Femcee Madness: The Veterans Continued…
Hopefully you’ve already had the chance to vote for the first batch of femcees from the NE quadrant of the brackets, but if not, those polls will remain open until the end of the week. Check them out here. As a quick reminder, here is the link to a PDF of the complete brackets – we’ll be voting today on the femcees of the SE bracket.
And now for the next batch of polls. Like the last post, the following femcees are classic veterans in the game, having begun their career before the year 2000. They represent nine other U.S. states as well as one from London, England. Let’s get to know them a little bit.
(1) Lauryn Hill vs. (16) The Sequence
Lauryn Hill started out as a singer in the rap group Tranzlator Crew (which eventually morphed into the legendary Fugees with Wyclef Jean and Pras Michel), but quickly decided that she wanted to rap as well. After meeting rave success with the Fugees’ two full length LPs, in 1998 Hill released her first solo album, The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, which is widely acclaimed as one of the best albums of the decade, and the first album from a female rapper to find a spot on the Billboard 200. The Sequence was one of the first all-female hip hop groups, and the first ever recorded female rappers. They began as cheerleading friends who translated their hype to the new and upcoming genre of rap in the late 70s and early 80s. Although they don’t have as much material as others, they serve as a reminder of women who paved the way for virtually everyone else in these brackets.
(9) Shawnna vs. (8) Monie Love
Before going solo and recording a couple of albums in the mid 2000s, Shawnna broke into the hip hop world with her duo Infamous Syndicate. She is known for her rapid fire style and explicit sexual content and imagery. Monie Love initially rose to fame in the late 80s as Queen Latifah’s protege, but quickly made a name for herself with the Native Tongues collective as one of the first popular British rappers. She has a light, bouncy flow that allows her to tell stories with humour and pointedness.
(5) Missy Elliott vs. (12) J.J. Fad
Missy Elliott is a legend for both her flow and her visuals, arguably having as much influence on the art of the music video as Michael Jackson himself. In the late 90s she rose to fame alongside her childhood friend/collaborator Timbaland, contributing to a new Southern hip hop sound that would shape the second half of the decade. JJ Fad, originally an all-female group of five, rose to fame with their hit “Supersonic” as the trio pictured above. Although they disbanded in the early 90s, they are often credited with paving the way not only for female hip hop groups, but also for the classic Compton group NWA.
(13) MC Trouble vs. (4) Queen Latifah
Who knows what MC Trouble could have done if she lived to see her 21st birthday and the release of her second album, which was in production when she died of a seizure in her sleep. Her rhymes are heavy and low and often combined with the upbeat R&B flavour of New Jack Swing. Queen Latifah is of course now internationally known as not only a rapper, but an actress and singer as well. Even if we strip away her years of success in television and film, Latifah is without question one of the most important pioneers of the genre, with many of her verses focusing on important topics such as equality, racism and domestic violence.
(3) Eve vs. (14) BO$$
Even before reaching legendary status as the First Lady of Ruff Ryders, EVE was working with other Philly-based hip hoppers like The Roots, and was even featured on a Prince track. Although she took a 10-year break from putting out LPs, she remained prolific, featuring on pop and R&B tracks every year. Many of us feel conflicted about the harsh and talented gangsta rapper BO$$, who was labeled a fraud only a couple years into her career. While focusing many of her verses around growing up in the projects of Detroit, it was discovered that she in fact grew up middle class, even attending a prep school. Due to the value of authenticity in hip hop, this was not going to fly. Still, it’s impossible to deny that her style and ability were good enough to fool the industry for a couple of years.
(11) Mia X vs. (6) Da Brat
Whether singing or rapping, Mia X’s vocals are smooth, and provide a contrasting sound to her No Limit collaborators, whether it be Master P or the Gangsta Twinz. She is Southern through and through, representing New Orleans. Chicagoan Da Brat began her career after winning a local rap contest and meeting her longtime production collaborator, Jermaine Dupri. Although her debut album, Funkdafied, was critically and commercially successful, Da Brat became especially known for her featured verses, allowing herself to take a softer, more pop-friendly tone than she does on her albums.
(7) Gangsta Boo vs. (10) Yo Yo
Gangsta Boo was known as the only female member of Memphis-based rap group, Three 6 Mafia. Even after leaving the group in 2001, she has held her own as a solo artist, more recently focusing on mixtapes and feature verses, but continuing to do her thing. Yo Yo busted on to the scene as Ice Cube’s protege on Amerikkka’s Most Wanted in 1990, and built a reputation for calling out sexism in hip hop. She continued to produce regular solid albums throughout the decade, making herself a staple feminist rapper.
(15) Nikki D vs. (2) Left Eye/Lisa Lopes
These might be the two most underrated femcees in the tournament. After signing with Def Jam in 1989, Nikki D never managed to break out of the one-hit-wonder trope that was her biggest single to date, “Daddy’s Little Girl” (which is embedded below). Her aggressive feminism was unfortunately more than her label knew what to do with. Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes is a hip hop legend for her work in the 90s with TLC, and we were stripped of her potential deeper solo catalogue when she died in a car crash at the young age of 31. Her playful and clear articulation combined with her mastery of the beat makes her flow stand out next to any colleague – male or female.
You’ll have to wait until the weekend for the Freshmen polls to open, but in the meantime, vote and share the veterans of Femcee Madness!