Watching Nicki Minaj accept her fourth year in a row winning Best Female Rap Artist, at the 2013 BET Awards, was the equivalent of watching an actor or film win the Academy Award after having swept the Critics Choice, Golden Globes, and SAGs weeks prior. It may had been the most anti-climatic moment of the ceremony, though to her credit, Minaj was gracious towards the support of BET and her legions of fans, the Barbz and Kens. Minutes following her exit from the stage however, her win was challenged by opinions of her honor bestowed upon by default due to a not-so secret lack of representation of women in hip-hop. Twitter in particular was fired up about Minaj, much of the chagrin delivered by female hip-hop bloggers. Evidently, the bigger question was, not so much why Nicki Minaj won because, on the surface, we know why. Yet, the bigger question, or issue at hand is why hasn’t there been another female rapper to nearly blow as massive as Minaj to actually give the her any kind of real competition.
Frustrated viewers of the BET Awards even began to wonder if the category itself was necessary, which for some female rappers after having come so far to be accepted as emcees, fighting against the patriarchal war that is hip-hop, this is an unfortunate question to have arise as some are vocalizing their Minaj-only fatigue. Thus, the distress doesn’t come from being against Onika, but from the search for the Next Big Female Rapper. Female rap is a lot like being the top black model in fashion. The media prefers one at a time, and while numbers don’t lie, the rhetoric has evoked sighs, annoyance, and an iota of pity at those looking to jump over the sidelines for their still anticipated spotlight.
It’ll be roughly five years since Minaj originally blew the lid of hip-hop and eventually pop music in becoming the influential, love it or hate it, stand alone figure for women in hip-hop. Not since the heydays of Eve and Missy Elliott in the early ‘00s has another female rapper made such a difference, and as Minaj continues winning, getting quite higher and higher in prominence as once curiously pondered on the intro to Kanye’s masterpiece My Beautiful Dark Twisted Nightmare (on which she executed in her famously faux British accent), if Minaj was to win again next year, the progression of female rap may officially be at a standstill. It may all come down to this year’s the upcoming releases of newcomers Iggy Azalea, Azealia Banks, and Angel Haze’s debut LPs to stop this from happening.
BET has shown love to every possible female rapper that’s gained mainstream momentum in their career with a nomination. You name it, they have been likely nominated (Lola Monroe, Rasheeda, Brianna Perry, Diamond, Trina; even new kids on the stage like Cymphonique and M.I.A.’s protege Rye Rye), but they just can’t get past the envelope that’s ready to reveal the winner. And this has also been a curious conundrum in hip-hop before. Even the Grammys attempted to have a female rap category in 2004 and 2005 during a brief resurgence of quality bars, but it quickly went back to the Best Rap Solo Performance in 2006.
Online, it became a question of whether such an award for specifically honoring the woman of rap, with such a scarce pool of candidates, was necessary at all, in light of already knowing who the committee would choose. A major inquisition that was asked was whether it should be based on artistic value rather than popularity, but that’s the $64,000 question of all award shows, no? With such a lack of female representation, when a female rapper does make it to that golden armchair of rap royalty, there’s hardly room for another, according to the media. It’s a utter disservice to Minaj winning by default and the other women coming so close yet so far for another year. And nevermind the other music award shows that don’t even have a female rap category.
There’s been a lot of hype(d) girls, but not enough platinum plaques being issued. And the underside of reality is that not every female rapper is seeking BET recognition, but will big award shows ever one day give the trophy to someone like Jean Grae, and what happened to girls like Reema Major? Will Nitty Scott, MC see her name on the roster next year? Truthfully, there’s still a long road ahead for women emcees in headlining festival gigs, giving the culture classic albums, and even more groundbreaking posse cuts that could rival DJ Khaled smash collaborations. Nicki Minaj is not the only talented female rapper on the talent, but as of right now, she is the only superstar of such a coterie, and what is hip-hop going to do about it?
–C. Shardae Jobson (@lavishrebellion)