Hip hop’s 50th anniversary is approaching this summer and it’s a genre that is entrenched in the veins of the city. We hear it everywhere — on the subway, in stores and even on speakers of New Yorkers passing by. Hip hop has influenced how people dress, talk and act. As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Reporters Malik Brizan-Reed and Andrea Pineda-Salgado spoke with New Yorkers about their love of hip-hop, and which female artists they’re inspired by.
The following has been edited and condensed for clarity.
“We have a lot of things that shape us and one of those things is the commonality with and appreciation for hip-hop.Growing up, it was pretty much all we listened to here in Harlem and it’s how we relate to each other. The image of female rappers has changed. Back in the day, it was tough. It was tough even as a dude listening to female rappers, there was more of a stigma. Now Nicki Minaj is one of the biggest artists on the planet. It’s a lot easier to be out here listening.”
—Jordan, 26, production coordinator, West Harlem
“One of my favorite songs is “Get Money” by Notorious B.I.G. and Lil’ Kim. I like the motivation of trying to strive, hustle and grind. It reminds me of New York because we are all about grinding, fast movement and ‘getting the bag.’ I think the image of female hip-hop artists is different now. A lot of women are trying to copy Lil’ Kim’s style but with their own twist to it. I really like Ice Spice. I think she is getting us hype and teaching us to be independent. I also like Nicki Minaj and Mulatto. They’ve also taken inspiration from Lil’Kim in hairstyles and outfits. They teach us that if you have a dream — go for it. Even if your friends and family may not support you, keep pushing towards your dreams.”
—Asante Whittingham, 27, youth specialist, East New York
“There are many positive things women can learn from women in hip-hop to today. Women rappers are women who don’t give up. They believe in themselves and have confidence. They can teach other women not to give up, because if they can make it, others will too.”
—Reina Rivas, 44, babysitter, Beacon, New Jersey
“Independence. I think that’s the greatest thing female hip-hop artists can teach. They can teach young women that they are independent and can be independent and have freedom of thought. I think what the women in hip-hop have stated is the claim that ‘No, we are independent and we have the right to be sexy. We have the right to be smart, we have the right to be whatever we choose to be.’ Our society is a fraternal society that has been built upon men being dominant. I think that’s one of the positive things that have come out of hip-hop.”
—Edwin Knots, 61, college professor, Harlem
“I admire Queen Latifah because she helped pave the way for others. There were a couple before her, but I feel that she made such a strong impact in opening the way for women rappers during that time, which was unheard of. The way she did it was with force and authority. She was in her divine feminine but in a powerful way as opposed to other female rappers today. Taking control of the narrative and telling your story is something that the greats like Queen Latifah can teach others. There are ways to stand strong in your femininity and learn to stand strong as a woman.”
—Martha Banks-Hall, 47, business owner, Central Harlem
“I love Mary J. Blige, her music is nostalgic; it is the soundtrack to my life. When it comes to hip-hop, the videos, images and fashion impact society and politics. Hip-hop today can give a voice to those who may not have one. I listen to some gospel rappers like Wandee. We don’t have any more Queen Latifaha in this generation or M.C. Lytes. I like her because she spoke for the community and the issues she cared about. I wish we could see more of that today.”
—Octavia Cooks, 26, stylist, Tremont, Bronx