‘Queens of Hip-Hop’ Take the Throne
Fighting for the top spot in hip-hop is an unrelenting, oft-contentious battle, especially as younger rappers emerge with new styles. For the ladies of hip-hop, however, this battle is seemingly even more challenging in a genre that is predominantly male and peddles the objectification of women, or as some would suggest, misogyny. But for one night in Atlanta, the ladies put all notions of battling aside and came together for the “Queens of Hip-Hop” concert at Philips Arena.
Sans pop-rap princess Nicki Minaj, nine legendary female hip-hop artists took to the stage, reminding the audience of time past, present and future. On Saturday, March 17, the concert lineup included Remy Ma, Eve, Trina, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, Rah Digga, Monie Love, Nikki D, and The Lady of Rage.
Perhaps the most controversial rapper of the night was Remy Ma, who has publicly made her disdain known for Nicki Minaj in releasing the diss track “ShETHER” last February. Remy never mentioned her rival when given the top spot at the Atlanta show. Instead, the Bronx femcee only mentioned how disappointed she was that her friend “Queen Bee” (Lil’ Kim) was not able to perform or even come. While performing some of the hits that made her popular, such as “Lean Back” and “Conceited,” she also performed a few new rhymes from her upcoming, second album. She even asked the audience for their informal feedback, saying she didn’t want to put out anything “whack.” Wearing a black letterman jacket with neon green sheer trim, black leather shorts and white boots, Remy seemed to get the audience’s approval.
Eve decided she wanted to thrill the audience with club bangers like “Tambourine” while inserting “Love Is Blind,” a socially-conscious song she said she wrote at only 16. The song about domestic violence, according to Eve, “is more important than ever” because of the #MeToo movement. As the hook played, Love is blind, and it will take over your mind. What you think is love, is truly not. You need to elevate and find, the audience seemed to momentarily forget they were there to celebrate. A chorus of voices, both male and female, throughout the arena sang every word, making the event seem more like a rally for social justice. Remaining on that inspirational tone, Eve acknowledged “all the independent ladies trying to make it happen.”
Rah Digga didn’t come to preach or teach during her set; she came to rhyme. Wearing a colorful sequin jacket and blue jeans, she came to the stage immediately spitting rhymes without background dancers or stage effects. She seemed to bask in the audience’s reception and genuinely wanted to perform longer than her allotted 20 minutes, noting that she had to leave the stage because the monitor in front of her said her time was up.
The rap queen who has likely had the most commercial success, although not directly in hip-hop, MC Lyte came unassumingly to the stage in white jeans and shirt with a gold jacket. A true hip-hop legend, Lyte was the first female rapper to release a full solo album with her “Lyte as a Rock” in 1988. Besides being an emcee, she has been a model, actress, speaker, DJ, voiceover artist, and narrator. While on stage that night, though, the audience only wanted to hear her famous, familiar voice spit songs like her Grammy-nominated hit “Ruffneck.” Like Eve, she too injected a socially-conscious tune, “Self-Destruction,” that represents her long-held stance on using her music as a platform to address society’s ills. As the audience joined her in singing, “We’re headed for self-destruction,” MC Lyte, a lyrical change agent, reminded us why she is indeed a queen in various regards.
This concert represented something that the hip-hop genre needed, especially now during this sensitive social climate in respecting or even acknowledging women’s issues. Hip-hop needed better representations of women’s power within themselves, not merely their sexual power to attract men. The concert also reminded us that these strong women, like the rest of us, are fighting for respect, but they decided to unify under the umbrella of “queens” rather than “cats.”
Watch some of the performances:
~Annette Johnson, editor