Females in the hip-hop culture have always held space in the genre for their skill, their trendsetting authentic style and some of the best music to reach fans and listeners everywhere. No matter what records or history that we make over the years, the way that Black women are presented and represented on the music scene [and the props that some may feel that we should not be getting], has become grounds for debate from everyone but us. That is until now, with the presence of social media and the changes that have taken place in the music industry as a whole. We as Black women are all beautifully different in the way that we show up in the world. I call us a special genre of our own. We as women know who we are defining ourselves for ourselves. We know this and yes, we absolutely can. Starting with the music, HerBrownProductions honors a few of the most legendary and influential female hip-hop artists. Whether it be their legacy, lyricism, style or records that make them similar or unique, the women will be honored for their inspiration from each era of hip-hop.
(May 29th, 1935 - September 29th, 2023)
Sylvia, was Born as Sylvia Vanderpool in Harlem, New York. As a teen her musical journey took off when she began to record music for Columbia Records in 1950. At this time she was working under the stage name "little Sylvia". By 1956 she was a member of a R&B duo by the name of "Mickey & Sylvia" which found major success. Sylvia found huge and sweet success of her own in 1972 as a solo artist.
Her breakout single "Pillow Talk"
helped to solidify her new solo stardom. Sylvia went on to soar up the charts and receive many awards. She was awarded a gold disc by the R.I.A.A in 1973. Sylvia was nominated for a Grammy Award for Best Female R&B Vocal Performance. She was also a known songwriter as well as producer. The history about this female pioneer is vital and historic to females kicking down the door in this male dominated industry. She was truly the first who made her presence seen and known with the positions of power that she held.
In 1979 Sylvia Robinson and her then husband the late Joseph Robinson Sr. founded Sugar Hill Records. The company's name was inspired by the culturally rich Sugar Hill area of Harlem. The Sugar hill area was an affluent African-American neighborhood in Manhattan, New York City. Two of these hip-hop groups that encouraged females in the genre were the "Funky 4 + 1 " and "The Sequence" . ((resource Wikipedia, google.))
Sha-Rock was born Sharon Green in Wilmington, North Carolina on October 25th, 1962.
She grew up in the South Bronx in the early beginnings of hip-hop. Sha-Rock was a female break-dancer in the 1970s. She is most known for her accomplishment in 1977 when Green became the only female member of the early hip-hop group Funky 4+1. The group was signed to Sugarhill Records and was the first "rap" act to be presented on Saturday Night Live by singer Debbie Harry.
A clip of Sha-Rock from YouTube link below 👇🏽
Sha-Rock has her own annual day celebrating her and the history of hiphop that takes place in the Bronx, NY.
(resource https://wams.nyhistory.org/end-of-the-twentieth-century/a-conservative-turn/mc-sha-rock-hip-hop-pioneer/) (Wikipedia, google.)
The Sequence was an all female hip-hop group formed in 1979. The group consisted of Gwendolyn Chisolm, known as "Blondy", Cheryl Cooks known as "Cheryl the Pearl", and singer and rapper Angie Stone known as "Angie B".
The Sequence was known as the first female hip-hop trio that was signed to Sugarhill Records. It is also a fun fact to know that the ladies were high school friends. Their most notable single was (Funk You Up) in 79'. It was the second single released by the label.
Pictured above is The Sequence’s first album Sugarhill presents The Sequence (1980)
The sequence music video to Simon Says on YouTube
Their 2nd album The Sequence was released in 1982.
The 3rd album
The Sequence Party released in 1983
One sample that is well known from the track is Dr.Dre's single (Keep Their Head's Ringin) that uses elements from(funk you up). The sequence released 3 albums.
Link to video above ( YouTube)
(resources: Google, https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Sequence , https://www.rollingstone.com/music/music-features/the-sequence-the-funked-up-legacy-of-hip-hops-first-ladies-118369/amp/ , https://rockthebells.com/articles/the-story-of-the-sequence-funk-you-up/ )
The Mercedes Ladies were the first all-female MC & DJ Crew in the Bronx, New York around 1976 . The group consisted of Sheri Sher, DJ RD Smiley, Tracy T, Eve-a-Def, Zena-Z, DJ La Spank, and DJ Baby D. They were the sister group to Grandwizard Theodore and the L brothers. They performed along with big names as Red Alert, Dj Kool Herc, The Furious Five, & Grandmaster Flash.
There are a few video recordings, clips, photographs that celebrate and tell of the group’s history and beginnings. In 2008, one of the members of Mercedes Ladies published a book affectionately titled Mercedes Ladies.
(sources : https://rockthebells.com/articles/the-mercedes-ladies-hip-hops-first-all-female-crew/ , Google, Wikipedia, http://www.oldschoolhiphop.com/artists/emcees/mercedesladies.htm)
Roxanne Shante was born Lolita Shante Gooden in Queens, New York on March 8th, 1970. Shante has been rapping since she was a little girl battling ( AND WINNING) in the Queensbridge Projects of Queens.
