Is Lil' Mama Leaving the Game? Female Rappers as an Endangered Species

This past week, a new track from the 19 year-old Brooklyn vocalist with the cringe-inducing nickname Lil' Mama leaked to the internet, entitled “I'm a Diva” (which is not a remix of the Beyonce track of the same name), which will presumably end up on her as yet untitled sophomore release. If you had never heard anything from her before, very little about this track, with its slick production and lyrics about conspicuous consumption, will surprise you. What is surprising (and a little disappointing) is that Lil' Mama built her reputation as a rapper, and should this song prove to be representative of where her career is headed, it seems that she might be abandoning hip-hop in favor of pop stardom.

Why am I disappointed? Not because this move toward diva-dom has brought about a decrease in the quality of her music, as this track is just as catchy in its way as her singles “Lip Gloss” and “Shawty Get Loose” from her debut, V.Y.P.. Nor is it because I feel that artists should avoid “selling out” by adjusting their sound to better fit the demands of the marketplace. As far as I'm concerned, she has every right to capitalize on her success and work the system however she can. What gives me pause is that her move toward mainstream pop (if that is what this is) would deprive the world of a yet one more promising female rapper, in a music scene in which they have become an increasingly rare sight.
Since hip-hop's beginnings some 30 years ago, women have been involved at every level, from block parties to gold records, and artists like MC Lyte, Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliott have produced some of the best records in the genre. But women have never been particularly numerous among the acts signed to major labels, and they seem to have grown even scarcer as of late, with acts as diverse as Missy Elliott, Lauryn Hill and Foxy Brown seeing either diminishing album sales or leaving the business to pursue other interests. Lil' Mama is a standout among a rather meager freshman class (not counting Sri-Lankan M.I.A., who emerged out of the relatively more female-friendly UK hip hop and indie scenes.)
Veteran rapper Ice-T has been quoted as saying, “It's hard for a girl to rap. Rap is a very aggressive, testosterone-based, hard-core music at its base… It takes a special woman to be able to pull that off.” While just one man's opinion, even a cursory survey of the current hip-hop scene seems to bear him out, and it's no wonder that artists like Lil' Mama would take any chance to get out of the boy's club, even if they had the temerity to crash the party in the first place. My only hope is that the rapped verse at the end of “I'm a Diva” indicates that she hasn't given up on hip-hop, and her declaration that she is a “D-I-V-A baller” is her attempt to find a way to reach for the stars while still keeping her sneakers on the streets. If women stand any hope of maintaining a presence in the genre, we're going to need “special women” like her to play ball.

by Ehren Gresehover
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8 Comments Have Been Posted

Damn industry standards!

<p>I just checked out her website and she's great. I have to admit the pop song you posted is pretty catchy too, but I prefer her rap stuff. Maybe she's dabbling in pop?</p><p>This kind of reminds me of how I tried to find out who the female guest MC on a De La Soul album was a couple years back. They listed all the male MCs in the liner notes, but I couldn't, for the life of me, figure out who she was. I was prepared to go and buy her solo stuff if she has any and I STILL don't know who she is! </p>


Personally I don't think Lil' Mama is rap. This doesn't surprise me at all. To compare her to Missy Elliot, MC Lyte and Lauren Hill is insulting. Sorry. :( M.I.A is more WAY MORE hip hop sounding than Lil' Mama. At least M.I.A. is talking real issues and getting paid in the process. Woot Woot. :D

What is rap?

I don't know, r.r.r. I think Lil' Mama's first single was a straightforward rap record. She didn't sing on it, and the beats were standard chant-along hip-hop. "Lip Gloss" made it to the top 20 on the Billboard Rap chart. And as to lyrical content, there's no denying that her lyrics are shallow and superficial, but rap, like rock, bluegrass and klezmer, began as a party music. Politics were not nearly as common in hip-hop's earliest sounds as exhortations to get the party started, or bragging about who had the most skills.

And I agree that M.I.A. sounds like hip-hop, but it took years for the hip-hop establishment to accept that fact, long after her songs were popping up in car commercials and celebrity playlists. It's only been in the last few months that people like Jay-Z have started to borrow hooks and beats from her.

Early Female Rapper

Ever heard of Tairrie B?
She used to associate with Ruthless Records etc, now in metal/rock n roll band My Ruin.
Very fucking awesome stuff.


sorry but to me her ass ain't never been "true hip hop"...all these artists out TODAY are ALL POP ARTISTS....thats Lil Wayne and the rest of them..yawl know i'm tellin da freakin truth...ain't nuthin talented bout none of them...they all rhyme in circles...they Pop "Rappers"!
Those of True Hip Hop are TRUE LYRACISTS..elaborating on real sheeit...real issues along with havin fun..when is the world going to come out of its confusion...Bahamadia is TRUTH, Common and Talib Kwele is truth....MC Lyte is truth...KRS-One is truth...people need to get they dayum ears outta they rears and LISTEN...cuz her bring what she bringin is straight GARB...people think just cuz a beat is "tight" then the song and artist is "hip hop"....pffftt plz.

We need to bring the REALNESS back home and get rid of those pollutin our breathing supply.

It's funny how these supposed "Rappers" suppose to let the SPIT kill the show, yet the BEAT is what kills it 10 times in a row!





Well Nicki Minaj Is The Next

Well Nicki Minaj Is The Next Best Thing In The Hip Hop Game Rite Now Real Tlk,, She Bout To Blow All Dem Away; Lil Mama , Trina, Lil Kim, And Any Other Female Rapper
Come On Now She Is Sign
With Lil Waynes Yung Money And Two Other Record Labels
If Yu Dnt She Wat Im TLkin Bout Take A Luk At Wat Weezy Is Doin , And If She Is On His Label Than Wat Can She Do????????

Yu Just Wait!!
Yu Will See

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