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Let The Ladies Eat - Chris "Preach" Smith


Photo Credits: (Top), (Bottom)


Maybe it's not in vogue to acutally have a nuanced position like this,
but here goes...lean in closer. Ready?

Cardi B AND Rapsody are hip-hop. You can like one or the other, or 
you can enjoy what both bring to the table. You can root for them 
both to win.

Rap music is an art form that does tend to lend itself to a kind of binary
struggle. It's the art of battle that's embedded within, going all the 
way back to the park jams that helped give birth to the culture be it 
the DJ's or the MC's. And while its mainly been male-dominated, women
from Roxanne Shante to Sha Rock to Queen Latifah and Missy Elliott 
and all those in between have made their mark on the culture. For 
Rapsody and Cardi B, they're both poised to do the same from paths
that vary wildly but have the same amount of the grind in them. Cardi
B has drawn a lot of attention thanks in part to her role on VH1's "Love
and Hip Hop" series that has given birth to a thousand memes and has
propelled her to create a mixtape with a smash single, "Bodak Yellow".
The Bronx, New York native is now celebrated highly, which has gotten
her some detractors. (More on that in a bit.) Rapsody has been on the
underground scene for years as an MC down with fellow North Carolina
native 9th Wonder and the Justice League crew. Beasting on guest verse
appearances on albums by Von Pea and Kendrick Lamar among many
others, Rapsody has dropped a couple of mixtapes that have only boosted
her visibility. This has led to her dropping her latest album, Laila's Wisdom,
under the umbrella of Roc Nation. But to some, there's something that she
lacks that in their view has led to her not blowing up in a major way.

Part of the drama that comes up when discussing something like this is
the mainstream versus "backpacker" comparison and contrast that takes
place. Cardi came up using a keen strategy of videos that showed off her
personality and her rhymes while she was working as a stripper, and this
led to her TV appearances. So heads will look at her and essentially say,
"well, she's the chosen one" following in the line of Nicki Minaj in terms of
that kind of visibility. Rapsody has gotten acclaim from those seeking an
alternative to contemporary rap music, but some of those fans have chafed
at her growing prominence, even criticizing that she might be mimicking 
Kendrick and other rappers from the TDE crew. Another part of the drama
does stem from an ugly perspective that's still ingrained in rap culture, and
that is colorism. Controversial rapper Azaelia Banks made some comments
via social media going after Cardi B, basically claiming that she has only
made it because she's Latina and men tend to put non-Black women in rap
on a pedastal in the industry. Cardi B clapped back, and Azaelia doubled 
down before deleting her initial comments online using her past as an exotic
dancer against her. Now, there is truth to the way that dudes in the industry
and in general do tend to belittle Black women by valuing Latinas and other
women over them in various ways. Part of that could apply to certain industry
forces when it comes to Cardi B. But those truths don't fully diminish her 
own work to get to this point. And she's a bit more cognizant of it than 
others would expect. As for Rapsody, it's not farfetched to say colorism has
played a part in her struggles - being a dark-skinned woman in rap does 
come with that uneasy truth with regards to corporate labels and their own
practices of promotion. Add that to being a rapper who has made her bones
in the underground and having that being a strike against you for the casual
fans and those who want everything new only in the veins of pop culture. 
Rapsody herself has commented on it at length.

These two women right now are part of a new wave of rap music that has 
ties to the Golden Era, but represent newer and more strident voices that 
the music and the culture needs. Some may throw shots at Cardi B because
they feel her lyrics aren't overly complex and geared towards getting it on
and popping in clubs. Rapsody may have critics because they feel she should
"stay in her lane" and not challenge male MC's like Drake. Sometimes folks
conflate critique with out and out disdain. That's just the way it is. Ultimately,
Rapsody and Cardi B are building on the successes other women MC's before
them have laid down and creating newer lanes for those alongside and coming
up after them. Let these ladies eat. We've got women MC's in a new light that
isn't totally about being a sex object for dudes or any other restrictive box 
that we find ourselves bringing up whenever this subject arises. If we're at
all serious about the culture of hip-hop, this multifaceted wave is all part of
the nature of the culture and should be respected as such.

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