She was a member of the Juice Crew. The Juice Crew was an American hip hop collective made up largely of Queensbridge, New York-based artists in the mid-to-late 1980s.
In 1984 Shante had to write a rebuttal song to U.F.T.O.'s song "Roxanne Roxanne." The song was basically about a crew of dudes talking about a girl named Roxanne that “they deemed” as stuck up and a snob because she's not taken with their advances. Marley marl remixed an instrumental version of the song and produced "Roxanne's Revenge".
Shante recorded Roxanne's Revenge and it became a major hit and success for the then 14 year old. This also began what became known as the Roxanne Wars.
Even though everyone wanted to go up against Roxanne Shante make no mistake, her skills weren't better than the guys, her skills were the best against anybody period. In a hip-hop documentary that I watched a while back I recall her telling a story of how she made it the final round in a very important rap battle for a very important title. And how one of the judges who was one of the greats at this time gave her a low score on purpose! Not because she didn't earn it, but because she is female.
She stated that they had great fear that the genre would lose its respect and not be taken serious with a woman holding that title at the time. My heart hurt for her in that moment because it is pathetic that these men seriously thought this way. How was she good enough in their eyes to compete with them in this sport but was never supposed to be good enough for that title? We call BS, however she has gone on to have much more meaningful and fulfilling success.
She was a young mother who gave birth to son whom she kept very well protected and took care of off and on the road. As a woman and as a literal pioneer in this industry she deserves her flowers for this and more. In the 2023 Netflix documentary : Ladies First she details how her baby boy used to be right near the stage when she performed on tour and that when the show was over she was tending to him immediately. Women often to this day in the industry still have to defend and fight for their motherhood. I give her extra honor because many female rappers say how it was especially hard back then because pregnancy wasn't openly accepted in the industry as it is starting to be now. We will talk about this concept more later.
Roxanne Shante released two studio albums.
In 2017 a film about her life titled Roxanne Roxanne was first shown.
Since 2018 she has held down her own Radio show titled Have a nice day w/Roxanne Shante on Ll Cool J's Rock the Bells Radio live from the SiriusXM studios in NYC.
(Google,wikipedia,Netflix Documentary Ladies First, Beef Hip hop documentary)
The Real Roxanne
The Real Roxanne was born Adelaida Martinez on July 24, 1963 in Brooklyn, New York. She was popular in the 1980s as a part of the Roxanne Wars.
She has two Studio Albums.
Her first Album titled The Real Roxanne was released in 1988.
One of her best songs and videos was Roxanne Is On A Roll. link to YouTube video below 👇🏽
The Real Roxanne’s second album was released in 1992.
She had two studio albums. (Google, https://michaelbenabib.com/the-real-roxanne-female-hip-hop-mc-history)
Mc Lyte was born Lana Michele Moorer on October 11th, 1970 in New York City. In 1987 at the age of 16, Lyte released her first debut single "I cram to understand you Sam". In April of 1988 she released her first debut Album Lyte As A Rock.
The album is considered one of the most important rap albums in the 80's and in history.
In 1989 she joined the Stop the Violence Movement and appeared on the track "Self Destruction".
The project was a response to end violence in the African American community and the hip hop community.
In 1989 Lyte also released her 2nd album(Eyes On This) which made way for her to become the first solo female rapper to have an entry on the billboard 200.
Mc Lyte’s 3rd studio album Act Like You Know was released in 1991
Her 4th studio album Act Like You Know was released on June 22, 1993.
The 5th studio released album by Mc Lyte was titled Bad as I wanna B and was released on August 27th, 1996.
In 1997 she released Badder Than B-Fore: The Remix Album . This was her 6th studio effort.
The 7th album was titled Seven and Seven . Released on Aug.18th, 1998
Mc Lyte was nominated for a grammy award in 1994 for "Ruffneck" Best Solo Rap Performance. She was also nominated in 2004 for "Ride With Me" Best Female Rap Vocal Performance. In 1996 she won a Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for Best R&B/Soul or Rap Music Video for "Keep On Keepin On" w/ Xscape. Lyte was a 2006 Vh1 Hip hop honors Honoree. In 2013 she was Honored with the Lifetime Achievement at the Hip Hop Inaugural Ball and at the 2013 BET Hip Hop Awards she was honored with the Icon Lifetime Achievement I Am Hip Hop Award for her contributions to hip-hop culture. In 2016 she was awarded the W.E.B. Du Bois Medal and in 2019 she was awarded the Trail Blazer Award at the 2019 Trumpet Awards.
Lyte had her first acting role debut in 1991 in a theater play called Club Twelve. After this in 1993 she made her film debut in a movie. She has starred in approximately 15 films and has been featured on at least 40 television shows/series and or specials. Mc Lyte has been doing voiceovers since 1996 for many companies and brands.
