With a solid 83% of the votes over her fresh competitor, Noname, Lauryn Hill is your Femcee Champion! Congratulations to Ms. Hill, to all her committed voters, and those who called her as the winner from the beginning! I think even Noname would be supportive of this decision, considering how she idolizes and emulates her competitor.
We happen to agree whole-heartedly here at OnRecords. In case you’d like to dive deep into the archives, I did happen to write about a couple of Lauryn albums a few years ago. The links are below, but fair warning: the formatting is weird – especially on the post about The Score.
Thanks again to everyone who listened to playlists, watched videos, had conversations about women in rap, and voted in the polls. Look out for March 2018 for a whole new set of brackets. In the meantime, I’ll try to write about great albums a little more regularly.
(8) Noname vs. (1) Ms. Lauryn Hill
This took a while, but we have finally arrived that the championship match between a classic and fresh femcee. Representing the veterans’ side of the brackets, Lauryn Hill was not only the #1 seed, she has consistently been the top choice for winning this tournament. She goes up against Noname, who is not only one of the freshest Femcees in the brackets (she’s a strong contender for XXL’s Freshmen Class this year), she happens to be a massive L Boogie fan. It could even be argued that The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill is an intentional theme of Noname’s debut LP, Telefone. So I’m not going to try and hide the fact that I think Hill will (and should) win this. The truth is that I also think Nicki should have won the semi-final match, but when I logged in to close the polls I was surprised to see it was tied. After leaving the polls open for an extra 12 hours and shouting out to the Twitterverse, Fatimah Warner aka Noname won by a solid couple of votes.
However, I am pretty stoked that the Noname fans have shown up for this competition in such a big way. She is easily one of my favourite recording artists at the moment, and if she keeps up with her streak, I could see myself saying her name in relation to a G.O.A.T. conversation. I’m just not quite there yet. But clearly I am in the minority here, so who knows what could happen in this final poll! Ms. Hill may be the favourite to win, but she has also endured a lot of criticism over the last decade, and this is a tournament of surprises.
Hopefully by now you are fairly acquainted with the two finalists singles, so for the embedded videos this round, I’ve picked slightly extended performances. Bask in the glory that is fantastic female-led hip hop, folks. Because ultimately what matters is not the winner, or the final four, or even your votes, but the celebration of hip hop, and women who use a genre to tell their own stories.
Thank you all so much for participating and humouring my project. Time to vote for your winner of Femcee Madness – have fun!
The Final Four is finally here! Thanks to all of you, 67 femcees have been voted down round by round to 4 remaining artists, each representing one quadrant of brackets. Let’s take a closer look at these four women and their journeys here before we vote.
What. A. Trip.
(1) NICKI MINAJ
Obviously a boss in the rap game, Nicki has been one of the most consistent mainstream rappers over the past decade. Although her clap backs to Remy Ma’s epic dis-track, ShETHER were a little underwhelming, enough of you refused to dethrone her in the final round of Femcee Madness. Actually, the closest call Nicki had was in the Sweet 16 match against Sri Lankan-Brit, M.I.A. Now she’s going up against a young favourite, but at least she has a deep resumé to work with. Here are just a few:
This is the one rapper in the final four that I could never have predicted. Don’t get me wrong, Noname is absolutely one of my favourite rappers right now, but her catalogue is still fairly limited. That’s what makes it particularly impressive that she was able to knock out other current favourites, and now actually stands a chance against the self-proclaimed queen, Nicki Minaj. After consistently winning against other freshmen, I was genuinely shocked when she received more votes than my personal pick for the final four – Rapsody. Whatever you think of this Chicago poet/rapper, she is not to be underestimated.
(3) MC Lyte
MC Lyte’s most recent album is aptly titled, Legend, and it’s absolutely true. Like no other femcee in this final four, Lyte has navigated 3 whole decades of hip hop, and continued to create fresh, relevant music in every era, reinventing herself over and over again. She just barely made it to this point, scraping out a tight win over the last group left in the competition, Salt-N-Pepa. Now she’s looking to represent the veteran side of the brackets, just as she so regularly represents the very fabric of hip hop’s history.
(1) Ms. Lauryn Hill
I don’t think I know of anyone who did not include this amazing artist in their final 4 predictions. The truth is that the size of her discography does not come close to MC Lyte or even Nicki Minaj. She has two truly iconic albums (The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill and The Fugees’ The Score), and a handful of guest verses, and although she clearly is still talented and touring, it’s questionable whether she’ll ever give us another really great record. Then again, what she has produced is already enough to make her a contender, not only here, but in nearly any rap blog’s list of possible G.O.A.T.’s. Her flow is flawless and incomparable, and roughly every rapper since has been inspired by her work.
The time has arrived. Here are your two polls:
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!
Eight veterans are left and it’s up to you to decide which four will move on to the next round. As with the NYC vets, the videos embedded below will be of live performances. I have done my best to post the best videos I can find that showcase their skills as rappers and performers, but never feel limited to basing your vote on these vids. If you are looking for more selections from each femcee, I have made Spotify playlists for each quadrant here: https://play.spotify.com/user/dancevera.
(1) Lauryn Hill vs. (4) Queen Latifah
While Ms. Lauryn Hill has been steadily approaching this moment with ease, Queen Latifah was very nearly beaten last round by an epic battle against the legendary Missy Elliott. Although it’s sad to see Missy go, I think this is the right match for the moment. Not only do both queens hail from the state of New Jersey, they also have low, sultry voices which effortlessly mix melodic vocals with quick, articulate rhymes. Not only do their similarities make this a tough call, but both of these women make it into regular conversations about who is the G.O.A.T. regardless of gender. Unfortunately, only one can move forward in this competition.
(3) Eve vs. (2) Left Eye
Without meaning to, these match’s have become extra-regional, with both of these women representing Philadelphia. Eve’s journey to this point got somewhat messy against Da Brat in the second round, where she narrowly came through with 58% of the vote. Meanwhile, this is the first time that Left Eye is seeing any real competition, having lost a total of two votes to Yo Yo. These are two highly talented and underrated stars who manage to strike a balance between discussions around sexuality and social issues. I’ll admit that my personal nostalgic love for both of these women make this an extra tricky choice.
You can skip to 2:55 for Left Eye’s verse:
If you haven’t already voted for the NYC Veterans – head over there next!