QueenTalk with FeMC’s

Lady Leshurr is an English rapper, singer, and producer. Lady Leshurr’s Queen Speech 4 video, from her Queen Speech series, went viral this past year. A native of the United Kingdom, Lady Leshurr breaks down the barriers set for most female rappers. It is expected, by society, that women must be sexualized and succumb to the shadow of the male when it comes to hip hop. The concept of hip hop is hardcore, rebellious, and confident; nearly everything a woman is not portrayed as in the media. Throughout the video, Lady Leshurr is the main image in the camera walking down the middle of the street as she raps. This sheds light on Lady Leshurr’s immense confidence. Her lyrical content emphasizes this as she indeed confident and has the ability to switch between short and funny bars to bars that must be built upon and might pick your brain a bit. The various pop culture references lead me to believe her intended audience may be Americans, otherwise these references would not hold much weight. Her style is a bit on the feminine side, but she adds a masculine touch with her backwards snap back and boxer briefs. I believe her video message was that she is a confident woman who likes to have fun and knows she’s the sh*t.

In contrast to Lady Leshurr, Dope Saint Jude is a rapper and producer from Cape Town, South Africa. Dope Saint Jude’s Realtak, to me, is less about braggadocio and more about social issues. Dope Saint Jude is a member of the LGBTQ community, but she still has a shirtless man in the video. This shows her acknowledgement of the hip hop culture having a problem with sexualizing females in music videos. The scene with the shirtless male looks like it’s the “cool” scene because this is what society expects. On the other hand, the scene with the females are in her room. I took this as a symbol of her comfortability around women and how homosexuality is to be kept private. Aside from the video aesthetics, Dope Saint Jude is also a lyricist. She makes a statement about the problems that come with her skin complexion, as she is neither accepted by the white people or black because they do not feel she identifies with them. Like Lady Leshurr, Dope Saint Jude, shows her attention to American society by using the beat from the song My N*gga My N*gga by YG, an American rapper.

Not Your “Average” Females

I recall watching a Dope Saint Jude video earlier in the course. She was raw and so eclectic, so when I saw her name on the list I knew she was the first artist I would choose. Dope Saint Jude bends the norms in Xxplosive, much like many of her other videos, using her words, her clothing, and overall attitude. She can be seen wearing loose fitting or baggy clothing all throughout the video and takes this very slouchy, masculine stance. Also, she wears her hair locked, which to many aren’t very “lady-like”. As far as lyrics, she refers to women as bitches, so not only is she swearing but she’s using a derogatory term for women. Overall she has a very androgynous look vibe. Her characteristics may even make someone question her sexuality or what she identifies as, but she makes it very clear that she is all female and could care less about what you think.

The next artist I noticed was Nadia Rose in her video for “Station”. Although she doesn’t give off the same consistent masculine appeal like Jude, you can still see her slouching her posture and sporting baggy clothing from time to time. For majority of the video she’s wearing a sports bra, jacket, and form-fitting pants, which are deemed as more feminine, but the amount of skin on top may be seen as unladylike. This is the perfect example of how artists can be on opposite sides of the spectrum, but still given the same label. Also, Rose openly talks about her sex life, reciting “he put his bit in my bit, now I’m “coming” on the go”. Society, both in America and especially in Africa may deem her expressive lyrics as too personal or explicit for a woman.

Overall, both femcees are going against the grain in their own ways and paving the way for future female artists to openly and freely express themselves however they want because tha’s what hip hop is all about.

Female MC Takeover: Lady Leshurr’s “Queen’s Speech Ep. 4” and Dope Saint Jude’s “Realtalk”

English rapper, singer, and producer, Lady Leshurr’s style is one that immediately resonates with listeners on a lyrical level because of her ability to reference popular culture and rhyme simultaneously. The first line in her song, “Queen’s Speech Ep. 4” is the following, “I hold it down like a snapchat.” She is able to significantly connect to young adults all over the world that use Snapchat, because those youth know that in order to record a video on snapchat, one must hold his or her finger down on the screen. This is a small and simple reference, but, Leshurr continues this style on a very impressively high level. Following this very first line, nearly every line after has a similar reference to popular culture; including but not limited to the following: current news, makeup trends, and popular celebrities. Stylistically, the music video features Leshurr cuising the roads in street fashion while confidently addressing the camera.

