Rap music, even though gendered as a masculine genre, has over the years seen women own and gone global with it. Rap music, throughout history has been known to marginalize the contribution of women, but despite the challenges, women have been able to make their mark and contribute immensely to this male dominated genre.
Talk about the likes of Queen Latifah and Lauryn Hill, who used rap to address real life issues such as black femininity, womanhood, among others. Other female rappers like Lil Kim, Salt-N-Pepa, Nicki Minaj and Missy Elliot also ruled the rap scenes, journeyed down to the era of Young MA and Cardi B also once again showing their prowess in the rap game.
In Ghana, the case of women in rap hasn’t been a good enough story. The Ghana rap community has seen only a few popular and successful women in the genre overtime, and for the most part, there is little to no documentation about them. The 90s and early 2000s saw a few female rappers in Ghana. Notable among them is Maudy M, who is remembered for her hit song Aware Pa, an interestingly daring song at the time it was released. Jyoti Chandler of the Nananom group is also name we can’t ignore when we mention early women rappers in Ghana. In 2003, an all women music group, Triple M also made waves with their hit single ‘Kote’, a song in a which a woman complains about her irresponsible husband, and thus pleading with a police officer to beat him but not too much else he will die. Abrewa Nana, also in the 2000s broke barriers with a relatively more ‘hard core’ rap. Songs like ‘Wa Rushi Crushi’, ‘Odo Filla’ and ‘Esisi Meso’ are songs that easily come to mind when Abrewa Nana is mentioned. All these Ghanaian rappers were mostly classified as hiplife artistes rather than rappers.
In 2012, rap music in Ghana saw the introduction of Eno Barony into the community. Eno’s style has so far been hard core rap, causing her to challenge the status quo. Even though support for her craft has not been as massive as it has been for her male counterparts, the ‘queen of bars’ has been consistent and has maintained her position as one of the best rappers in Ghana. In 2018, she earned a nomination for the Best Rapper category at the Ghana Music Awards, and was the only woman in the category.
After Eno, the Ghana rap scene also saw the introduction of Freda Rhymz, winner of MTN Hitmaker season 6. Like Eno Barony, Freda Rhymz also goes hard on rap. Both Eno and Freda have pure rap tracks, a quality that distinguishes them from the artistes of the era that preceded them. Other female artistes like Ohemaa Dadaw, Feli Nuna, Abena Rockstar and Fu have also contributed their quota to rap music in Ghana
Despite efforts from female rappers in Ghana, attention hasn’t been paid them compared to their equally talented male counterparts. Several discussions have been held on this problem, but not much has been done to solve it. The question therefore is what actually accounts for this problem, and how best can it be tackled? In 2014, award winning music producer, Mix Master Garzy produced an all women rap cypher in a bid to project women in rap in Ghana. Even though the cypher was hailed by many industry players as a good project, it still did not receive a lot of attention and support.
In a conversation with Freda Rhymz, she attributed this problem of meagreness of attention and support to the few numbers of known female rappers. According to her, she believes if there were as many women in rap as there are in the other genres, perhaps, a lot more attention and support will be given them like it’s done for the other genres. Freda further hinted a challenge of branding. ‘Saa Chic No’ stated that there’s usually confusion with regard to what women rappers should look like. According to her, whilst some people would expect a female rapper to have a tomboy vibe to suit the masculinity of the genre, other people expect women rappers and artistes in general to ‘show some skin’. This leaves management confused as to what brand will be most accepted by the masses.
“At a point, my management and I were confused about how I should appear. At first we thought I should have the boyish look, but later we went for the sexy look”, she said. “…they need female rappers to appear in a certain way, to show some skin, and if you don’t, it’s a problem”, she added.
Entertainment journalist and artiste manager, Arnold Asamoah Baidoo, has also made an assertion similar to Freda Rhymz’. According to him, “sex appeal is an integral part of music for women”. He added that women artistes need to ‘show some skin’ to get attention. “If you have the sex appeal, exploit it and use it”, he mentioned. Arnold cited other reasons why women in rap music haven’t had much attention and support. According to him, biological reasons like menses and pregnancy deter artiste managers from working with women. He further explained that during periods of menstruation and pregnancy, most women’s output declines, thus costing labels and managers. He also added that female musicians who enter romantic relationships with their managers kill their careers when the relationships hit the rocks.
The question however is that are these reasons enough to not support female rappers? How do these instances differ for women in other genres, and how is it handled, that cannot be replicated with rap? The traditional media has a huge role to play in this solving this problem, as it highly influences tastes and preferences of people. The more airtime music from female rappers gets, the better the chances of it gaining attention and patronage. Female rappers also need to collaborate more with each other, to help each other climb up the ladder.