From the outsider’s gaze, hip hop is at times seen as monolithic and is trivialized by the outsider’s perspective – labelled as materialistic, unnecessary, and narcissistic. In their pursuit to underplay the complexity and nuance of the genre, as well as their convenient omission of the dedicated Eminem playlist in their music library, these strangers illustrate their deep misunderstanding of the culture encompassing the music they hear. (The Eminem playlist can be discussed another day)
Braggadocio, a hip hop tradition employed by emcees to establish their dominance, flaunt their skill, and establish credibility within the hip hop community. With its roots in battle culture, emcees would unleash their flow and wordplay as a method of disrespecting the other emcee and bolstering an intimidating or “alpha” reputation. For some, this is a way to pay homage to their achievements as an emcee and the newfound wealth they may have found. While the critiques of braggadocio rebuke it for its capitalist-consumerist and exploitative undertones, its use for female emcees is rather remarkable to note.
Female emcees utilize braggadocio-laced lyrics to establish their credibility as serious, skilled hip hop artists, as the patriarchy automatically deems them inadequate. Because of its aggressive and assertive nature, braggadocio is seen as an inherently masculine form detailing the physical and sexual aptitude of a man, fighting ability, perceived image, and self-made wealth. With the knowledge that our society renders bragging as masculine and aggressive and women seek to establish themselves in a male-dominated genre, a female rap artist must engage in braggadocio to gain the respect of others. While they engage in this mechanism, female emcees face a particular challenge of needing to be aggressive yet “ladylike.” While this is a cultural oxymoron, it represents the hypocritical expectations women are subjected to by listeners, the industry, and at times – themselves. By challenging these gender roles, female emcees create a space for themselves in the genre and insert themselves into the hip hop world, allowing themselves to challenge more norms or use their artistic credibility to tell their stories.
By not only claiming space and power but defying gender norms, women employing braggadocio and empowering themselves should always be celebrated. Through this mixtape, we celebrate the idea of women who seek to ultimately uplift themselves.
Friend or Foe, Eva Alordiah (2020) – Nigeria
Eva Alordiah’s Friend or Foe is an interesting and remarkable take on the hip hop tradition of braggadocio. She starts off the track detailing her wealth, exclaiming that she doesn’t need to worry about the price – unlike some who attempt to acquaint themselves with her. She states that her time is valuable and that she is on the grind, needing to focus on her hard work, rising above others more than she already has, and centering herself with her own matters. However, Eva’s braggadocio and self-praise takes on a different meaning. In the second verse, Eva discusses her mental health issues and challenges those “in” her circle, asking, “Where were you when I was crawling on the floor crying late at night, scared as hell and calling up to God only asking why…” As she continues, she concludes the verse saying “Overly dedicated, yeah I must speak – I could’ve been anybody but I chose me…. But thank God that I’m here still, I got a lot on my plate, I’m just saying let’s eat.” In this moment, her self-praise and bold attitude transforms into an anthem of triumph. Not only has she met financial success and recognition for her talents, but she overcame depression. Even with her music video with bright colors, beautiful visuals and wardrobe, and her intimidating stare into the camera – the braggadocio employs itself not only as creating credibility but space for artists, particularly Black women, to talk openly about their mental health and celebrate growth.
Shook, Tkay Maidza (2020) – Zimbabwe
Tkay Maidza’s Shook speaks for itself. She begins the music video in a junkyard after seemingly arising from a car wreck and looking flawless, after a night of racing others. The audience sits in silence as she turns on the radio, blaring from the static-riddled speakers the words echo: “the best radio on the planet.” This renders the theme for the entire track. Against a bouncy, beat ideal for dancing she repeatedly states, “These mans, yeah I got them all shook; earthquake, yeah I got them all shook” for the hook. As she flows between the funky sound and her ad-libs, her braggadocio about her talents feel apt as the song speaks for itself. In her own remarks about the music via genius.com, Tkay Maidza describes how she is commonly undermined regarding her music ability due to her age. Combining this with the music industry’s perception of women, it’s no wonder why women rappers must state their intentions and credibility. Her lyrical finesse in the song such as “then these frauds tryna fit in, got ‘em playing tetris” and “platinum plaques come in dreams like I’m Malcolm.”
