Updated Aug. 11, at 12:50 p.m. PT.
For hip-hop’s 50th anniversary this year, “Turning 50: Looking Back at the Women in Hip-Hop” recognizes the women who shaped the genre. The series includes articles in print and online, a public syllabus highlighting women and hip-hop, and digital conversations with “hip-hop feminists” in music, journalism and academics.
The Hip-Hop Feminist Syllabus is a comprehensive resource list of sources relating to hip-hop’s impact on gender, race and feminism on the occasion of hip-hop’s 50th anniversary in 2023.
Resources are divided into four sections:
- interviews with hip-hop feminists, spotlighting artists, journalists, writers and scholars, which will be featured throughout the summer of 2023. (Find them all here; this page will auto-update when new installments publish.)
- a Spotify playlist of hip-hop feminist anthems spanning all five decades. The selected songs in the featured playlist highlight important feminist messages and conversations that serve as landmarks for women’s legacy in hip-hop.
- a world map locating hip-hop in the international scene. Through a literal map (below), we explore the intersection of hip-hop and feminism globally and how hip-hop has provided a platform for women to challenge societal norms and promote gender equality.
- books, articles and films—evidence of the impact of women and queer people in hip-hop culture, as well as the declared (and undeclared) feminists who continue to monitor its legacy by contributing to arguments of accurate Black representation, Black womanhood, and the erasure of important hip-hop figures.
Hip-Hop Feminist Anthems: Spotify Playlist
As a musical map through the decades, the Spotify playlist includes songs considered to be feminist anthems.
Though the roles of women and sexual minorities are often marginalized in mainstream hip-hop culture, they have contributed significantly to shaping its sound and popularity—especially voices like Queen Latifah, who has been vocal about women’s empowerment and community, and the importance of women like Sylvia Robinson in hip-hop’s inception.
Some songs speak on the status of women at the time, whether that be disrespect in the media, the double standards of embodied sexuality, or the treatment of women within the music industry itself. Other songs focus on empowering their female listeners to love their bodies and sexualities.
Listen to the full playlist is below, or head here for song-by-song commentary from Janell Hobson.
Assembled by Sydney Lemire, Lynn Rios Rivera, and Chanthanome (Toui) Vilaphonh.
Hip-Hop in the International Scene
Hip-hop feminism has become a prominent movement in the international hip-hop scene.
This world map highlights the impact of hip-hop in different regions of the world, including Europe, Asia, Latin America, and Africa, and examines the emerging trends and artists who have made hip-hop a powerful force in these regions.
We also explore the intersection of hip-hop and feminism, and how hip-hop has provided a platform for women to challenge societal norms and promote gender equality.
Through this world map, we aim to gain a deeper understanding of the cultural, social and political impact of hip-hop on a global scale, particularly in regards to issues of gender and feminism.
Explore the map on Google Maps or below:
Assembled by Aminata Kargbo, Jamie McCoy, and Emilia Romero Hicks.
Hip-Hop Feminist Readings and Resources
To facilitate an understanding of the historical development of hip-hop culture, the materials assembled here, including books, articles and films, examine various aspects of hip-hop culture, such as the early history of hip-hop in the Bronx, hip-hop’s role in the construction of race and identity, the global impact of hip-hop, hip-hop fashion and style, the intersection of hip-hop and politics, and the multifaceted nature of hip-hop culture.
Armstead, Ronni. “Las Krudas, Spatial Practice, and the Performance of Diaspora.”Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 130-143.
Chepp, Valerie. “Black Feminism and Third-Wave Women’s Rap: A Content Analysis, 1996-2003.” Popular Music and Society 38, no. 5 (2015): 545–564.
Clay, Andreana. “’Like an Old Soul Record’: Black Feminism, Queer Sexuality, and the Hip-Hop Generation.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 53-73.
Durham, Aisha. “’Check on it’: Beyoncé, Southern Booty, and Black Femininities in Music Video.” Feminist Media Studies 12, no. 1 (2012): 35-49.
