If ever a listener of Hip Hop, especially one that delve into it during the 90s, there are certain names that cannot go without recognition. Lil Kim was not the first female Mc nor will she be the last. But she was the first to commercially surface as a gun-toting, deep-throating, money-getting, male-disrespecting, crotch-grabbing female MC. With a deep grunt and lyrics that perturbed, any conservative listener, Lil Kim would begin a discussion in Hip Hop that is currently boiling all over the Internet. Maybe part in due to the fact that it is her birthday or because the REAL female MC is not getting the face time that she deserves.
Whatever the case may be, it’s a discussion that has pendulumed back and forth, to and fro, for the past two decades in Hip Hop. Why is the female MC, an overtly sexualized ghost written pin up doll and not your pen to the pad girl next door?
Prior to her explosive debut Hard Core, with her infamous squat down sexy Jane with the fur robe plastered all over walls by street teams, there was, and always has been, a group of super lyrical female mc’s with a less than “male friendly” appearance. It was a wrath. Women competing against men for equal pay and equal fame. The women of Hip Hop were braggadocious, conscience, and fierce. The pre-Lil Kim era was a different time. It was a time of showing up and showing out. A time of showing and proving. Battling was a must, with the Roxanne Shante’s and the MC Lytes headlining this stylistic approach.
In enters Salt-n-Pepa, a duo later turned trio with Spinderella eventually sharing the mic from the tables. They had the sass, they had the sex appeal, making songs that were a groove with safe sex undertones. They were the first female mc’s that really carved out a lane for women in the game.
And then came Lil Kim. She came in small in stature but with a voice that trumped her male peers with these deep grunts and lyrics written by a man for a man. And this is where things began to get shaky.
Ghost writing had always been frowned upon no matter how much we know that the Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rapper’s Delight,” was. And up until this point no female Mc had openly admitted to being penned by a male mc. But this was apparent. Biggies fantasies were being uttered and personified by Lil Kim. It changed the industry.
Lil Kim was now the industry formula to ploy and pull dollars out of Hip Hop for women. She became the cover girl for the female Mc, readjusting her colored wigs and pasties on red carpets. She had hit the jackpot, knowing what boys like.
Today we see this formula being applied over and over. And I’m here to say, that this is ok. If it’s not broke don’t fix it. It works.
Most importantly, I’m here to say thank you to Lil Kim for awakening a winning mindset. I know that sexy is a thin line that we walk as women but she truly encouraged us to straddle it. Our garments should not dictate the amount of respect we receive regardless. And knowing what we want, what we need, should never disgust the same men with their hands in their pants.
And really the real discussion should not be why female mcs are this way or which but WHY CAN’T WE MOTHER FUCKERS!?!?
Anyone who has a love for Hip Hop, especially those that were ever so fortunate to put their hands on music as a tangibility, has a story, a memory tied to gripping, ripping, and spinning the axle off a record, a tape, or a cd. We can’t tell you where we left our minds, but we can tell you the very place we heard something for the first time. For me this is relevant.
Growing up, I was surrounded by an eclectic array of music, from Tejano to Corridos, Country to Hip Hop. This was due in part to being in a generational household divided by the age spectrum, and secondary language, of a rather large family of first generation Americans. My brother and my sister who were closest to me in age though, were fully responsible for my introduction turnt’ addiction to Hip Hop.
Hip hop encompassed my life at a very young age, becoming cognitive of what I was listening to with the coming of struggle and witnessing the uglies of teenage angst and generational trauma. It was an escape.
Eventually I would become a participant from what used to be the audience as my troubles began to question and eat at my earnest ways. I joined the cypher. And puff puff pass I did.
Smoking was my way of rebelling along with listening to “the fucking da fucking que es eso,” music my mom loathed. My life was taboo and I relished in it.
No one could tell me nothing. I became really close to my brother who gave me my first blunt, my first spray paint can, my first dose of individuality. And all this had a soundtrack that exhilarated the rebellion even more so — it was Screw.
My first dose of screw came booming out these Jensen speakers my sticky fingered brother had snagged from my mom. They jumped, they raddled, they tweaked, and out came “inside looking out, sitting in the Harris county jail,” pouring out like the thickest cup of gravy all over my ear drum. It was exactly like that moment in Arthur when Binky gets put on to some “avant garde” shit. Maybe I’m embellishing but it changed my life. It was the gateway into my rebellion, and the way into my brother’s life who fittingly was in out of jail at this time period.
I tell you all this, to underline, dot I’s, cross t’s, exclamation point, in defense of the power of music, and the long lasting impression DJ SCREW left on not only myself but on his city, his state, the subculture, and an entire genre of music. I remember always having to come to the defense of screw music in its hay day being from where I’m from.
The Rio Grande Valley isn’t exactly the hip to it of places especially not then. Everything is slow coming down the pipeline into border culture. And to top it all off I was heavy into Hip Hop and screw, at an age when all my peers were listening to squeaky voices from frosted tipped scrawny snot nosed boy/girl bands. But in defending it, I came to the conclusion that a screw head or avid listener, is a special person. It’s an acquired taste yes, and maybe weed and a lil lean doesn’t hurt in its understanding. But I’m not here to promote drug culture. I’m here to promote why DJ SCREW was a genius.
Maybe attaching DJ at the front of his name didn’t help, considering that at the time of his coming the dj had been abandoned by most mc’s along with their egos, but it didn’t hurt either.
What a lot of people fail to understand, or tend to forget is that the DJ was/is a producer by nature. If you know anything about rap, is that the MC came after the DJ, in need of a host and a hype man to get the crowd going amidst the extended mix of breaks galore. DJ’ing is the live in the moment manipulation of sound. And DJ SCREW embodied that.
Screw tapes were/are more than just cuts and a change of tempo, it introduced a lot of “old” music to new ears. This is how interpolation and the art of remixing and making something your own was emphasized in my life. The samples that he chose in his mixes were telling of his household and his desire to preserve that nostalgia by turning into something new, something screwed.
He encapsulated Texas culture, breaking it down, and slowing it dine, so people could understand our twang and ways.
Today, screw music has entered the sound of the east and west, extending itself into the realms of pop music and culture. Now what I’m about to say may piss some people off considering Texas Hip Hop pioneers, but DJ SCREW outlined Texas in bold and purple, and put it on the map. Yeah I said it, but that’s how I feel. And that’s how I felt listening to those added screw cuts that made it onto albums like 3 6 Mafia’s 1995’s Live by yo Rep, and today’s continued releases of entire album reworked a la screw.