There has long been an adage that female emcees are gender-bending forces—undercover lesbians. However, many of them respect the freedom associated with falling outside of traditional gender roles. United Hip Hop women and the LGBT community may indeed propel a subsequent social movement for this newest generation.
This past weekend, Los Angeles Pride was dominated by heavyweight Black female entertainers. Lil Kim, Spinderella, and Queen Latifah made major appearances at the 2012 festival.
It was surprising to see microphone legends at LA Pride, given the historical backdrop of homophobia and gender stereotypes within Hip Hop. While its most blatant offenders have generally been men, female emcees haven’t been so openly supportive of the LGBT community.
A magical Lil Kim entered the mainstage at LA Pride, accompanied by a bevy of background dancers. She performed a number of classics including “Ladies Night”, “Whoa”, “Lighters Up”, a head-nodding Notorious B.I.G. tribute, and crowd favorite “Crush On You”. The highlight of her hour-long show was a declaration presented to her by the City of West Hollywood.
Kim gave her bows and made an impactful statement, “we are all one—and I support all my people”. Those words resonated with the audience and set the tone for a weekend full of proud female entertainers.
Spinderella, Salt n’ Peppa’s DJ, spun a set of jams dedicated to the Soul and early Hip Hop tradition. Her homage to female soul legends Aretha Franklin, Whitney Houston, and rap pioneers MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, and Salt N’ Peppa was a refreshing addition to the festival’s Hip Hop/R&B stage. Spinderella played her very best records, ending up moving a crowd which included Girlfriends actress Jill Marie Jones and singer Po Johnson from LaLa’s Full Court. In fact, Po had her own featured performance later that evening.
The company of Lil Kim and Spinderella was strengthened by Po and other talented female musicians of color. Singer Shyra Sanchez wowed the crowd on the event’s Latino stage, performing her club anthem “DJ Love Song”. Sanchez admitted that playing the festival as a multi-racial woman was about connecting with other artists and fans of all backgrounds. Sanchez is a budding member of the Hip Hop community, whose music blurs lines with its own particular multi-genre sound.
Other female rappers have participated in Pride festivals around the country. Last month, superstar maverick Queen Latifah was the headliner for the Long Beach Pride festival. She made an appearance at the end of LA Pride as well, confirming her support for the LGBT community.
While newcomer Nicki Minaj wasn’t on the scene in California, her presence was felt through a consistent looping of her singles. Men and women at the festival regarded Nicki as one of their favorite entertainers, singing the words to “Starships” with exhuberation. Nicki Minaj appeared at the last Atlanta Pride festival, bringing her own style of Hip Hop to the LGBT community..
I like the direction that Hip Hop is heading in.
It’s unsurprising that Hip Hop women are leading the movement toward support and inclusion of LGBT rights, given the historical contributions of women in social movements throughout American history. Black women were the force behind the development and sustaining of the Civil Rights and Black Power Movements.
In many ways, these entertainers validate the struggles of Rosa Parks, Angela Davis, Nina Simone, and Assatta Shakur. With the influx of Black female emcees and entertainers at this year’s Pride festivals, the conversation is broadened to include Hip Hop entertainers as advocated for LGBT rights.
Hip Hop has always had the ability to impact social movements, and now it is more apparent than ever that she respects freedom for all people.