The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

The independent newspaper of the University of Iowa community since 1868

The Daily Iowan

Hip-hop icons discussed at Afro House

Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity hosted a discussion on African American women in hip –hop to explore topics like major influences in hip-hop, and the difference between image and lyrics.
Joshua Housing
NoName performs during the Telefone Tour on Friday, Feb. 24, 2017 in the Second Floor Ballroom of the Iowa Memorial Union. Telefone is NoName’s debut mixtape, released on July 31, 2016. (The Daily Iowan/Joshua Housing)

Voices of the queens of hip-hop echoed throughout the Afro-American Culture Center Thursday night as a group gathered to discuss the role of African-American women in the genre.

The Phi Beta Sigma Fraternity hosted the “Women in Hip-Hop” discussion, and topics included major figures, specific songs, and the portrayal of African-American women in hip-hop and rap.

The discussion, led by Afro House employee and programming director of Phi Beta Sigma Matthew Bruce, started with a video breaking down the meaning of hip-hop. Once the group members established a basic foundation for the topic, they moved on to narrow the subject.

The group discussed African-American historical icons in hip-hop such as Queen Latifah, Roxanne Shanté, and MC Lyte as well as newer artists such as Noname.

“I think it was a community of black people coming around to express their appreciation and love for black women in hip-hop,” Bruce said. “It was a lot of exploration.”

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The topic then turned to how women are often portrayed in hip-hop and female artist image, which sometimes portrays women as sex objects. However, as the group discussed, there are also several female artists who don’t embody that image though they may not be the mainstream.

On Wednesday, Nicki Minaj released a controversial cover page on Papermag*, an Internet entertainment magazine, in which she was photographed role-playing on a sexually provocative cover shoot.

“Tonight, I learned how other people view hip-hop, and how males view women in hip-hop industry,” UI junior Mia Smith said. “In a specific song, a male who was here tonight, the song would help him hear a woman’s point of view because he is a male in a male-dominated society.”

One student who came to the discussion, Mariah S. Dawson, has a radio show on KRUI. She said she tries to play more music on KRUI that depicts more conscious women rappers such as Noname, a female African American hip-hop artist who gained fame by appearing on Chance the Rapper’s track “Lost.”

“There’s always more room for conscious rappers,” Dawson said. “We don’t play top billboard songs, so I play a lot of ’90s rap and underground songs. They say to play a good mix of artists, so I play both, but I try to play a lot of artists with a good message.”

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The lyricist Noname will perform her poetry and hip-hop music in the Englert on Nov. 18.

For the discussion, Bruce compiled a seven-hour playlist of African-American women in hip-hop songs available on Spotify. Artists on the playlist include Queen Latifah, Missy Elliott, Tink, Cardi B, Lauryn Hill, SZY, Rihanna, Beyoncé, Alisha Keys, Rhapsody, among many others.

The playlist can be found on the event’s Facebook page, and Bruce said he encourages everyone to contribute add music they think is from influential in African-American women’s hip-hop.

Bruce also said he hopes to host more events in the future relating to women in hip-hop.

“A lot of what we talk about is there exists a wide kaleidoscope of representations of black women and it’s lost in the mainstream,” Bruce said. “I think we found that out tonight.”

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About the Contributor
Sarah Watson
Sarah Watson, Executive Editor


Email: [email protected] Twitter: @K_5mydearwatson Sarah Watson is the executive editor at The Daily Iowan. She's in her fourth year at the University of Iowa, studying journalism and political science. Previously, she coordinated election and political coverage as a three-semester politics editor, and has reported on student government and the statehouse. Last spring, she stepped into the role of the DI's managing news editor. She's an advocate for transparent government and is committed to making journalism work better for people of all identities. She also thinks pineapple on pizza is a good idea. Email her for a discussion.