BET premiered My Mic Sounds Nice: The Truth About Women in Hip-Hop last night and it was good, really good. I was actually surprised at how good it was. The filmmakers did a superb job conveying the tremendous impact of those of the xx variety on the culture. I didn’t learn anything new but it was informative enough for people who may have needed that lesson.
However, there wasn’t much of a solution presented. They tried at the end but most of the people they interviewed had a very industry way of thinking ie, shallow and narrow-minded.
“For me to try to find another Lauryn Hill is like for me to try to find another Jay-Z. That’s not happening. It’s like you don’t find those things those things find us,” said Kevin Liles.
That’s part of the problem.
Kevin Liles is far removed from the days he actually cared about scouting talent and lives his kushy life in The Hamptons and St. Tropez, where the talent definitely won’t “find him.” Plus, even if he did actively search he’d most likely go to some uppity industry showcase cluttered with wannabes so desperate to get put on that they will be what they think is necessary and not who they really are. That never works but so many people haven’t gotten that memo because in industry think the goal is to find a duplicate, even if the original (who is probably extremely talented) is tap dancing on stilts right in front of them.Â This is the case with several talented women who rap but can’t seem to get that mainstream machine behind them (not that they’d want that in today’s industry climate, but I’m just saying).
Folks are afraid of something new and get stuck in the same mundane ethos, that’s what stalls progress (that’s part of how we ended up in this recession and part of why folks are so scared of Obama). People look at Kanye West like he’s crazy all the time because they don’t get his left-of-center ideas but when he executes them the tune changes from, “You’re crazy”Â to “Ooooooh, he’s a genius” but what if he never took matters into his own hands and kept pushing his ideas?
Note to record execs: Fearlessness wins most of the time. It’s one of the 48 Laws of Power aka the business Bible. You should know better.
It was frustrating to watch Liles and Russel Simmons talk about no one conspiring against signing women because that’s not entirely true. Of course there was no secret meeting against women, as Simmons sarcastically suggested, but talk to female emcees who have either been signed or came close and they’ll tell you some of the crude things they’ve been told with regard to their sex and signing the dotted line, like, “Women don’t sell” or “Lose 20 lbs.” Point, blank. Even Nicki Minaj struggled with getting signed despite the Wayne cosign, because people were skeptical about her sex. I know this because she told me in an interview (that part didn’t make the piece). It’s not just her, a lot of women have told me the same thing famous or not.
Another misguided belief is that being signed to a major label is the only way to be successful. Yes Nicki Minaj is doing her thing but she is not the savior for women in hip-hop. We never left. There are so many femcees, b-girls, djs, etc who have taken control of their art and still manage to make a sustainable living on what they love to do. Several of them were even lucky enough to globe trot while doing it but I digress.
My Mic Sounds Nice was a good film, again, but what I got out of it was that narrow-minded thinking is a major part of the problem. It’s a travesty that most of the people saying that there are no women in hip-hop or that Nicki Minaj is the end all be all of new female talent are seen as taste makers, because they usually don’t do their research nor do they realize that they are part of the problem.Â Most of these folks would never promote a new artist solely based on talent. There would always have to be a stipulation like a big name attached, marketability based on things that already exist, payola, or a gimmick with a proven track record. People don’t study the culture enough anymore in order to really know what has potential, they just jump on bandwagons and exploit.
But on the flipside, shouts to Glennisha Morgan and Tiye Phoenix! They kept it real by affirming that female talent never left hip-hop and by dropping names of dope women like Eternia, Pri The Honey Dark, Likwuid, Atlas, etc who are hiding in plain site. It’s up to you to take the time to listen.
*Drops mic and walks away.*