I had the pleasure of interviewing Missy Elliott (silent scream) and her latest protégé Sharaya J, earlier this year, for JET magazine online and I had to ask her the following obligatory question: What do women have to do to get back on top in hip hop? In light of yesterday’s post about Melissa Harris-Perry and Jean Grae’s discussion about why women’s voices are still necessary in hip-hop, I felt it only right to dig in my archives and publish Missy’s answer. She kept it relatively brief (because it really is a complicated saga) but here’s what she said:
I think it’s always been hard for women in hip-hop, honestly, from the jump. It might not have seemed like it because it was so many out at one time [sic]. There was a time when at least two people can come out [at the same time] and people will start to embrace that again. I think it just takes getting out there and showing people that you have talent and that you can do just as good as the guys can do it. It’s a lot of girls out there right now, to be honest. But it’s just hard. We’re in that time where it’s that tug-of-war to try to get them on top.
I think that’s why we’re going to be very careful [with Sharaya]. I want to make sure she grows at a certain pace and not just blow up then you don’t hear from her anymore. I said the one thing that she would have to do is to make people love her as an artist and not just for a record because that’s another thing – people loved the artist back in the day, and now it’s half the time, you hear a record and you might know the record but don’t know anything about the artist, so that’s important too because once people feel like they know you, your vibe, you got a story and you got a movement, then all those things are going to matter.
But I don’t know. I really wish I could call up Jesus and ask him [laughs]. I wish I knew exactly what needs to be done for women to get back on top. But I think it will happen because everything comes full circle. When you think about it, it’s not just women in hip-hop. You think about, there hasn’t been any R&B guy singer groups. There hasn’t been any R&B girl groups. It’s a lot of things missing out here right now, but I think we’re going to be in that transition where the female emcee will be back like it was, and all the other different things and elements out there from the R&B groups to whatever.
She probably had to take the political route but again, it’s complicated. I’ll come back when I get my thoughts together, with my own perspective.