Women in 1980's Rap

By Tristan C, Neema G, Ja’Siya C 

Women in Early Rap Culture

ability of uniting people of all races, ages and genders. rap was not a trend, it was a part of a movement and as it evolved it became recognized as a culture. The culture began to creep its way into politics and has had a major impact on the fashion world. female rappers were beginning to make up a formidable piece of the genre’s biology, unapologetically detailing their interpretations and experiences of the world they lived in. They all had distinct variations in style, flow, and lyrical content, but what each woman had in common was a fiercely independent voice and the power to remain resoundingly herself.

it was mostly all about the baggy apparel in mainstream women’s fashion, making it “cool” for girls to wear oversized tees with baggy jeans, jackets and a snapback. rocking a custom made a Louis Vuitton suit. Roxanne Shante had a similar style wearing a lot of darker primary colored varsity jackets and loose baggy jeans and sweaters. 80’s fashion became in touch with accessorizing – think big sunglasses, big jewelry, and sneakers with fat laces. Go big or go home. major ambassadors of the hip-hop fashion trend were mostly sneaker producers like Adidas, Air Jordan, Nike, Fila, Reebok, and Puma. Eric B and Rikam who topped their hip-hop style with ostentatious jewelry; gold rings, watches and neck chains.  stuck with the baggy. They wore baggy jeans with baggy pockets, big belts and jackets over big t-shirts of different colors. There was also the denim on denim style where denim jackets were worn over colorful shirts and denim pants. 


MC Lyte

The first solo rapper to release her own, full-length album, MC Lyte’s Lyte As A Rock dropped in 1988. Lyte’s flow, lyrical precision, and refusal to self-censor gained her industry attention quickly. She has described the scene in its early days as competitive and skill-based, but not without a gender bias. “There may have been times when promoters didn’t want to pay me what I deserved. In a line-up, they didn’t want to put me where my songs warranted me going. But none of it affected me to a degree to where it mattered. There may have been setbacks but I never let them get to me.”

In 1993, “Ruffneck” was nominated for a Grammy for Best Rap Single, making MC Lyte the first female rapper nominated for a Grammy. In recent years, Lyte herself has called for the Female Rap Solo category to be reinstated, saying “it destroys [hip-hop] culture to not have the perspective of a woman.

Paper Thin – 1988



  • Gender and Sexuality
  • Love
  • Philosophy

Salt N Pepa

When Cheryl James and Sandra Denton joined forces in 1985, much of the record industry still believed hip-hop was a fad. Calling themselves Salt-N-Pepa, the two put out “The Showstopper,” a response to Doug E Fresh’s hit “The Show.” Clad in short shorts and tight midriff-baring shirts, this duo ruled the sex-positive revolution of the 90s. With songs such as “Push It,” “Do You Really Want Me,” “Let’s Talk About Sex,” and “Shoop,” Salt-N-Pepa were frank and outspoken about their desires and their sexuality, while simultaneously demanding respect, preaching feminist values and speaking out against assault and discrimination.

 Over the course of five albums released between 1986 and 1997, Salt-N-Pepa were funky pioneers popping the bubbles of rap machismo, taking aim at tramps, cheaters, gutter-minds, slut-shamers and smooth-talkers. After becoming the first female rappers to be certified Platinum, partially thanks to the success of 1986’s smash “Push It,” they were included in the very first crop of nominees for the Rap Performance Grammy. “I’ll Take Your Man” helped shape the sound of New Orleans rap and 1988’s “Shake Your Thang” became an important bridge between hip-hop and D.C.’s percussive gogo scene.

New York was popular for hip hop during this time.

Push It – 1986

Roxanne Shante

Roxanne Shanté began rapping at the age of 9, displaying an almost inherent knack for rhyme schemes and flow patterns. This talent earned her acceptance into the widely popular Juice Crew, which included Big Daddy Kane, Biz Markie, and Kool G Rap. The crew was tough-talking and wouldn’t take slander from anyone, and over the course of the group’s existence, the crew produced many answer records in response to disses and engaged in numerous beefs. They were also a major player in the rise of the posse cut, when each member would handle a verse on an extended song. Shanté was also a frequent collaborator of Marley Marl. Though she practically retired at the age of 25, her monumental impact on the rap game is still felt to this day.

Mc ShaRock

Every artist on this list has a rightful claim as a pioneer, but no one had the impact Sha-Rock had. She was quite literally the first female rapper recorded on vinyl, and she was rapping during a time when female MCs just weren’t accepted in any meaningful way. Within the hip-hop community, she has rightfully come to be celebrated as the “Mother of the Mic.” As a member of the first hip-hop crew to appear on television, known as the Funky 4 + 1, her style of delivering raps on early mixtapes influenced notable superstars like MC Lyte and DMC (born Darryl McDaniels) of Run-DMC. McDaniels cited Green as a significant influence on the style of rapping associated with the pioneering group.

That’s the Joint – 1980


Argument/Purpose of focusing on women in the 1980s:

During the 80s era hip hop evolved and women were a major part of this. The female artists mentioned ⸺mentioned but not limited to ⸺had a crucial impact on the progression of rap music and the acceptance of an individual’s sexuality. This created a platform for women’s empowerment by showcasing femininity expressed in both a hypersexual and hyperfeminine way. This feeling of empowerment from women in the late 80s later inspired women to collaborate by bringing their own musical influence and supporting many other female artists. They have challenged preconceived notions of the ideals for women in hip-hop, creating a space for women to thrive and prosper by not allowing themselves to conform to traditional feminist ideas and remaining true to gender fluidity. 


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