The way Lady Leshurr walks, dances, and even raps displays her strong sense of confidence – which is essential in being a popular FeMC. s these titles of confidence, swagger, and cockiness were primarily only attributed to male rappers in the past, Lady Leshurr brings attention to the current state of hip hip and the ability of women to command through their rapping style.

A FeMC of South Africa, Dope Saint Jude, similarly does the same in her video, “Realtalk”. A remix of  YG’s “My N***a”, Jude raps over his hard beat and not only shows strong visuals that defy gender roles and norms, but even expresses herself and her sexuality (that also strays from the “norm” or average straight person).

In the video, Dope Saint Jude shows off shirtless men in the background, similar to the way male rappers often show off their “women” with little clothing in the background of their music videos. This reverses and flips the gender roles normally attributed to rap music, and negates the norms of them, therefore creating a new style. Jude is so original because she is not afraid of contradicting the stereotypes portrayed by rap music of the past (and present). Her line that reads as, “And I have five boys, and they all my side b*tches” only adds to this negation of the norms in rap, and is a testament to her ability to be original and break down the gender roles so strongly upheld by society around the world.

Black Like Me

Hip Hop was borne from the oppression Black people faced in their urban communities and the outlet to this madness was found in a dope beat and intellectual wordplay. The Black struggle found in the Bronx in America can be mirrored in South Africa where Black people were similarly oppressed in their communities. The Black struggle is unique– if you’re not a member of the Black community, it’s hard to understand what it’s like living while Black. It’s a never ending struggle of escaping oppression and trying to live fully in your skin. Blacks in America in the 90s reached out their hands to their brothas and sistas in South Africa because they knew all too well what it’s like enduring the war against Black all over the world.

Dope Saint Jude, a queer South African hip hop artist and Joey Badass, Brooklyn Native hip hop artist, although growing up in two completely different places, explore what it means to live like them, live Black like them.

In Dope Saint Jude’s video for her song “Brown Baas” the focus is mainly on her and her brown skin and statement locs where she is delivering fierce lines about the oppression she faces being Black in South Africa which hints at the remnants of Apartheid still in the country. She uses the South African term “baas” which means authority figure, and proclaims herself as a “baas” or boss, saying that she’s proud of her Blackness even though others may have a problem with it. She’s owning who she is. She repeats, ”
What it’s like to be brown for a girl like me” “What it’s like to be a baas for a girl like me”

Similarly, Joey Badass invites people into his world with his song, “Like Me” that talks about the everyday struggles of being a Black man in his Brooklyn. The daily fight to stay alive and how people like him live differently and have a whole other perspective on life. “Like Me” was used as a protest song on Jimmy Fallon to shine light on the recent killings of unarmed Black men raising awareness of the pressures young Black men, and Black people in general face.

Both artists reclaim their Blackness and highlight the struggles that come with it, but also show how it’s a source of pride. Dope Saint Jude and Joey Badass both reflect on their experiences through their lyrics and are really trying to send a message because their lyrics come in clear. Joey Badass’s video is more of a cinematic piece where he paints a story for the listener and visual, while Dope Saint Jude has herself as the focus. The video that is very raw and grimy. They both are being a voice for young Black people who are trying to figure out their place in a world that isn’t always that kind to them.

Student Project: South African Visual Feminism

A project unpacking the feminist images available in South African Female Rap Artists’ music videos.

A project unpacking the feminist images available in South African Female Rap Artists’ music videos.

Video can also be found on VIMEO