Durham, Aisha, Brittney C. Cooper, and Susana M. Morris. “The Stage Hip-Hop Feminism Built: A New Directions Essay.” Signs 38, no. 3 (2013): 721-737.
Fitts, Mako. “‘Drop It Like It’s Hot’: Culture Industry Laborers and Their Perspectives on Rap Music Video Production.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 211-235.
Forman, Murray. “’Movin’ Closer to an Independent Funk”: Black Feminist Theory, Standpoint, and Women in Rap.” Women’s Studies: An Interdisciplinary Journal 23, no. 1 (1994): 35-55.
Hobson, Janell, and R. Dianne Bartlow. Introduction to “Representin’: Women, Hip-Hop, and Popular Music.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 1-14.
Jennings, Kyesha. “City Girls, Hot Girls and the Re-imagining of Black Women in Hip Hop and Digital Spaces.” Global Hip Hop Studies 1, no. 1 (2020): 47-70.
Johnson, Adeerya. “Dirty South Feminism: The Girlies Got Somethin’ to Say too! Southern Hip-Hop women, Fighting Respectability, Talking Mess, and Twerking Up the Dirty South.” Religions 12, no. 11 (2021): 1030.
LaBennett, Oneka. “Histories and ‘Her Stories’ from the Bronx: Excavating Hidden Hip Hop Narratives.” Afro-Americans in New York Life and History 33, no. 2 (2009): 109.
Lane, Nikki. “Black Women Queering the Mic: Missy Elliott Disturbing the Boundaries of Racialized Sexuality and Gender.” Journal of Homosexuality 58, no. 6-7 (2011): 775-792.
Lindsey, Treva B. “Let Me Blow Your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis.” Urban Education 50, no. 1 (2015): 52-77.
McMurray, Ayana. “Hotep and Hip-Hop: Can Black Muslim Women Be Down with Hip-Hop?” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 74-92.
Miller-Young, Mireille. “Hip-Hop Honeys and Da Hustlaz: Black Sexualities in the New Hip-Hop Pornography.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 261-292.
Mosley, Angela M. “Women Hip-Hop Artists and Womanist Theology.” Religions 12, no. 12 (2021): 1063.
Morgan, Joan. “Fly-Girls, Bitches, and Hoes: Notes of a Hip-Hop Feminist.” Social Text 45 (1995): 151-157.
Orr, Niela. “The Future of Rap Is Female.” New York Times (2023).
Pough, Gwendolyn D. “What It Do, Shorty?: Women, Hip-Hop, and a Feminist Agenda.” Black Women, Gender & Families 1, no. 2 (2007): 78-99.
Peoples, Whitney A. “’Under Construction’: Identifying Foundations of Hip-Hop Feminism and Exploring Bridges between Black Second-Wave and Hip-Hop Feminisms.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 19-52.
Reid-Brinkley, Shanara R. “The Essence of Res(ex)pectability: Black Women’s Negotiation of Black Femininity in Rap Music and Music Video.” Meridians 8, no. 1 (2008): 236-260.
Roberts, Robin. “Music Videos, Performance and Resistance: Feminist Rappers.” Journal of Popular Culture 25, no. 2 (1991): 141.
Smith, Marquita R. “Beyoncé: Hip Hop Feminism and the Embodiment of Black Femininity.” In The Routledge Research Companion to Popular Music and Gender, pp. 229-241. Routledge, 2017.
Tillet, Salamisha. “Strange Sampling: Nina Simone and Her Hip-Hop Children.” American Quarterly 66, no. 1 (2014): 119-137.
Williams, Faith G. “Afrocentrism, Hip-Hop, and the ‘Black Queen’: Utilizing Hip-Hop Feminist Methods to Challenge Controlling Images of Black Women.” McNair Scholars Research Journal 10 (2017).
Anderson, Adrienne. Word: Rap, Politics and Feminism. N.Y.: Writers Club Press, 2003.
Bradley, Regina. Chronicling Stankonia: The Rise of the Hip-Hop South. Chapel Hill: UNC Press, 2021.
Brown, Ruth Nicole. Black Girlhood Celebration: Toward a Hip-Hop Feminist Pedagogy. Vol. 5. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2009.
