Ladies’ Choice: Unpacking Double Standards in the Hip Hop Industry

As 2018 reigns as “The Year of the Woman,” the saying stays true in today’s climate for female rap. After a decade of Nicki Minaj as the sole survivor for female rappers, more women have been occupying the space. Bronx rapper Cardi B has a hot streak in the hip-hop industry, earning the achievement of being the first woman in hip hop to have three number one songs on the Billboard Hot 100.Young M.A. is still releasing music with “PettyWap” becoming a party jam and her single “OOOUUU” continues to be played across the country. Noname recently dropped her long anticipated album, Room 25, and she’s been blazing a trail for herself as well. It’s clear to see the women’s hip hop game is revitalizing itself.

While it is refreshing to see more women enter the hip-hop mainstream picture, female rappers have to live up to more expectations than their male counterparts and it’s ridiculous. Sometimes, whether or not a male rapper is good becomes the topic of discussion, but rarely do fans push an imaginary beef between two male rappers. The title “king of rap” has been tossed around so much for rappers such as Jay-Z, Kendrick Lamar and Tupac, that the crown has lost its meaning. 

Nicki Minaj pointed out the double standard in a tweet last year.

“In any field, women must work TWICE as hard to even get HALF the respect her male counterparts get. When does this stop,” she said.

Minaj has been in the game for over a decade, and pressure is constantly put on her to put out a great album or she is not the “queen of rap.” Before her new album “Queen” was released, she received opinions about how it would flop and not fair well against Cardi’s “Invasion of Privacy” album released earlier this year. Many male rappers, like Kanye West or Travis Scott, have been hyped up before their new album is even released, and people will judge the music after they give the album a listen. Even if an album is a misstep, male rappers will receive fair criticism and sometimes a “pass” if a rapper is a veteran in the game. For example, Quavo’s debut album “Quavo Huncho” received a fair amount of praise despite the 19-track album sounding the exact same as any other album of his, just with a touch more autotune. The double standards are loud and clear for female rappers.

In contrast to today’s hip-hop scene, the ‘90s became a staple for women in hip-hop. Foxy Brown, Missy Elliot, Salt ‘n’ Pepa, Lil Kim and Lauryn Hill are just a few women who made their mark in hip hop without the added pressure of social media and gossip sites creating tension between them. There were the occasional beefs, Lil Kim and Foxy Brown, Salt ‘n’ Pepa and Roxanne Shanté to name a few. However, the beefs and drama were not enough to completely wipe out the female rap game. There was always a line of female rappers ready to take a seat in the throne.

Since then, it has been even harder for women to break into mainstream hip-hop/rap and coexist amongst each other. Fingers have pointed to social media being a driving force for dividing female rappers. When Cardi became an overnight sensation with her hit “Bodak Yellow” and began breaking numerous records, people immediately started comparing her to Minaj. These two women have completely different styles, sounds and personalities yet they’re constantly pitted against each other. The same comparison was made between Nicki Minaj and Young M.A., after Young M.A. became popular from her song “OOOUUU.”

Another side of the argument is double standards regarding women in music in general: calling women in hip-hop “female rappers” instead of “rappers.” The separation of male and female rappers creates more pressure for women to compete against each other rather than against all rappers. It is rare if Kendrick Lamar or Drake are referred to as “male rappers” and that same energy should be given to women so there’s equity in music. More than two women in the rap game should be able to thrive in their craft without exiling each other for the imaginary single female rapper spot that fans have created for them.

The great thing about music is that there is something for everyone. If there is a female rapper a person dislikes, there are plenty more female rappers out there for their taste. Women are creating their own lane in hip hop just like men, why do we have to keep choosing who can stay in it? As 2018 continues to be the year women win, let’s make sure that message continues for women in hip hop too. There is more than one seat at the table, women shouldn’t have to fight for just one chair.