She has had her hand in djing and also has spoken at colleges and universities, for organizations around the globe. (Google, https://www.allmusic.com/artist/mc-lyte-mn0000220590/biography)
Salt N Pepa
Salt N Pepa is a female Hip-hop group that was formed in 1985 in Queens, New York City. The group consisted of Cheryl James (Salt), Sandra Denton ( Pepa), and Deidra Roper (Dj Spinderella). In 1985 Cheryl and Sandra met at Queensborough Community College as they were both studying nursing. They became friends and also both worked together at Sears. Their first known single to gain traction for them was "The Showstopper". The song was an answer to the Doug E. Fresh's hit song "The Show".
( pictured in the album cover art along with James and Denton is Latoya Hanson. She was the original Spinderella.)
In September 1985 the girls signed a recording contract with with Next Plateau Records. In December 1985 they released their first album Hot, Cool, & Vicious. In 1987 Deidra Roper (DJ Spinderella) joined the trio.
Salt-N-Pepa's second album A Salt with a Deadly Pepa was in 1988.
Salt N Pepa's single "push it" led the ladies to become the first female rap act to achieve gold and platinum status in the U.S. The album sold over one million copies worldwide. Push it also earned the ladies their first grammy nomination in 1989 for best rap performance. It is one of their most known songs and is considered one of the most iconic tracks of all time. Push it is definitely a fan favorite.
link to salt n papa’s “push it” music video listed below ⬇️👇🏽⬇️❤️
In 1989, the Grammys debuted its first Hip-Hop category: Best Rap however the award was famously untelevised. Salt N Pepa was notably one of the main rap groups to boycott that year by not attending and speaking out to the media about the matter.
Their Style showcasing their asymmetrical haircuts, their jewelry & eye grabbing fashions that they wore made them stand out and resonate with the young black women everywhere at that time. Famously their jackets, were designed by Christopher "Play" Martin of Kid N Play and their bodysuits. They were bold, yet beautiful and had a lot to say and weren't going to let anyone stop them from moving on their own terms.
The group's 3rd album Black Magic which was also certified platinum was released on March 19th, 1990. The album showcased the ladies as expressive, sexy and necessary as women needed in this genre. The track & music video titled "Independent" was written & produced by Salt.
An independent woman anthem that gave us black girl magic back then way before it was movement amongst female rappers now. "Expression" was another hit that she wrote on the album as well.
The track that absolutely set them apart and probably one of the most important for the album, their careers & for hip hop overall was "Let's Talk About Sex" . The message of the song is about safe sex. The lyrics talk about both the positive and the negative sides of sex and cencorship.
The song samples "I'll Take You there" by The Staple Sisters.
There was an alternate version of the song released titled "Let's Talk About Aids" . The single was released to radio and was included as a B-side on various singles for the song. The lyrics were changed to more directly address the spread of AIDS and HIV.
Salt N Pepa's 4th album Very Necessary was released in on October 12th 1993.
The album birthed the hits Shoop, Whatta Man (ft. Envouge), and None of your business. The videos were just as successful as the songs.
The Whatta Man video will forever be a classic for the hip hop and r&b female unity behind it. The ladies were stylish, in charge and everyone's talent was precise and on point. There were cameos from Treach from Naughty by Nature and Tupac. Very Necessary sold 7 million copies worldwide, with 5 million of those in the U.S. - 5× platinum status.
Salt N Pepa’s 5th album Brand New was released on 10.21.1997.
In 2002 the group disbanded. They reunited in 2005 when they were honored at the Vh1 hip hop honors in September 2005. In October of 2007 Salt N Pepa had a reality show on Vh1.
In August of 2019 they were in another reality show together with SWV on BET Her titled Ladies Night.
In 2020, The ladies came out with a makeup Collaboration with Milani Cosmetics.
They also continue to tour around the world and in 2018 it is noted that they were the first hip hop group to land a residency in Las Vegas.
Salt N Pepa had 5 albums, they were nominated for 6 grammy's between 1989 and 2021 . Winning in 1992 for Best Performance by a rap group or duo and in 2021 for the Lifetime Achievement award. They received a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame in 2022.
The ladies won 3 MTV Video Music Awards in 1994. In 1995 they won the Soul Train Lady of Soul Award for the Entertainer of the year. (Google, https://www.blackpast.org/african-american-history/salt-n-pepa-1985/ , Wikipedia)
Queen Latifah was born Dana Owens on March 18, 1970 in Newark, NJ. Her Career began around 1988-1989. She was an original member of the Flavor Unit and recorded her first demo in 1988.
Latifah was signed in 1989 to tommy boy records. She stood out amongst the rest by the way that she carried herself to remind us that we are all queens. The african elements in her wardrobe was a mark that the world needed because even though it was familar to us it was different for mainstream. Her lyrics and what she stood for awakened the world to the power of the Black women.
In 1989 Queen Latifah released her first album "All Hail the Queen". She received a Candace Award from the National Coalition of 100 Black Women in 1992. The collab "Ladies First" was staple for hip hop and Black women period. The music video featured the ladies with images of important historic black women and messages.
On September 3, 1991 Queen released her second album “Nature of a Sista” .
In 1993 she released her 3rd album "Black Reign" which was certified Gold in the US.
The album birthed one of her other hits U.N.I.T.Y. Addressing domestic violence, the use of the "b" word & violence amongst black women.