Monday, May 2, 2016

Culture Corner 5.2.16

Stan Culture Has Ruined My Life and Hip-Hop

Okay, so maybe the title of this post is a little dramatic, but you'll understand why I say this in a moment. First off, let me tell you what a "stan" is. stan is an avid fan and supporter of a celebrity, often to the point of obsession. This term came from Eminem's 2000 song "Stan", a song about an obsessive fan of the rapper, but it's also a convenient portmanteau of the words "stalker" and "fan". 

Technically, stans have existed for as long as celebrities have, but within the past ten years things have been getting crazy. Because of the internet, stans have much more visibility, power, and acknowledgement from the celebrities they love. Instead of being lumped in with the rest of the fans, stans have monikers like "Little Monsters" (Lady Gaga), "The Beyhive" (Beyoncé), and "Beliebers" (Justin Beiber). 

Now I don't have a problem with the existence of Stans. What I have a problem with is the culture of stans, specifically in regards to music. Stans tend to attack other artists, the fans of other artists, and anyone who their favorite celebrity has possibly wronged, just for the sake of being a stan. This can lead to a toxic hive mentality that stifles creativity and supports a sort of monopoly on popularity, and, unsurprisingly, it hits female artists the hardest.

The stans of female musicians are pitted against each other, making an already competitive music industry even harder for emerging artists. Women in this industry get compared to established singers and rappers with strong fan bases, and often get torn down by stans.

I blame Eminem and the patriarchy.

But in all seriousness, this is a serious problem, in my opinion. I grew up with a wide array of female musicians on the airwaves. In the 90s and early 2000s, one could choose from Brandy to Britney, from TLC to 3LW to Dream and the list goes on. These days, the women exist, but barely in the same spaces or at the same elevation. Women artists don't collaborate with each other as much - there's too much distance, and so much of it is obviously related to the rise of stan culture.

And this is why stan culture has ruined my life. I am salty as hell, and blame stan culture for stripping away the prevalence of my favorite kind of artist: The Female Rapper

Look at this list:

Lil Kim
Left Eye
Missy Elliott
Foxy Brown
Queen Latifah
Charli Baltimore
MC Lyte
Lauryn Hill
Remy Ma
The Lady of Rage
Da Brat

This is, off the top of my head, a list of female rappers that were acclaimed in the 90s and early to mid 2000s. These rappers would, by and large, collaborate with each other and even show up in each other's music videos whether they were on the track or not. Sure some of them didn't like each other, had beef, but at least that disdain for each other produced music via diss tracks.

The era I'm talking about was a golden age for women rappers. A woman rapper could be cool like Missy Elliott or Left Eye, sexy like Lil Kim or Foxy Brown, hard like Da Brat, political and afro-centric like Lauryn Hill or Queen Latifah. She could be one or even all, depending on how she was feeling that album or song. There was more diversity back then, not only in musical aesthetic but also in appearance, down to skin color, facial features and body size.

Not to sound old and crotchety, but where the hell did that go?

I'm genuinely concerned for young women, because there is a lack of representation in hip-hop, arguably the most popular genre of music in the world. This is not to say female rappers don't exist anymore - they do - it's just harder for them to get acclaim and hold on to it, as they are often pitted against or compared to the big female rapper of the day: Nicki Minaj.

And I don't hate her for it - Nicki Minaj showed up around 2008 - the perfect time for huge success. Remy Ma was in jail, Lil Mama only had like one hit, Eve was losing steam, Missy Elliott was battling Graves Disease, Lil Kim had been quiet for a while - the list goes on. Nicki Minaj blew up and soon she was the Queen.

Now here's another list:

Angel Haze
Jean Grae
Nyemah Supreme
Azealia Banks
Iggy Azalea
Dej Loaf
Nicki Minaj
Brianna Perry

This is a short, incomplete list of contemporary female rappers. Only about two of them get consistent radio play. The rest are not as mainstream, which I would be fine with if 
1. Only about two male rappers had consistent air time, and 
2. If I didn't grow up with tons of exposure to female rappers in the mainstream.

At this point I'm just tired, okay? I want more diversity and inclusion in everything, especially in hip-hop, because hip-hop was born from oppressed peoples to give voice to the voiceless. I don't know about these young whippersnappers, but I was raised with women having a voice in hip-hop. I was raised with women having voices - from raunchy to political to comedic and everything in between.

So how do we get it back?
I don't know, truly.
But I do want to start a petition for another one of these:

There were 5 whole female rappers on Ladies Night, and even more in the video. Angie Martinez wasn't even an established rapper at the time this was recorded, and she got the first verse!
There needs to be more of this. Please. Even Iggy is invited if she raps in Australian, I don't care if she don't even write her bars. I need more female rappers in the game. Give 'em a chance.

- Renee

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