First of all, congratulations to all the Tar Heels fans out there. They devastated both my hopes for a Pacific Northwest winner – first with the Oregon Ducks and then with that brutally tight final against Gonzaga.
BUT… that is not what we are here to talk about. We have a competition at hand, and it’s getting extra messy. The polls below will decide on the final 4 Femcees – that is, one rapper to represent each era/region. And although not all the polls have gone my way so far, I feel surprisingly satisfied with the women who remain in the competition. Starting with the northeast bracket of NYC veteran rappers, we’ll move clockwise around the brackets, voting for the rapper we wish to see in the final 4. A click on any of the quadrants will take you to see the complete updated brackets if you want to check that out. There is also a Spotify playlist will all 8 of the Elite rappers who’ve made it this far if you need some jams right now: https://play.spotify.com/user/dancevera/playlist/0eaRWwav1Z12MuamgIaufA
(1) Salt-N-Pepa vs. (3) MC Lyte
I have a lot to say about the journeys that brought us this particular match-up, but I’ll try to keep it short. It seems that the sexually charged, explicit verses of Lil Kim and Foxy Brown were beat by the slightly more nuanced and varied content of Salt-N-Pepa and MC Lyte. Or perhaps it was not their content, but their pioneering role: both of our winners in this quadrant are not merely veterans; they’re some of the first women to ever successfully sell rap records. The 90s may have been a golden era for hip hop, but there seems to be a different level of respect for those who began their career in the 80s. OR, perhaps it means nothing – maybe you just like these rappers better, for their flow, their creativity, their energy, or whatever the case may be. And that’s okay. Ultimately, every rapper in this category helped pave the way for anyone picking up a microphone today. Instead of just embedding videos this round, I’ve added a few of my favourite lines from each artist, and linked to the songs each quote belongs to. Enjoy!
“I’ll take your man, that’s right but just for spite / because you tried to dis me when I was on the mic / but I really don’t want him, the guy ain’t fly, shoot / He can’t afford to buy a Fila suit.” – I’ll Take Your Man
“Don’t decoy, avoid, or make void the topic / Cause that ain’t gonna stop it.” – Let’s Talk About Sex
“You’re packed and you’re stacked / ‘specially in the back / Brother, wanna thank your mother for a butt like that.” – Shoop
“I’ve got the power to spread out and devour / At the same time I’ll eat you up with a rhyme.” – Cha Cha Cha
“Get it if you can, if you cannot / get up off the pot / you been missing, pissing up the spot a lot.” – Check
“We can go for the hands, better yet for the words / Cause you’ll be ignored, and at the same time I’ll be heard.” – 10% Dis
(1) Ms. Lauryn Hill vs. (2) Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes
Although the the last two matches in this quadrant should have been tough, both Lauryn and Left-Eye arrived in this spot virtually unscathed, too easily taking down the legends that are Queen Latifah and Eve, respectively. Here is the truth: Lauryn Hill has given the world one of the best and most beautiful gifts – one of the greatest albums of all time. Though she has more recently come under some criticism for her views or her money management or whatever else, she is respectfully making her way in the world doing the thing she does best – performing music. Left Eye is the underdog here, but not by much. Her flow and wordplay have been underestimated for too long, and while her early death has taken her ability to create new things in this world, what she has left behind is more than we ever deserved in the first place.
“Watch out what you cling to, observe how a queen do / And I remain calm reading the 73rd Psalm / Cause with all that’s going on I got the world in my palm.” – Final Hour
“So while you’re imitating Al Capone / I’ll be Nina Simone, and defecating on your microphone.” – Ready or Not
“And even after all my logic and my theory, I add a ‘motherfucker’ so you ignant n**** hear me.” – Zealots
“My only chance of being free is to fly within me / and it’s illegal to kill a fuckin’ eagle – A bird is never more important than my people” – Freedom
“Lay another finger on this big bad one miss lady rap singer /
I be the one to blame as the flames keep risin’ / To the top and it don’t stop” – Not Tonight (Ladies’ Night)
“And like his promise is true / only my faith can undo the many chances I blew to bring my life to anew / Clear blue and unconditional / skies have dried the tears from my eyes / no more lonely cries.” – Waterfalls
(8) Noname vs. (2) Rapsody
In the past two rounds, Noname (who’s arguably the newest rapper on this list) has had relatively little trouble surpassing Femcees with more of a portfolio than her own. But oh, what you can do with one really solid debut album and a handful of features with Chicago colleagues! She is truly remarkable, and manages to bridge spoken word with rap in a way that sounds like no one else. But if these brackets go similarly to the NCAA’s March Madness, Rapsody is a surefire winner, representing North Carolina just as the 2017 Championship team did. Her road to get here has been smooth so far, not losing a single vote to her Sweet 16 rival, Sammus. She takes a purist stance with hip hop, rarely rhyming about money or material things, rather interested in honesty and the art itself. Then again, Noname spends her time thinking through the life and death of her loved ones, asking big philosophical questions as she wrestles with her own decisions. Likely philosophy or content won’t be the deciding factor here, but flow, style and taste.
