the future of hip-hop is black & femme: 4 artists to watch
By Sound Check
August 29, 2017
By Reagan Nicole, AFROPUNK contributor
Black /blak/: Of the African diaspora
Femme / fem/ : Anyone who identifies as woman, trans, gender non-conforming, and/or at
any place on the feminine/female spectrum.
Why shout out Black femme Hip-Hop artists in particular?
Since 2007 (skipping 2008), famed Hip-Hop magazine XXL has released a “Freshman Class” list. The list, which can be viewed as an introduction to the mainstream, features the year’s top (usually ten) Hip-Hop artists-to-watch. It’s likely that your current fave was once an XXL freshman. Notable former freshmen include such stars as Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole, and Chance the Rapper.
Most former and current XXL freshman are incredibly talented. That isn’t up for debate. However, considering that such a small number of Black femme Hip-Hop artists have been featured, one can’t help but question the entire buzz-generating enterprise. To date, there have only been FOUR femme XXL freshmen in total (not counting Angel Haze who came out as agender in 2015). Why? It’s not like Black femmes aren’t out here putting in work. There are many phenomenal, hard-working Black femme Hip-Hop artists to choose from. Yet, somehow, the first femme person to become an XXL freshman was a white Australian woman who fakes a Black Southern accent when she rhymes. Just pause and think about that for a moment.
In June, XXL released it’s 2017 Freshman Class cover; it features a class that XXL has named “Generation Next.” This title positions the 2017 freshmen as part of a generation that will usher in a new era of Hip-Hop. Shout out to Kamaiyah for making the cover. She deserves it; but I want to see even more Black femmes be acknowledged for their artistry. This list is a response to that want. It highlights Black femme artists who are key players in the next generation of Hip-Hop and deserve to be recognized as such. Forget what you heard. The future of Hip-Hop is Black and femme.
Note: This list is not exhaustive. I am only trying to contribute to the conversation. Also, this list doesn’t include Little Simz, Noname, Kamaiyah, Young M.A. or Cardi B. They’re blowing up.
That’s good. Fantastic. Amended Kanye lyric aside, there has always been room for more than one femme in Hip-Hop, and these rising stars are proof of that and more. From performances on NPR’s Tiny Desk to BET award nominations these phenomenal artists are starting to get their due; and they’re probably already on your playlist. That’s why I intend to focus on artists who casual Hip-Hop listeners may be unfamiliar with. However, before I get into that, here are links to music by Little Simz, Noname, Kamaiyah, Young M.A. and Cardi B., just in case you’re behind.
Dope Saint Jude Cape Town, South Africa
Dope Saint Jude is part of the next generation of conscious lyricists. A wordsmith with a knack for addressing sociopolitical issues, her music touches on everything from queerness and self-love to the racial politics of her native South Africa. She specializes in versatility–aggressive and high energy on some tracks and incredibly mellow on others. Dope Saint Jude has a style and flow that’s unlike anything you’ve ever witnessed. And she remains true to that style even when rapping over your fave’s beat (see “Realtalk”).
“The money we spend it, to keep us indebted to keep them in power/To keep us in chains while they keep on building their towers/ And they got money for days, but they keep on stealing our hours/ And when we call them out, they wys us that we just being sour” – “Brown Baas”
In June of 2016, Dope Saint Jude released her Reimagine EP. Reimagine and her entire discography are must-listens for all but especially for those who want to expand their Hip-Hop consumption beyond the United States.
One of my overall favorites from Dope Saint Jude is “Keep In Touch” ft. Angel-Ho (a queer anthem that gives you a taste of Gayle, Cape Town queer slang).
I had the opportunity to see Dope Saint Jude live this past Spring. The show was pretty bare bones. It was what I imagine the early days of Hip-Hop looked like–just a small stage, a few speakers, and a dope MC. Sometimes newer artists can seem awkward on stage–as if they’re still trying to figure out how their energy in the studio translates to a live performance. This was not the case with Dope Saint Jude. She seemed to exude Black cool, but more importantly, she seemed free. It felt like she was performing simply because she loves performing and we, the audience, were just welcomed, witnesses. It was a blessing to witness.
Listen to Dope Saint Jude
Follow her on social media @dopesaintjude
Junglepussy, East New York, Brooklyn
Junglepussy has been perfecting her craft, performing, and putting out mesmerizing music videos since 2012. Her first single, “Cream Team,” was retweeted by Erykah Badu. In addition to sending the internet into a frenzy, Badu’s cosign motivated JP to work even harder on her music career. Her debut album didn’t disappoint. In 2014, Junglepussy released the aptly named, Satisfaction Guaranteed . Throughout the album, she raps about her pussy, relationships, self-love, eating fruits and vegetables, and more. In 2015, JP released Pregnant with Success. While the subject matter of Pregnant with Success is similar to that of Satisfaction Guaranteed , it doesn’t feel overdone. She’s just saying it again for the people in the back: eat your vegetables, love yourself, rinse, repeat. Junglepussy’s r hymes are relatable and freeing. Also, side note, Sis has given talks at Yale and Columbia about Hip Hop and healthy eating respectively; she’s really out here trying to help us live our best lives.
