Picture it: 1991. New Jersey. My parents' bedroom. For 75 minutes I sat in rapt attention, watching the Sisters in the Name of Rap pay-per-view special, which brought together a dozen of the time's female MCs, big (YoYo, Salt-N-Pepa, Lyte, Latifah, Shante) and...uh, not so much (Silk Tymes Leather? Nikki Kixx? Tam Tam? Anyone? Anyone? Didn't think so.). It had production value that was a mere notch above that which you could see in any given footage of my sisters' dance recitals that my father took, and it sounded like it was being transmitted from New York via tin cans and string, but I loved it all the same. The following year, a home video version of the show was released, but it went out of print immediately (I guess the demand wasn't so great -- I'll wait for you to pick your jaw off the floor before I resume typing). I've searched for it for years, once seeing it going for over $100 on the Amazon Marketplace. That was too expensive for me at the time, though when I checked again last week, I would have been willing to pay that much. Luckily, I didn't have to: to my shock, there was a copy available (again via the Marketplace), but for $15. I snapped it up immediately.
It's a funny snapshot of a bygone era that we tend to romanticize by claiming that things just ain't the same. True, it'd probably be impossible to fill 75 minutes with even obscure female rappers who are actively recording in 2008. Obviously, things aren't so easy for female rappers these days,, and that was a major theme of the just-finished female-MC reality show competition Miss Rap Supreme (the finale aired last night, that's why I'm posting this today, fyi). And though we couldn't possibly count on a political rap track actually getting airplay in today's hyper-commercial climate, let alone one specialized enough to be feminist (I mean, seriously: can you believe that "You Can't Play With My YoYo" and "U.N.I.T.Y." were, like, known? It seems like that could only happen on another planet at this point), watching the concert made me realize that things weren't so easy back then, either. The best example of this that I could find? Only when a male rapper stepped on stage did the crowd seriously respond. And this was a crowd, mind you, that paid to watch a parade of women rap. Not even the fucking female rappers' audience was excited to watch them! Sad, sad, sad, and at this point, I have no idea why things are so ludicrously unbalanced. They just are and it's just fucking depressing.
The male rapper in question was Ice Cube, who took the stage to chant the hook of YoYo's "You Can't Play With My YoYo." I ripped the performance (and it actually looks stellar considering it was transferred from VHS). You can watch it below. The fact that YoYo raps along to her own 12" does her no favors. (She couldn't get an instrumental of her own fucking track?) But if nothing else, at least you can be reminded of how adorable Cube was back in the day, when he was all po'faced and athletically thick.
After the jump, some more footage and a few points that are a little less depressing.
Just a few additional points of amusement:
1. The concert's logo (seen at the top of this post) would make a great tattoo, as my boyfriend pointed out. I feel like getting it put on my ass as some sort of retribution for all the ignored female MCs. The world can kiss it.
2. One of the members of Def Dames showed up pregnant...
...and, like, so over everything, too. Fair enough, I suppose?
3. Dancehall performer Shelly Thunder wore an outfit that was prone to the same flights of fancy as her larynx and tongue.
She was seriously dressed like a Black Box 12".
Possibly pregnant, as well.
4. Silk Tymes Leather wore neither. What a letdown!
5. Nikke Nicole (who spells her name with both a question mark and exclamation point, per her introductory slate)...
...rapped a song about believing in yourself that included every inspirational cliche ever. It's all go the extra mile to control your own fate because it lies in your hands which shouldn't be idle lest they do the devil's work, work, work it, girl! At one point she asks for feedback from those who believe in themselves. None is audible, and yet she still says, "Yeah! A lot of people believin' in themselves tonight!" I mean, can you even fathom how people were less than receptive? Nothing like inspirational platitudes to cold rock a party!
6. The only person to come close to Ice Cube in response level was Roxanne Shante, and half of that was because she was booed as she was announced to enter the stage (this was when "Big Mama," the track that dissed Latifah, YoYo, MC Lyte, Monie Love and a few others for no good reason and sometimes homophobically, was still in recent memory). Performing "Dance to This" (again, along to a track containing the full vocals), she finally won the crowd over with the couplet, "You try to front and step to this, you stupid bitch you only get scarred / Then I smile and make your boyfriend's dick hard." A wonderful turn of phrase, to be sure, but I also enjoyed how she hyped up the crowd at the start of her performance: "Fuck it up, y'all! Fuck it up, y'all!" I don't even know what that means, but it sounds active.
You can watch that performance below, too:
I ripped a few more videos, which you can watch at my YouTube account's main page. I suggest viewing them on their actual YouTube pages, so you can select the "Watch in high quality" option. It makes a difference. Also, I didn't want to embed a bunch of video because I know that can get overwhelming, and, like, four people on the planet besides me care about this shit. I guess that's kind of my point, sad as it is.