up, it’s June 19th and we’re walking down Broadway,” she says, in mock-anthropologist voice,
“and everyone looks happy –not too sideshow-ish, niggas is on spinnas, and the police are over there, it’s
goin’ down in the town, and we gonna do the damn thang. We’re gonna see if we can get into this Keak Da Sneak
show –because he’s the biggest thing in Oakland, besides Conscious Daughters- but they probably gonna be hatin’
on us when we get there.”
the bouncer at On Broadway says that if the four of us have come from East Bay Express
to interview Keak Da Sneak and Hittaz on Da Payroll, and want to get a free pass into the show, then damnit, we’d
better be strapped with official business cards, embossed with East Bay Express letterhead.
With a huff, Special One steps up and thrusts the tape recorder to his mouth.
your name son?”
is we getting’ hated on again? We got a new CD coming out on Guerrilla Funk Recordings -the label with Public Enemy,
The Lynch Mob, MC Red, and Cam-
and it’s goin’ down.”
if we could get some old Conscious Daughters bumping in the car right now,” Steve surmises, “we’d charge
$100 a ticket. I’m still bangin’ the first hit ya’all had, ‘cause that’s all I bang is old school.”
we still gotta pay how much to get in?”
you ladies bring ya ass on in the club, and don’t try to fuck with me on tape in the middle of the night.” He
motions for another security guard to undo the velvet rope and move the stanchions apart.
female emcees’ relationships with men form the emotional nub of their music. Goldee’s raps are a way of revisiting,
acting out, and taking revenge for the abuses she’s received from men in her life: Goldee’s sister was murdered
in at the culmination of an abusive relationship. Goldee is also a single mom, and her daughter’s father is currently
in prison. Conscious Daughters use their lyrics to reverse or appropriate gender roles (as in the song “Kill My Nigga”).
Jamaica, who plans to call her debut album Both Sides of The Game –to acknowledge the duality of hard/tender, singing/rapping, masculine/feminine forces
in her personality- is struggling to open up a space for femininity within the medium of gangsta rap. She seeks equality with
the men who populate her world, and when she doesn’t see it, she’ll impose it –usually by denigrating other
other words, they are all using hip hop to go toe-to-toe with the men who alternately hurt and affirm them -rather than
merely accepting male authority- but in the course of trying to make their music, they always come up against the limitations
of misogyny, which define the core of gangsta rap. The question is whether gangsta rap itself is the problem –whether
they’re so structurally limited by the medium that they can’t ever escape the problem of unequal gender relations,
or whether they’re limited by they’re own consciousness, and are merely trying to ape the men who control them,
either by shooting back, (the “Kill My Nigga” strategy) or by defiling other women. On that note, are they accepting or changing the rules of the game?
problem for most female emcees is that, even though they’re invited to perform many shows, they have a paucity of recorded
material. A lot of that has to do with the fact that most females are dependent on male “enablers” (For example,
when Paris’s former label, Scarface Records, folded, Conscious Daughters
fell off the scene. They eventually took day jobs and started raising families.), because the people who fund labels are usually
more skeptical of a female act than a male act. Moreover, few females have their own studios –production requires technical
skills and access to equipment that isn’t available to most females, and females aren’t often “given a pass”
to hangout in studios the way dudes are. Even with the rise of more female producers and engineers, the culture of hip hop
is still very male-oriented.
these logistical difficulties, the culture of gangsta rap hasn’t fundamentally changed: In writing songs, women constantly
come up against the limits of a genre that still hates women, at its core. They’re burdened either with becoming torchbearers,
or accepting the rules of the game.
rappers use the word “bitch” in their raps, to describe, and sometimes defile other women. While reclaiming this
term can seem enabling and liberating, it’s still important to note that all of them have been treated like bitches
over the course of their rap careers. Goldee went to the studio to hang out and record after the female emcee showcase at
the Black Box in March. A guy slammed her against the wall, ran his hand up the whole front of her body, and said “You
a beautiful bitch, aren’t you?” She turned around and kicked him.
night, as we walk back down Broadway to the car, a girl in a tatersall shirt and sagging utility pants rushes up to Special
One, as her friends scramble to keep up in their stiletto heels. “Oh my God,” she gasps, “that’s Conscious
Daughters! Conscious Daughters! That’s her!”
up pimp?” says Special One, shoving the tape recorder to her chin. “Say something for the record.”
my name is Kesh man, what is it? Check this out: I’m from the deep east man, and I been loving Conscious Daughters ever
since they came on. Conscious Daughters is the shit, man, representing East Oakland like everyday all
and her retinue pile into their car, Goldee looks over her shoulder and tosses the same advice she offers her daughter, Andreanna
–a.k.a. emcee Lil’ Dree, who writes raps in her bedroom, when she’s lonely: “You gonna make it. Just
keep doing your thang thang.”
In other words, don’t ever concede yourself to nobody. “Yeah,” says Special One, as the car
speeds off, “she probably ain’t a rapper, but she must really love hip hop.” CMG jangles her car keys, but
Special One hesitates, staring out at the dark swath of sidewalk, where the Saturday night crowds are finally petering out.
“Yeah,” she says again, “that girl gonna be all right.”