A long-time advocate of being in tune with your body and knowing your worth, Junglepussy is here to remind you that you are that bitch. Her discography is full of quotable lines like this one:
“It’s a full time job fuckin loving yourself/ Niggas try to rob a bitch for her self wealth and her mental health.” – “Bling Bling,” Satisfaction Guaranteed
In March, Junglepussy released the video for “Somebody,” a sensual track about desire. “Somebody” reminds me of old school R&B. You know it’s about longing for a sensual experience, but she’s not being sexually explicit. It’s the type of song you could smoke to or just chill to–whatever helps you feel whole.
Be good to yourself.
Listen to Junglepussy
Follow her on social media @junglepussy
Princess Nokia, Lower East Side & Harlem, New York
Princess Nokia is an Afro-Nuyirucan and Taíno artist based in New York. Formerly known by the stage name “Wavy Spice,” Princess Nokia releases music under her government name, Destiny.
In September of 2016, Princess Nokia released 1992. In the nine-track album, she explores spirituality, the highs and lows of her childhood, body positivity, and more. Without preaching or even explicitly naming it in her songs, Princess Nokia made 1992 a feminist album that any Hip-Hop head could vibe to. She did so by celebrating aspects of herself and other women of color that aren’t usually praised by mainstream media. For example, in her hit song “Tomboy,” Princess Nokia celebrates her body type with lines like:
“With my little titties and my phat belly/ I could take your man if you finna let me/ It’s a guarantee that he won’t forget me/ My body little, my soul is heavy”
In July, Princess Nokia released “G.O.A.T.” The single is taking off on the internet, and Genius has already released a video in which Princess Nokia explains its lyrics and her place in Hip-Hop. In said video, she describes herself as “divine feminine energy,” and I have to agree that there is something divine about a Black femme who is so intentional about what she creates.
In addition to being intentional about her art, Princess Nokia is also intentional about creating safe spaces for Black, Brown, and femme folks to enjoy it. She begins her shows by announcing that men are to be in the back while Black and Brown femmes are to be in the front, and she waits while everyone adjusts. I had the opportunity to see Princess Nokia live last Fall. It was the most punk rock experience I’ve ever had. I knew it was going to be amazing when she prioritized Black and Brown femme folx, but no one could’ve prepared me for the energy in the room. She didn’t need a hype person. She was the hype. The stage was hers, and she was the personification of the saying “young, wild, and free.”
Princess Nokia has this grit and spirit about her that seem to give everyone permission to be themselves. She is here for all the weird Black and Brown kids who love Hip-Hop. She lets her freak flag fly, and she assures us that we all belong.
Embrace that which makes you unique.
Listen to Princess Nokia
Follow her on social media @princessnokia
Mykki Blanco, San Mateo, California/ Raleigh, North Carolina
Mykki Blanco, also known as Mykki Tricky B, is a Black trans artist based in New York. The artist Michael Quattlebaum Jr., has stated that Mykki Blanco began as a video art project; She has since evolved into an international Hip-Hop performer.
Mykki Blanco’s music career began in 2011. In 2012, she released Cosmic Angel: The Illuminati Prince/ss . The EP generated a great deal of buzz on the internet and among publications alike. Elle magazine even named her “Hip-Hop’s New Queen” (lol at Elle thinking that they have that authority, but Mykki Blanco is everything). With viral hits like
“Wavvy” and “Haze.Boogie.Life,” Blanco was on brink of fame. So why haven’t you heard of her?
You know why.
It seems like the world can’t stand to see a Black femme win, especially a Black trans femme. But let the record show that Mykki Blanco was rapping, wearing dresses, and challenging gender norms long before your new fave.
In 2015, Mykki Blanco disclosed her HIV-positive status to her fans via Facebook; she later did an in-depth interview with HIV Plus Magazine. According to the CDC, “African-Americans continue to experience the greatest burden of HIV compared to other races and ethnicities.” Our community would benefit from more frequent and open conversations about HIV and the stigma that surrounds it. Mykki Blanco is helping us continue those conversations. To date, Blanco is the only living rapper who is open about being HIV-positive.
In 2016, Mykki Blanco released her debut studio album, Mykki. This album reaffirmed that Blanco has bars and the creative prowess to be a household name. Blanco’s music edgy yet relatable. She raps about gender, sex, loneliness, drugs, and more. Some of her tracks are dark, but she still manages to make them feel like an escape; and the situations she raps about might be taboo, but you still wish you had the courage to be so authentic.
Mykki Blanco reminds us that Black queer and trans people have always been Hip-Hop. To thine own self be true.
Listen to Mykki Blanco
Follow her on social media @MykkiBlanco on Twitter @_Mykki_ on Instagram
*Reagan Nicole is a Black femme writer, researcher, and Hip-Hop feminist. She studies Hip-Hop
pedagogy and is currently working on her contribution to a book being written by Hip-Hop and
education scholars Jeff Chang, Samy Alim, and Casey Wong. Contact her @ReaganNicole151
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