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Word! The Language Column
Women’s Rap: Setting the Record Straight

Illustration: A person with a speech bubble containing a broken vinyl record.
So what is “female rap” supposed to mean? Rap exclusively for women? | © Goethe-Institut e. V./Illustration: Tobias Schrank

Do we want separate rap for women and men? That’s a rhetorical question, says Taiga Trece: No way! She takes this opportunity to set a few things straight and makes the case for more women in the rap game.

By Taiga Trece

Rap by women is always being pigeonholed as “female rap” or “women’s rap”. But these terms are wrong. Because that would imply that men hold the power and authority over rap. But rap, like music in general, is socially inclusive, and has been ever since it got started.

For women only? For men only? No thanks!

So what is “female rap” supposed to mean? Rap exclusively for women? Has anyone ever heard of “male rap”, rap exclusively by and for men? And a homosexual rapper doesn’t automatically do “gay rap” just because he’s gay.

In this age of feminism, why does music by women have to be called “women’s music”, even if it isn’t? Is that really where we want to be heading? Do we really need “women’s music”, “women’s pop” and “women’s rock”, “women’s politics”, etc.? Or do we simply need more women in the game?!

Did Angela Merkel ever say, “I do women’s politics”? Or Heidi Klum, “I’m a women’s model”? Does Helene Fischer claim to sing “women’s schlager music”? No, that’s inconceivable. It would be degrading to the art form because it would put gender before the actual act. So why “women’s rap”? There’s a significant difference between being a female artist and making “women’s music”. As I see it, a rapper’s a rapper and it really doesn’t matter what sex they are.

Femcees often adapt to the male rap world. Because in many cases they can only make it and belong if they buy into the prevailing criteria. They earn respect by resorting to male weapons. This is also one reason why more and more women are turning to feminist rap. Men make up the vast majority of the featured artists on playlists, at concerts and other events, which is why so many artists seek to appeal to a more open-minded audience and consciously address women through their music.

“Girlcott” the label

Once again, the art form is rap. Which is why we should actually boycott – or in this case “girlcott” – the label “women’s rap” or “female rap”. As in any kind of music, there are various subcategories: gangsta rap, street rap, boom bap, battle rap, pop rap, conscious rap, cloud rap, trap, drill and so on. These subcategories are not distinguished by gender or sexual orientation, but by style and message. “Female rap” is not a distinct subgenre, so it can’t be added to the list.

Then again, it could become established as a new subgenre in future. After all, modern music is constantly breeding new subcategories that appeal to a specific audience and present a specific style of their own. So female rap, male rap and gay rap could become new subgenres. Each subgenre has a main subject, issue or theme that its rappers sing about. Not only that, but each seeks to set itself apart from the others: fans manifestly identify with their music through a preferred fashion or sartorial style, brands, colours and slang.

For example, I do rap/street rap/German rap/bilingual rap/... But just because I’m a woman and a rapper doesn’t mean I want my music to be reduced to the label “female rap”. I speak with a woman’s feelings and experience, from a woman’s body and with a woman’s voice, and I speak to people.

When we put gender before the essentials, when we divide everything up along gender lines, then we’re separating people and severing connections. It seems to me that, as a result, we all too often draw dividing lines and create rifts in society. We’d be better off doing our best to nurture community spirit and standing up for equality.

Sometimes it seems like we’re out to verbally reposition ourselves in the equality debate, ideally by feminizing our entire language, as if this were the ultimate solution to the problem of the macho reputation and male dominance in hip hop.

Let the boys cope with feminization in the rap game. The number of female rappers is increasing anyway, and the more there are of us, the more visible we’ll be without having to wear out our voices hollering at the top of our lungs.

Making the scene from the get-go

Women have been making the scene ever since hip hop got started back in the 1970s. They just got less attention than the men. But even if rap is generally regarded as a male-dominated scene and the men loom larger here, it’s far from being a purely male province. It’s just that women have to fight all the harder to make room for themselves here, as in many other spheres.

I’m from the scene myself. And I’ve got used to the fact that we’re not always taken seriously. But I don’t lose heart or let that get me down. As a woman of rap, I live what I do and lead by example.

Femcees are gaining ground. We’re not a special category. Things are changing. We’re becoming part of the norm.

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.