than male rappers? Lil’ Kim is a “female rapper” whereas someone from her time like P. Diddy is a “rapper.” They cannot be compared even though the only defining quality between them is their gender. Women do not receive credit in the music community, especially in the hip-hop community. Women in this community are known to be in the background of the male rapper twerking or making the male look more appealing.
Famous non-male rappers are slowly changing the expectation of the what a hip-hop artist can be. These artists are directly challenging the norm and overcoming obstacles to become successful. There are many non-male artists who are talking about sex, money, and power (the same things male rappers are rapping about) but are getting shamed by getting called “hoes,” “gold diggers,” and “bitches.” The double standard that exists in the hip-hop community is especially prevalent and disables many women from becoming famous. Record labels want an over-sexualized female that will use her looks to gain fame. If a woman chooses to use her body and sexuality as expression, this is acceptable. However, being controlled and exploited perpetuates the oppression of women.
As discussed in class, the oppression of women and people of color is everywhere. From poor to rich, women and minorities experience obstacles unknown to the privileged groups in society. This oppression is on the personal level that originates from societies and institutions. The oppression has been passed down for generations and creates new expectations for how women and minorities should act, limiting their power in society. If women and minorities do not perform the way they are “supposed” to, there are consequences that they must face. In hip-hop, women and other non-conforming artists must work diligently to earn a decent level of respect.
Activism for change in the hip hop community is slowly becoming more popular. Artists are changing the definition of what a rapper is to them. Among these rappers are extremely talented individuals who will not get the opportunities that a straight male rapper would receive due to their sexuality or gender. Many artists are rapping with positive energy to promote the empowerment of people of color. Talented artists such as Princess Nokia, Cardi B, and Junglepussy rap about how their lives are different because of their color and the struggles that they had to overcome. Gender fluid artists are also changing gender roles in hip-hop. Artists such as Mykki Blanco are rapping about having sex with men and women while wearing a dress and wig. He frequently raps about how people judge his mannerisms and outfits before they judge his raw talent to rap. All of these artists use their gender, sexuality, and power as a strength. Their music is interesting and different. Their music is important to give representation in the hip-hop community and to society. Non-conforming artists change the way that music is being consumed and interpreted.