When one thinks of women in hip-hop, chances are the sight is grim. In the bowels of crunk and radio rap, women are filed with money, cars, drugs, and power as one more calling card of a man’s success. In more fortunate circumstances, lady MCs find themselves on equal footing with their male counterparts, but their entrance often requires a male benefactor. Jay-Z begot Foxy Brown. Biggie begot Lil’ Kim. Lil’ Wayne begot Nicki Minaj. All of them are respected, at least in part, for being good at a man’s game, which is often comprised of being ego-, wealth-, and sex-obsessed.
Enter the Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media Symposium and Concert, to be held on the UTSA main campus March 4-5. The event investigates how both Latin and African-American women in hip-hop-oriented media become objects of fetish, exploitation, celebration, empowerment, and subjugation. Day one begins at 8:30 a.m. in room UC 1.106 at UTSA. It features a wealth of panels by speakers from around the nation presenting talks with titles like “When Barbie Speaks: A Feminist Rhetorical Analysis of the Music of Nicki Minaj.” Day two begins at 6:30 p.m. in room UC 2.212 with a few remaining panels and a showcase of female MCs Psalm One, Krudas Cubensi, and Kiawitl. Psalm One is signed to the Rhymesayers label, home to MF Doom and Atmosphere.
Event co-organizer Marco Antonio Cervantes described hip-hop as “especially difficult territory for women to navigate,” while also admitting that “it’s happening.” Cervantes listens to a wide range of lady rappers, including Jean Grae, Rah Digga, and Chile’s Ana Tijoux. On the amount of female MCs in hip-hop’s mainstream, he maintained, “They’re out there.”
“We chose to focus on black and brown women for this symposium … because `they` have historically existed on the margins, not only in society as a whole, but within the waves of feminists movements,” Cervantes said. “I think themes of money, power, and misogyny are highly popular in hip-hop because they speak to certain reality … you have to be male and have money, power, and women at your disposal.”
Even so, Cervantes, along with the event’s variety of speakers, thinks that hip-hop can change its consciousness through the types of dialogue created by the symposium.
“One step toward this consciousness is giving women in hip-hop a mic,” he said.
UTSA’s Black and Brown Feminisms in Hip Hop Media Symposium and Concert will take place at UTSA’s main campus, 1604 University Center; 8:30am-5:30pm Fri, March 4, Ballroom 1, UC 1.106; 6:30pm-8:30pm Sat, March 5, Harris Room UC 2.212; Concert 9pm-midnight Sat, March 5, UC Ballroom.