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Word! The Language Column
I’ve had rap for longer than my period

Illustration: Two people in half-profile. They speak to each other
A good interview needs the right questions | © Goethe-Institut e. V./Illustration: Tobias Schrank

So many interviews and so many wrong questions. Taiga Trece isn’t into speculating about whether women have a hard time of it in the rap business. What’s more captivating is a question she’s never asked in interviews, which is why she takes this opportunity to answer it here: how rap has affected her.

By Taiga Trece

How are you? Fine, and you? Fine, thanks.
This meaningless everyday exchange triggers the same irritation in me as the question I’m continually asked in interviews: Is it hard for a woman in the rap business?

I find my suitcase and merchandise box hard to lug around with me on tour. And I don’t mind having them carried by any of the many guys touring with me. But is it hard for a woman to be a rapper? Well, um, I have no idea. How should I know seeing as I’ve never been in any other position?

Bad and good interviews

– How long have you been rapping?
– Since I was nine.
– How did you first get into rap?
– Through radio and MTV.

You can tell by the brevity of my answers that I’m bored with the interview. I’m definitely not going to repost or promote it on any SoMe channels. You have to muster a bit of creativity when talking to a rapper. Something that challenges her and whets the reader’s appetite for her lyrics. Who wants to eat overcooked spaghetti?

A well-conducted interview is based on interest and the art of close listening. If the interviewer then manages to respond intelligently to the answers, a real dialogue will ensue. An interview should not resemble an interrogation in which one person asks the questions and the other one answers. The more open-ended the questions, the more captivating the stories behind them will often be.

I’ve never been asked the question: How has rap affected you? So I’d like to tell my personal hip hop story, if I’m the one asking myself the questions.

How important are gender roles to you?

The older I got, the more conscious I became of the fact that I was a girl. The more I grew up, the more I realized how different the assigned roles were.
So the question isn’t whether it’s harder or easier for the female sex in rap, but whether women have a harder time of it in life in general.

When you were a kid, did you ever think deeply about your sex and, consequently, your social role? Probably not, because it takes a whole lifetime to really grasp social roles. Gender roles are an acquired problem and therefore a subject for adults, not kids.

Like so many other things in my youth, I had to fight for my hip hop licence. The home I grew up in listened to Latin music, rock, blues and folk. When I turned up the radio, it was quickly switched off. My cassettes were limited to five minutes’ listening because the adults in the room found the sound aggressive, obscene – but above all, it all sounded the same to them.

In the lyrics they heard the N-word, stories about johns who called themselves pimps and about men with bitches or prostitutes sitting on their knees backstage. To my old hippie parents with their freedom-loving “one world” peace & love mindset, this was dehumanizing music – and without much substance.

To me, however, hip hop was a revelation. I gained a better understanding of world views, history and differences in mentality. It was music that turned my emotions into language. It was refreshing and authentic to hear the full spectrum of the spoken word.

I was on the verge of puberty, which set in very early in my case. Rap explained the world to me and the things that mattered to me very vividly and directly.

I learned from Tic Tac Toe’s song Always Ultra that it’s perfectly normal for girls to experience mood swings when they get their period. Ja, Klar by Schwester S made me realize I shouldn’t put up with everything from men just because they were into me. Lill Kim rapped back then, and Cardi B raps now, about the fact that women can demand oral sex too. Rap by women deals with issues from a woman’s (body’s) point of view – which is important for young girls, especially when it comes to sexuality.

Rap was my Dr. Sommer team [an extremely popular sex and love advice column in the German teen magazine Bravo] that enlightened me where my school and family had left me in the dark. And this is vital knowledge in a woman’s life, even in 2022.

Rap enlightened me

With few exceptions, hip hop enlightened and socialized me along masculine lines. And that was reinforced when I moved to Mexico. In Germany in those days, white rap was mainstream and gangster rap was only just catching on.

I found myself between the fronts (between being a “badass” and a “down ass bitch”). So I guess hip hop also means living a certain ambivalence, because just as rap taught me my role as a woman, rap also gave me the ovaries to rebel against that.

Today I can say that what lyrics convey has an impact. What we idealize influences our personal development. What we find cool informs our way of thinking. Emulating and internalizing this is a common side effect of music. That’s why I think it’s all the more essential to specifically address girls.

And although I’m not the kind of female rapper who puts feminist slogans on her every T-shirt and answers every interviewer from a feminist angle, I do strongly support the feminist approach. By dint of my experience, I am now a Fempowerment Coach and working on a different level with young women and girls, giving them a new sense of confidence, self-assurance and self-acceptance by providing personal coaching and working on their voices and writing. This is what we all really need.

Hip hop has made me who I am – in my role as a woman, too.

Word! The Language Column

Our column “Word!” appears every two weeks. It is dedicated to language – as a cultural and social phenomenon. How does language develop, what attitude do authors have towards “their” language, how does language shape a society? – Changing columnists – people with a professional or other connection to language – follow their personal topics for six consecutive issues.