Indie Girls: Female Rappers Shine and Thrive On Their Own

“Who you callin’ a bitch,” once asked female rapper Queen Latifah, on her 1994 hit single, “U.N.I.T.Y.” The question embodied Latifah’s dissatisfaction with hip-hop’s mistreatment of female rappers. Treading their way through misogyny and hetero-normative mentalities, most female rappers have had to rely on a male counterpart, in order to receive support and mainstream success.

18 years later, and such a problem still remains. Independent female rappers are still somewhat unprecedented. Nicki Minaj follows the orders of Lil Wayne; and Iggy Azalea, T.I. Female rappers still rely on co-signs from male rappers, in order to attain success. But that may no longer be necessary–just ask Azealia Banks.

The argumentative Harlem rapper has achieved moderate success, without a male co-sign. And although Banks has recently gained the attention of hip-hop icon Kanye West, she is adamant about dismantling hip-hop’s patriarchy. “You rap game rap ni**as, you stupid like, close-minded not-ready-to-progress-with-culture people can stay where you are, because I don’t do this for y’all,” stated Banks in a recent interview withNME. Earlier this year the rapper even took to her Twitter to address how she wanted either a female or gay manager, having become disillusioned with male managers. And how could we forget Banks’ beef with Jim Jones, a Twitter-born battle of words, that resulted in Banks making a diss track about the fellow Harlem native? 

Banks may be the foreshadowing of many independent female rappers to come, but she is not the only one. Up-and-comer Angel Haze is also contributing to this progression. “I don’t want a male behind me every step of the way,” said Haze in an interview with HipHopDX, earlier this month. “I want to stand alone. It was important to me that I have that–no co-signs.” And the lack of co-signs from male rappers, has obviously not affected her at all. The artist recently signed with record label Universal, due to her impressive EP, Reservation.

Nowadays, it seems more feasible to be a moderately successful female rapper, without a male rapper leading every step of the way. Sure, the argument could be made that male artists are only there to help. Lil Wayne pulling Minaj from Hot 97’s Summer Jam concert, after radio host Peter Rosenberg called “Starships” “bullshit;” and T.I. coming to Azalea’s aid during her beef with Banks, are prominent examples.

But is it really helpful? By adhering to the orders of their male bosses, Minaj and Azalea are only contributing to hip-hop’s patriarchy. Imagine if Minaj had called the shots, and performed regardless of Rosenberg’s remarks? The self-proclaimed “boss bitch” would have truly represented what she claims to be.

Ultimately, female rappers’ allegiance to their male leaders, hinders them from ever truly being accepted, or considered equal. This is why artists like Banks and Haze (but especially Banks) are a breath of fresh air. Banks’ outspoken and fearless attitude, along with her independence, contribute to that. Granted, a filter would be nice (Banks can sometimes be too abrasive in her candidness), but Banks’ fearlessness in the face of men and women alike, is refreshing.

Independent female rappers are proof of co-signs’ dwindling importance. If the independent female rapper may become a movement, is still unforeseeable right now. But, as of right now, such small steps may result in big changes, in the years to come.