When prosed with the question: What is hip-hop? Most would say that hip-hop is a type of musical genre. But when provided with a more in-depth insight, the definition changes. Hip-hop is more than a musical genre, Hip-hop is a culture. A culture that influences everything from style to the way we view things in life differently. It allows us to build connections with other people from various backgrounds and walks of life. Hip-hop tells stories. But for so long the narrators behind the stories have been men. What about women? If there are women also telling the stories, they will be better. So should men only be able to tell our stories?
According to Grimes, women represent less than 5% of music producers and engineers ... which for those of you who did the math means that men currently occupy 95% of the music production and engineering jobs. Of course, male producers are often household names – like Timbaland, Dr. Dre, Kanye West, and Pharrell, to name a few. But this isn’t about them or men for that matter. Women are as visible as ever in music — between them, Taylor Swift, Beyoncé, and Lady Gaga have sold over 22 million records since 2008, according to Billboard. But if you look closer at the credits on those albums, women's names are few and far between.
Black women should be guiding the sound and leading the recording process, and doing the work in the studio that takes the sound waves, electrical impulses and digitized bits of sonic information and shapes them into the hip-hop music we hear. Why? Because Black women producers will make hip-hop more diverse.
As stated in Enhancing Personal Communication Effectiveness, women tend to use communication for the purpose of relating or connecting to others, of extending themselves to other persons to know them and be known by them. In other words, women tend to use communication to establish rapport. The same type of rapport that kick started Hip-Hop back in 1979, when SugarHill Gang’s “Rapper Delight” hit airwaves, which was produced by none other than, that’s right you guessed it, a woman: Sylvia Robinson, known as the mother of hip-hop. The rap hit went on to sell more than eight million copies and inspired thousands of imitators. And what about Jay Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail track “Crown,” who was the mastermind behind that beat? That’s right; you guessed it, a woman. A 16 year-old woman to be exact by the name of Wondagurl. From these examples, it can be seen that black female producers will redefine and completely reconstruct the one-sided and limited infrastructure that is constantly being created by men in hip-hop.
Speaking of the limited infrastructure that is constantly created by men – the more Black women producers, the more positive representation of women. It’s no secret that in order to be a successful, Black woman in today’s hip-hop industry, you have to be an over sexualized video girl, groupie, or rapper. Selling themselves as an object, accessory, or item that men can display at their liking. The stigma for women entering the hip-hop industry is that “sex sells;” but with the presence of more black women producers that stigma will be dismantled and generations of young girls will have a creative female role model to look up to. Producer, sound engineer and owner of Tigersonic Records, Felix Xfile Macintosh, initially spent time in studios as a bass player and writer. She stated, "It never occurred to me to even think about working in a studio – in all that time I never saw a female engineer.” When females can see it, they will believe it, and develop a confidence in themselves that they can achieve it. This will only happen if there are Black women female producers in the industry that they can believe in and look up to. Just like Black kids need black dolls, Black girls need black female producer role models.
As mentioned before, so much of women and hip-hop is categorized by stigmas and pre-conceived notions. But the presence of black women producers will change that, especially the notion that women are not technical of the work required to audio engineer and produce beats. “[K]nowledge of advanced audio concepts such as digital signal theory, audio acoustics and sound design provides excellent applications for STEM subjects (science, technology, engineering, and mathematics).” Which according to Mic.com is a gateway toward igniting young girls’ interests in STEM professions. Women are able and always will be. The more of a presence Black woman have in producing, the less preconceived notions there will be, which will lead to women simply being labeled as a producer rather than a black woman producer.
Ebonie Smith, founder of Gender Amplified (a movement that provides a platform for the promotion and advancement of women in music production) powerfully stated, “There is a power and agency in giving women the tools, technical skill and knowledge to record, playback, and transmit their own stories.”
So again, what is hip-hop? That’s right, you guessed it. A story-telling culture. So should men only be able to tell our stories? Anything men can do, women can do better. So the next time you’re listening to your favorite song, I want you to think about how much better it could be if a woman would have produced it.