Hands down, my favorite Jamla Records lyricist is Rapsody. On Jamla’s album 9th Wonder Presents: Jamla Is The Squad, Rapsody features a song called “Betty Shabazz,” in which she addresses hip hop’s gender controversy by stating:
I’m ignoring all that female rapper—shit’s ignorant. Competing with every emcee; come step if you wanna’ see us rap!
She didn’t cry. She didn’t moan. She didn’t whine. She didn’t complain. Rather, Rapsody snatched the microphone and issued a challenge to any wordsmith—man, woman, male, or female—for competition to prove dominance of her craft. Respect.
I appreciate this lyricist on a number of levels. I was raised partially under the doctrine of Jehovah’s Witnesses, so was Rapsody. Additionally, many of the hip hop artists who I’ve come to appreciate over the years are admired by her.
Also, referring to the stigmas of being labeled a “conscious rapper,” Rapsody has reportedly stated, “I don’t like that, because everybody is conscious. We’re all conscious. People like to think that it’s ‘Oh, you like to talk about political, deep things.’ No, consciousness is being aware of what you’re doing in surroundings.” I dig that.
Aside from her incredible talent, I appreciate how in an interview Rapsody stated:
“So it was like, making a space for me, allowing people to respect me for who I was and not just throw me into a bunch of lists with other women,” she said, adding that she wanted to be referred to as an artist, not just relegated to the female category.
A self-described “tomboy” who can also be “feminine”, Rapsody doesn’t allow herself to be pigeonholed into a category representing anything other than what she is. This speaks to the is-ought problem, as the lyricist doesn’t demand what she thinks ought to be when faced with what simply is. She is a fierce emcee.
The Cadillac LeMans
In high school, my friend (“Caesar,” though not his real name) was given a ‘90s Pontiac LeMans. To decorate the beater, Caesar acquired numerous Cadillac ornaments and emblems and affixed them to the LeMans.
Paying close attention to detail, every LeMans logo was removed and replaced with Caddy ornamentation. There was even reapplication of the symbol in the odometer panel, and Caesar’s keyring was adjourned with a Lac emblem.
Caesar had a sense of humor about his POS car and so did I. Neither of us had the resources to compete with our peers at the relatively wealthy high school we attended, so why not make light of our socioeconomic situation in the interest of unconditional self-acceptance (USA)?
I think of this reminder when considering what a female emcee is or is not. It isn’t as simple as a this-or-that dichotomous topic. No matter the social appeal of a platform (i.e., woman, car, etc.), value may be derived from more than mere attractiveness.
One morning, when on our way to Palo Duro Canyon State Park for a day of fun in the sun, I, Caesar, and a group of friends were pulled over by a Texas state trooper. As the highway patrol officer carefully examined the vehicle upon his approach, Caesar began to laugh.
Once at the front driver’s side window, the trooper sarcastically asked of Caesar, “So, uhh…what year is your ‘Cadillac?” All vehicle occupants laughed loudly and the chiseled face of the trooper slightly cracked, as he broke professional bearing and laughed along with us.
No one involved in the traffic stop was under the false impression of what the LeMans actually was—or more importantly, what it wasn’t. It wasn’t a luxury car and every one of us knew it, though it still retained value for getting us from point A to B.
No true female emcee
Rhetorically, the no true Scotsman fallacy represents an appeal to purity. Thinking of Rapsody’s rejection of the label “female rapper,” an informal falsified counterexample could be constructed as follows:
Person 1: No female rapper would avoid capitalizing on her sexuality.
Person 2: But Rapsody is a female rapper and she doesn’t focus on her sexuality.
Person 1: But no true female rapper would avoid capitalizing on her sexuality.
Per one source, “Rather than abandoning the falsified universal generalization [person 1’s initial declaration] or providing evidence that would disqualify the falsifying counterexample [person 2’s suggestion], a slightly modified generalization is constructed ad-hoc to definitionally exclude the undesirable specific case and similar counterexamples by appeal to rhetoric.”
