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Monie Love Thinks 'Okeydoke Rappers' Are Fucking It Up For Everybody Else

This past August, at the Summer Madness Music Festival & Conference, I took the time to ask a bunch of rap's female OGs about gender in hip-hop and the impact of the so-called "white-washing" of the culture. Who better than Native Tongues member and...

by Lauren Schwartzberg
26 August 2014, 6:54pm

Photos by Lexi Tannenholtz

It’s easy to forget that before Iggy Azalea and Nicki Minaj... Before Missy Elliott, Eve, and Gangsta Boo... Even before Lil Kim defined a certain type of American icon, there were pioneer female MCs who fought to make hip-hop a safe space for women to express themselves through rhyme. 

This past August, those founding females of hip-hop and some of the most important women in the rap music biz descended upon Martha’s Vineyard for the second annual Summer Madness Music Festival & Conference. With a guest list that included everyone from Monie Love to MC Lyte, it made perfect sense that this year's festival bore a "Ladies First" theme. According to Sean Porter, one of the event’s co-founders, the event was a "celebration of all genres of black music" intended to "counterbalance all of that negative imagery surrounding African American women."

The time felt right. There's a lot to celebrate and discuss when talking about women, race, and hip-hop these days. In 2013, no black artists topped the Billboard 100 charts, while a white artist like Macklemore nabbed the Grammy for Best Rap Album. This year, magazines claimed that Aussie newbie Iggy Azalea and her interpretation of a Southern black drawl "run hip-hop" after dropping a couple hot singles. Not to mention, we've seen plenty of white asses in Sports Illustrated get celebrated, while an album cover featuring a single bulbous black ass wearing a pink thong caused controversy and uproar across the web.

So instead of high-fiving everyone at the conference over how awesome hip-hop is, I took the time to ask a bunch of rap's female OGs about gender in hip-hop and the impact of the so-called "white-washing" of the culture. And who better than Native Tongues member and Queen Latifah protégé, Monie Love?

VICE: You established yourself as an MC in the UK with hits like "Free Style/Proud" before coming overseas to join the Native Tongues. Did you feel like there were rules to hip-hop coming here?
Monie Love:
I really felt like a fan of the culture. It wasn’t just about rhyming for me because before I was rhyming I was actually a B-girl. I was spinning on my back, I was pop-locking, I was breaking, so I transcended into being an MC. I always embraced the entire culture, not just the music entity of it. When I came to this country it was easy for me to mesh and blend into people that I met in the boroughs of New York because they knew I had this respect for the culture. They all saw me like, Who is this little girls from England? Oh, she used to be a B-girl? Ok. They allowed me in embraced me, which is definitely a blessing.

Is it harder or easier for rappers to be accepted into the hip-hop community now?
These people are spoiled. They’re spoiled. They’re spoiled from the pavement that was already paved before they got here.

Who are “they?”
Everybody! There are a lot of young groups and artists that come out and are basically like, I want to make it big, and I want to sell records and I want to move out of the hood. That wasn’t what we were doing in the beginning. You have to have a reason to do something. You have to have a reason to why you want to go to medical school. To study to be a doctor or a surgeon or what have you. It’s the same thing with being an MC and with being a part of a functioning culture. There’s four elements to it: there’s DJing, there’s MCing, there’s graf writing and there’s b-boying. For me it was a natural transition—I went from one and I transcended into another. A lot of these kids want to put records out now and they don’t come from any of that. They have no interest in any of that, so therefore it’s like there’s no purpose for doing this. What’s your purpose for doing this? You don’t really love it, so why are you doing it? That tends to allow a listener to hear, ok this person is here today and gone tomorrow because they’re not really in love with what they’re doing.

So hip-hop just turns into a get rich quick scheme.
Absolutely. For a lot of people it’s a money thing and that’s why I say there’s a lot of people out here that are spoiled because they’re basically like Yeah, I just want to sell a bunch of records so I can get up out the hood. It’s more than that. You have to have a purpose for doing anything.

Are there real MCs doing it for the culture? Do those people exist now?
The okeydoke rappers is fucking it up for everybody else. They’re messing it up for the people that really do want to be a part of the culture and a part of the art. They do, unfortunately. It’s the same thing with women. It’s like when there are two or three women that are like look at my butt and look at my boobs, unfortunately men then tend to generalize women and then you walk past a bunch of men and they’re all doing the whole googling, oogling, argling and unfortunately it’s like, no—I don’t like that type of attention. They’re conditioned to stereotype because they’ve seen six other women that want that attention. Then here comes the one behind the six that doesn’t want that attention, but unfortunately the men are already conditioned by the previous six. Same thing with hip-hop. Same thing with MCs. There are so many people flooding the market that care nothing for the culture, that know nothing about the culture, don’t care to even listen or learn anything about the culture—I just want the bread real quick. The general public gets conditioned by that and there are a lot of really prolific artists that get lost in the sauce.

Like who?
Kendrick Lamar is not brand new. Kendrick Lamar has been here. He’s paid his dues and nobody was listening. I swear I thank the stars and I thank god that this boy had something in him that allowed him to continue to persevere the shut doors because that boy had a lot of shut doors. He was K. Dot. Remember K. Dot? Everybody wasn’t listening to K. Dot. There were a certain group of people who knew who K. Dot was and were like Yo there’s this little kid from LA named K. Dot and he’s dope, but the masses were not paying attention to him. Honestly he could’ve been on some, you know what, eff this. Nothing’s happening, I’m done with this. But he didn’t and I thank god that he didn’t. I would say it took him a good 5 years.

And then Macklemore beat him at the Grammy’s.
But I’m not mad at Macklemore. Macklemore is a hip-hop lover. You can’t be mad at a hip-hop lover. I don’t care about what color you are, you can’t be mad at somebody because they love hip-hop and they cultivated that into what they’re doing. Most of the people that are mad at Macklemore for his success at the Grammy’s are the people putting out the bullshit. I saw this guy on Vine and he had this thing where he was going “Are. You. Gonna. Finish. Your. Peanut. Butter.” and I was like that sounds like the rap today! Those are the folks that are going to get mad at a Macklemore for incorporating content into his music? What are you mad at him for? I’m not mad at Iggy Azalea! I’m not.

So you listen to a lot of the new hip-hop?
I have to give my kids props. I have a daughter that’s 23 and I have a daughter that’s 17 and they keep me grounded and up to par on the newer stuff that’s coming out. I don’t shut them out like Oh I don’t want to listen to that. I’m 44, I listen to Big Daddy Kane. No, I got my stuff but my kids keep me clued in on what’s going on. There’s a girl named Doja Cat—love her. I just told her that on Twitter. I’m such a fan of people that I’ll hit them up and be like Oh my god I love you, you’re awesome. I don’t believe in one woman at a time. That is the most crappiest—who came up with that?!

Some old guy probably.
An old sexist toothless man. When I was on the charts and when I was up for a Grammy two years in a row, so was Salt-N-Peppa. So was MC Lyte. So was Queen Latifah. There was us on the east coast in New York and then on the west coast there was Oaktown 3.5.7 and J.J. Fad all out at the same time, all selling their records at the same time, all touring through the United States and overseas at the same time. I don’t come from a place where it’s one woman at a time. I don’t believe that.

Do you ever mentor young artists?
Whoever wants to get anything from me, I’m welcome to give it. I’m not like, no, I’m not giving no advice. I love it. If anybody wants to rip a page out of my book—no problem. I love it.

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Music
Nicki Minaj
iggy azalea
Lil' Kim
Queen Latifah
female MC's
Monie Love