Rap and Me, Eyirap (2013) – Ghana
Eyirap’s Rap and Me is perhaps the most quintessential example of braggadocio employed by a female emcee. She not only showcases her tact and boldness, which are classically battle rap, in lines like “I understand the game so always I deliver” and “take me to the war zone and I’ll face Hitler.” By utilizing these sharp lines, she gives off the impression (successfully) that she can annihilate anyone with her skill. Not only does her bold and violent lyrics juxtapose the ancient standards at which women are held, but she explicitly states her intentions to defy gender norms in her song. She states, “I’m here to make money not to make marry…” if her dedication wasn’t already clear enough. Moreover, the song outlines her relationship to hip hop and the game, showing she is doing what she was meant to do. By clearly stating her rejection of society’s expectations and gender norms, illustrating her dominance, and outlining her dedication, she mirrors the typical male emcee. This pairs well with her music video for Rap and Me where the dark visuals, intimidating stares, large posse, and women dancing all emulate the average video from a male emcee. By Eyirap leading the video, the braggadocio becomes more of a statement as well as her personal story.
Twitter: @EyirapGh // Facebook: @Eyirap // Spotify: here
Bad, Mo’Cheddah (2015) – Nigeria
In this music video especially, Mo’Cheddah uses her femininity and confidence to showcase these traits and her material goods. With the confidence and “don’t care” attitude, she showcases more masculine behaviours. As women are taught to be more meek, shy, docile, and modest, Mo’Cheddah defies all these conventional teachings by her name as well as her visuals. Paired to a catchy, bright beat, she embraces her sexuality, her achievements, and her ability to obtain luxury goods and material items. Whereas Eyirap mirrored the male emcees whom she sought to intimidate, Mo’Cheddah embraced her femininity. While there is no “right” or “wrong” way to employ the female braggadocio, these two songs serve as two different ways to celebrate one’s own authentic self in the hip hop scene.
Instagram: @mocheddah // Twitter: @MoCheddaH // Facebook: here
Final Form, Sampa The Great (2019) – Zambia
Finally, Sampa The Great’s “Final Form” is a direct commemoration of her authentic self and her identity as a Black African woman. Employing braggadocio in the context of this song not only amplifies Sampa The Great’s love for herself and her identity, but empowers other women from similar backgrounds to do the same. As she begins with a relatable story for many young emcees, rising expectations and gossip, she states that she is rising above it and moving towards growth. In her metamorphosis, which will occur any day now, she is moving beyond those who hate on her. While she is clearly proud of her status now and her feats, she utilizes this machine to embrace her evolution as a Black African woman. The second verse into the chorus states, “Best mode, got my Afro like an empress/ Great state I’m in, in all the states I’m in/ I might final form in my melanin” (Sampa The Great). Not only is the mention of her afro and melanin a direct rejection of Eurocentric beauty standards, but the relation built between her final form, best mode, and empress denotes her power as a woman. The braggadocio, an inherently active and thus masculine act (by way of the patriarchy), executed by a female emcee such as Sampa The Great illustrates the power of women – but Black women in particular. Moreover, braggadocio embraces the pride she feels of her own features, in a world where non-Eurocentric women are taught to shy away and conform. This is not only reinforced by her repetition of “Black power (Louder)” (Sampa The Great) but the features of the Zambian landscape and traditional dances. By nature this recontextualizes her self-aggrandisement as the righteous empowerment of the Black woman, as an impassioned alternative to the Western, white supremacy. By celebrating herself, she is also celebrating Black women everywhere.
At the state, national, and global levels, Black women are upheld to rigid standards with almost no forgiveness. By virtue, hip hop culture is no exception. Hip hop culture in Africa dictates one kind of woman and American hip hop does the same, but then almost encourages Black African women to shed the aspects of their tradition that can empower them. Female emcees’ use of braggadocio offers them a mechanism to obtain the respect they rightfully deserve and shouldn’t have to prove themselves for. In the contemporary scene, as perhaps illustrated from the transition between Rap and Me in 2013 and Final Form in 2019, the cultural dialogue has changed. Rather than braggadocio being used to establish credibility in a man’s world (which is still done today, there’s nothing wrong with it), it can also be used to force space for women and usher in representation and self-empowerment that we deserve. That being said, a mixtape for the Female Braggadocio was necessary – because any song where a woman celebrates herself, is worth listening to.