“With fine wine and ecstasy, you can have the rest of me / basket case silhouette, cigarette, internet / Check my twitter page for something Holier than black death.” – Yesterday
“Sing with me, sing with me paranoia light blue / Piano was a deep red, your fingers were a green hue / I should make a rainbow out of sacrificial love in the club.” – Sunny Duet
“I let the light in beside him, I stand like angel / Sparring is training for an apathetic halo / Apologetic, non religious, consequential fable / Like good is good, the love in me is goodly or godly.” – Israel (Sparring)
“Let me talk my Stu Scott, ‘scuse me on my 2Pac / keep your head up, when did you stop loving thy / color of your skin, color of your eyes / That’s the real blues, baby, like you met Jay’s baby” – Complexion (A Zulu Love)
“Got a goal to be happy, but got 99 totes / You gon’ hurt your back carrying them bags like that, that’s a quote” – #Goals
“Came from underground to get a mill or Two / everyday I’ve wrote, it seemed to wanna rain a few / I guess I’ll reign for you, Philly to NY / Just to wet you up I’m tear ducts to a dry eye.” – Lonely Thoughts
(1) Nicki Minaj vs. (3) Remy Ma
Yeah well, obviously I had to save this one for last. But to think that it nearly didn’t even happen. In the last round, Nicki Minaj had a rough battle with M.I.A. that was back and forth the entire week, finally taking this spot with just 53% of the votes. Although Remy Ma was never below Sa-Roc, her competitor was steadily approaching from behind, and with a handful of votes, could have stripped her of this opportunity. A lot has been in the media about Nicki and Remy and their very public beef, so it is worth making clear that these polls are about the music and the rhymes. In fact dis tracks (at their best) always are, no matter how much personal vitriol gets thrown around. As much as I would love to hear a collaboration between these two artists, some shady-ass disses are the second best thing when they’re between two rappers who are particularly known for their attitude and punchlines. Let’s get on with it.
“I beg your pardon, meet me at the Garden / Number one draft, I’m New York’s pick / And I don’t lose like them dudes on the New York Knicks” – Click Clack
“Pull up in the monster / Automobile gangster / With a bad bitch that came from Sri Lanka / Yeah I’m in that Tonka, colour of Willy Wonka / You could be the king but watch the queen conquer.” – Monster
I took two bars off just to laugh / You see, silly rabbit, to be the queen of rap / You gotta sell records, you gotta get plaques / S, plural like the S on my chest / Now sit your dumbass down / You got an F on your test.” – Make Love
“I keep my gat, my strap, my gun, my heat/I love my raps, my Pap, my son, my weed/Y’all hoes below, behind, under, beneath/Not near, not none, not one could fuck with me” – Spaghetti
“Gettin’ close like Nick Jonas, grippin’ the gauge / Then blaze off, Face Off, bitch, Nicolas Cage / You animated like Nickelodeon, you fake, bitch / Only the kids believe in you; you St. Nick –ShETHER
“And to be the Queen of Rap, you gotta actually rap / the whole industry know that your shit is a wrap / No, to be the Queen of Rap, you can’t have a ghostwriter / and that’s why this is my house – Flo Rida” – ShETHER (Yes I did quote ShETHER twice.)
I don’t know about you, but I found that as exhausting as it was exciting. Polls will be open for the rest of the week before we see a truly epic final four showdown. Don’t forget to share the madness!