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WOMEN IN HIP-HOP PART III: 1990 & 1991

Posted by Billyjam, March 24, 2009 11:39am | Post a Comment
The years 1990 and 1991 were pivotal for women in hip-hop and are captured in the series of videos below. Despite the uneven ratio between female and male artists, those two years captured a time when many more female emcees were being signed and promoted by major record labels than in previous years, or years since, for that matter.

It was also a time when just about every hip-hop crew or collective had at least one female member whom they gave full support to. Queen Latifah was part of the Flavor Unit. X-Clan's Blackwatch Movement included Isis and Queen Mother Rage, while the extended BDP crew included Ms Melodie and Harmony. Meanwhile, Yo-Yo had the backing support of the post-NWA Ice Cube.

The beginning of the 90's was also a time when sisters in rap looked out for one another and joined forces to throw some memorable all female hip-hop events. There was the 75 minute 1991 Sisters In The Name of Rap concert, with YoYo, Salt-N-Pepa, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shante, Def Dames, Silk Tymes Leather, Nikke? Nicole!, (dancehall artist) Shelly Thunder, Tam Tam & others and hosted by Dee Barnes. This killer show was a Pay-Per-View TV concert taped at the Ritz in NYC in late '91 and released the following year on VHS. (I still have my prized copy.) 

Also in 1991, on Valentine's Day, there was a 5-hour all female rap concert at the Los Angeles Sports Arena that included Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Yo-Yo, M.C. Trouble (R.I.P.), Harmony, Nefertiti, Michie Mee, MC Smooth, and Nikki D. While, according to all reviews at the time, this female rap showcase was an off-the-hook event, its attendance figures were far from impressive. Only 3,700 people showed up at the 15,200-seat LA Sports Arena. Perhaps the promoters booked too large a venue for this event, but had it been an all male rap showcase featuring the leading men of rap of the day, it would have undoubtedly sold out.

Below is a series of nine videos from these two years of 1990 and 1991. Some are clips from the aforementioned 1991 Sisters In the Name of Rap concert while others are forgotten music videos from that time. Most look/sound good, but some may have low volume or slightly sub-par quality -- they still are excellent snapshots of this golden era in hip-hop when women got more props and, more importantly, more respect. There are many other female rappers' songs from this era not included below, such as Salt N Pepa's 1991 hit "Let's Talk About Sex" and the atypical (for the time) raunchy BWP (Bitches With Problems) and their song "Two Minute Brother" -- a song and a group that divided folks; some argued that they were empowering women while others believed that they were merely being exploited.
 
Queen Latifah "Come Into My House" (1991 Sisters in the Name Of Rap)

Yo-Yo "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo (feat. Ice Cube)" (1991)

Although forever associated with Ice Cube, Yo-Yo first appeared in 1990 as a guest on post-NWA's Cube's AmeriKKKa's Most Wanted album in 1990, Yo-Yo was always a strong black woman and advocate of female empowerment. She named her crew the Intelligent Black Woman's Coalition (IBWC). The hit single above, "You Can't Play With My Yo-Yo," is from her 1991 solo debut, Make Way for the Motherlode.

MC Lyte "When In Love" (1991 Sisters in the Name Of Rap)

One of the most gifted female emcees of all time, MC Lyte is still putting it down in the rap game.

MC Trouble (RIP) "(I Wanna) Make You Mine (feat The Good GIrls)" (1990)

In June 1991, seven weeks shy of turning 21, MC Trouble tragically died in her sleep after suffering an epileptic seizure which resulted in heart failure. The first female rapper signed to Motown, the LA artist only got to release one album, Gotta Get A Grip in 1990, featuring two singles-- the title track and the video above "(I Wanna) Make You Mine" featuring The Good Girls. She sadly never got a chance to reach her full potential.

Roxanne Shante "Dance To This" (1991 Sisters in the Name of Rap concert)

MC Smooth "Where Is The Money" (1990)

"Where is the Money" is the first video off of the debut album Smooth & Legit from female emcee/singer/actor MC Smooth. She was later known as simply Smooth, and in more recent times goes by the name Needa S. Her biggest hits included "You Been Played" on the 1993 Menace II Society soundtrack and the 1998 single "Strawberries."

Nikki D "Daddy's Little Girl" (Live) (1991)

Nikki D was the first female rapper signed to Def Jam in 1989 when she dropped her debut single "A No No No." Released two years later, Daddy's Little Girl and its self titled single both were commercial hits, debuting in the number one slot on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B chart. The song, which samples "Tom's Diner" by Suzanne Vega, was also used in the rap-heavy soundtrack to the 1992 movie Just Another Girl on the I.R.T., which also included the NIkki D performed theme song "Chantel's Theme." By the way, if you never saw this oft-slept on movie, it is well worth checking out.

Harmony "Poundcake" (1990)

Down with the BDP crew Harmony, who so famously rapped at the time that she ''ain't no slut/Selling records with a butt,'' unfortunately had a short-lived career and released only one album.

Isis "The Power Of Myself is Moving" (1990)

Isis, who was a part of the Blackwatch Movement that included X Clan, released her debut album Rebel Soul in 1990 which is where this single came from. She later left the X-Clan extended family and changed her name to Lin Que, worked with MC Lyte and released several records. In more recent years, for a brief spell, she was a part of the Wu-Tang Clan affiliated all female hip-hop group Deadly Venoms, which also included N-Tyce, J-Boo, Champ MC, and Finesse. Isis/Lin Que is another example of a really powerful female emcee who never got the level of props she so deserved.

Relevant Tags

Mc Lyte (3), Women's History Month (32), Yo-yo (1), Queen Latifah (4), Isis (2), Harmony (1), Sisters In The Name Of Rap (1)