Gender controversy in hip hop has existed for as long as I can remember. There is a prevailing narrative relating to females portraying caricaturized versions of women, often through use of hypersexualized depictions, or else non-feminized emcees are thought not to fit into the rap space.
However, not every female rapper has to farcically represent themselves using hyper-feminized tropes, much as Lil’ Kim, Trina, Cardi B, Megan Thee Stallion, Ice Spice, and others do. Claiming otherwise plays to the logical fallacy of no true Scotsman rhetoric.
Addressing the topic related to sexuality and art, one 1973 source states, “The erotic element in European painting is not an expression of the model’s sexuality but of those who have access to the picture.” Perhaps the more things change, the more they stay the same.
If we are to agree that with all else considered, sex sells, it makes sense from a marketing standpoint to promote sexualized female rappers. Scantily clad women who twerk while rapping may suggest more about the consumer than it does about performers.
Those who gain access to a woman’s sexuality through artistic expression—no matter how crude—may prefer to continue use of the source when pleasurable stimulation overrides creative scrutiny. Rapsody defies this evolutionary or socialized phenomenon.
She’s a female. She’s a lyricist. She doesn’t have to behave as Iggy Azalea does in order to hone her craft. Of course, I’m not here to shame any female rapper. Far be it for me to say what is good, bad, right, wrong, or otherwise for you or others, dear reader.
Both the Pontiac and Cadillac brands were products of General Motors. Though there are notable differences between the Pontiac LeMans and a Cadillac DeVille, both vehicles can take a person from point A to B.
Likewise, no true female emcee has to look, sound, or behave in a particular way in order to gain my respect. Personally, I’ll promote the likes of Rapsody, Eternia, Jean Grae, MC Lyte, Rah Digga, Tiff the Gift, and others. Who you prefer on your journey from point A to B is up to you.
I appreciate Rapsody’s perspective related to hip hop’s gender controversy. She called the distinction between male and female rappers “ignorant,” challenging any emcee who disagreed to step up.
Thinking of this differentiation, I recall Caesar’s Cadillac LeMans and how funny I thought it was to care enough about what others thought as to change the aesthetic of his car—something I don’t think anyone considered anything other than silly at the time. His car was little more than a ride from point A to B, as it retained value for those privileged enough to enjoy a ride.
Taking this into consideration, I think of the no true Scotsman fallacy when contemplating what some people regard as a female emcee. Whether you bare your entire ass on stage or make an ass of another rapper through clever world play, the journey is more important to me than in what direction rap is headed.
Then again, what do I know? Like Rapsody stated in “Betty Shabazz, “But I ain’t really talkin’ ‘bout much; I’m just bustin’. [x3] But I ain’t really…”
I didn’t always approach topics in the rational manner expressed herein. Use of Rational Emotive Behavior Therapy (REBT) affords me an opportunity to practice unconditional acceptance, not disturbing myself with what others do or how the world functions.
Though the matter of hip hop’s gender controversy is admittedly trivial, practice of REBT with insignificant matters can have an impact on how we approach issues of a more significant nature. Would you like to know more about how REBT could influence your life?
If you’re looking for a provider who works to help you understand how thinking impacts physical, mental, emotional, and behavioral elements of your life, I invite you to reach out today by using the contact widget on my website.
As a psychotherapist, and hip hop head from the old school, I’m pleased to help people with an assortment of issues from anger (hostility, rage, and aggression) to relational issues, adjustment matters, trauma experience, justice involvement, attention-deficit hyperactivity disorder, anxiety and depression, and other mood or personality-related matters.
At Hollings Therapy, LLC, serving all of Texas, I aim to treat clients with dignity and respect while offering a multi-lensed approach to the practice of psychotherapy and life coaching. My mission includes: Prioritizing the cognitive and emotive needs of clients, an overall reduction in client suffering, and supporting sustainable growth for the clients I serve. Rather than simply helping you to feel better, I want to help you get better!
Deric Hollings, LPC, LCSW
Photo credit (not my friend’s car), fair use
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