Intersectional Feminist Hip Hop

Ava Holtzman

Introduction :

Mixtape :

Female Hip Hop artists in Africa and around the world fight an uphill battle against the patriarchy to achieve respect and recognition, and this mixtape showcases five artists who use their music to elevate women of color in an industry that is fraught with a potent combination of sexism and colorism. Eva Alordiah, Dope St. Jude, Muthoni Drummer Queen, Eno Barony, and Sampa the Great lyrically amplify the inequality, violence, and sexism that impacts women across Africa. Together they represent the various struggles and neglected perseverance of women from Nigeria, South Africa, Kenya, Ghana, Zambia, and beyond. Throughout the semester we have focused on the fact that “hip-hop was created from the organic compost of struggle, protest, fury, and a love for music”, and each of these artists’ discographies represent the female dimensions of these experiences in Africa (Endsley 128). This mixtape encapsulates the theme of Empowered Black Women serving as the backbone of music, culture and protest in Africa and around the world. 

The first song on the mixtape, WOMAN by Eva Alordiah ushers us into a discussion of intersectional identities in hip-hop in listing all the roles that women fulfill in society ; providers, creators, nurturers, all while being just as strong as a man. Eva Alordiah is a rapper, make-up artist, fashion designer and entrepreneur from Nigeria. While her talents are innumerable, Eva is considered one of the best female rappers across Nigeria. Her 2016 song WOMAN represents all of the women in Nigeria and across Africa that assume many roles in their families and communities, embodying what Eva describes as an “angel of the town”. While we have established that women in Africa face sexism and repression regarding their societal role, Eva Alordiah’s WOMAN amplifies the female role as irreplaceable and endlessly important. 

Inside by Dope St. Jude follows up with a discussion of colorism and enforced beauty standards within female communities in Africa. Dope St. Jude’s identity as a queer woman of color in South Africa is inseperable from her music and her mission to empower queer and female communities across Africa. Inside describes Dope St. Jude’s experience as a child in school learning that straight hair is the standard to be beautiful, and then reflecting as an adult with dreads and dark skin that “beauty’s on the inside”.  Dope St. Jude’s music speaks to the theme of intersectional empowerment as it is radical in nature and she is an unapologetic supporter of expanding the hip hop community across lines of gender and sexual identities. 

Ruth Eno Adjoa Amankwah Nyame Adom, better known by her stage name Eno Barony, is a rapper and songwriter from Ghana. Enough is Enough by Eno Barony blends with the mixtape’s message of intersectional empowerment in providing commentary on how arbitrarily society defines the worth of women. While the sexual objectification of women in the music industry has run rampant, Eno Barony resists this notion in her lyric “the success of a woman don’t depend on spreadin’ her legs”. “Hip-hop across the diaspora is a contested space for race and gender identities, inviting and challenging emcees to talk back to existing mainstream narratives”, a challenge to which Eno Barony responds“Enough is enough”(Endsley 126). 

The final song on the mixtape is Sampa the Great’s Black Girl Magik, which brings the message of intersectional feminism in hip-hop home in amplifying love, respect and support for black women. The song chronicles the struggles that black women have faced as well as their collective resilience in the face of cruelty and repression. Sampa Tembo, known professionally as Sampa the Great, is a Zambian-born Australia-based rapper and songwriter whose music often includes calls to honor and support black women as the “queens” they are. Black Girl Magik concludes the mixtape with a final testament to the magical strength of African women in the face of adversity. 

Each of these songs, and by extension these female artists represent the complex impact of music that seeks to uplift female voices on social issues in Africa. While musical expression may not directly ease the pain of repression by the patriarchy, we have certainly seen its power to inspire a suitable resistance. May this mixtape serve as a testament to the resounding political mobilization galvanized by the music of African women everywhere. 

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