Brown, Ruth Nicole, ed. Wish to Live: The Hip-Hop Feminism Pedagogy Reader. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2012.
Brown, Sesali. Bad Fat Black Girl: Notes from a Trap Feminist. N.Y.: Amistad Press, 2021.
Collins, Patricia Hill. From Black Power to Hip Hop: Racism, Nationalism, and Feminism. Philadelphia: Temple University Press, 2006.
Cooper, Brittney C., Susana M. Morris, and Robin M. Boylorn, eds. The Crunk Feminist Collection. N.Y.: The Feminist Press at CUNY, 2016.
Durham, Aisha. Home with Hip Hop Feminism: Performances in Communication and Culture. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2014.
Farrugia, Rebekah, and Kellie D. Hay, eds. Women Rapping Revolution: Hip Hop and Community Building in Detroit. Berkeley: UC Press, 2020.
Gaunt, Kyra. The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes from Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop. N.Y.: NYU Press, 2006.
Hall, Marcella Runell, ed. Conscious Women Rock the Page: Using Hip-Hop Fiction to Incite Social Change. N.Y.: Sister Outsider, 2008.
Hope, Clover. The Motherlode: 100+ Women Who Made Hip-Hop. NY: ABRAMS, 2021.
Iandoli, Kathy. God Save the Queens: The Essential History of Women in Hip-Hop. N.Y.: HarperCollins, 2019.
Love, Bettina L. Hip Hop’s Li’l Sistas Speak: Negotiating Hip Hop Identities and Politics in the New South. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2012.
Merriday, Jodi. Hip Hop Herstory: Women in Hip Hop Cultural Production and Music from Margins to Equity. Philadelphia: Temple University, 2006.
Morgan, Joan. When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks it Down. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 1999.
Morgan, Joan. She Begat This: 20 Years of the Miseducation of Lauryn Hill. Simon & Schuster, 2018.
Pabon-Colon, Jessica Nydia. Graffiti Grrlz: Performing Feminism in the Hip Hop Diaspora. N.Y.: NYU Press, 2018.
Perry, Imani. Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Durham: Duke University Press, 2012.
Pough, Gwendolyn D. Check it While I Wreck it: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture, and the Public sphere. Northeastern University Press, 2004.
Pough, Gwendolyn D, ed. Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology. N.Y.: Parker Publishing, 2007.
Rabaka, Reiland. Hip Hop’s Inheritance: From the Harlem Renaissance to the Hip Hop Feminist Movement. Lexington Books, 2011.
Richardson, Elaine. HipHop Literacies. N.Y. and London: Routledge, 2006.
Rose, Tricia. Black noise: Rap music and Black Culture in Contemporary America. New Haven: Wesleyan University Press, 1993.
Rose, Tricia. The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk about When We Talk about Hip Hop – and why it matters. N.Y.: Perseus Books, 2008.
Sharpley-Whiting, T. Denean. Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip-Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women. N.Y.: NYU Press, 2007.
Sister Souljah. No Disrespect. N.Y.: Doubleday, 1996.
Sister Souljah. The Coldest Winter Ever. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2010.
Sister Souljah. Life After Death: A Novel. N.Y.: Simon & Schuster, 2022.
Utley, Ebony A. Rap and Religion: Understanding the Gangsta’s God. Santa Barbara: Praeger, 2012.
Williams, Angela S. Hip Hop Harem: Women, Rap, and Representation in the Middle East. N.Y.: Peter Lang, 2020.
My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth About Women and Hip Hop (2010)
Director: Ava DuVernay
Sisters in the Name of Rap (2020)
Director: Paul C. Brunson
Nobody Knows My Name (1999)
Director: Rachel Raimist
Say My Name (2010)
Director: Nirit Peled
Ladies First, limited series (2023)
Director: Dream Hampton
Roxanne, Roxanne (2007)
Director: Michael Larnell
Just Another Girl on the I.R.T. (1992)
Director: Leslie Harris
Poetic Justice (1993)
Director: John Singleton
Love Beats Rhymes (2017)
The 40-Year-Old Version (2020)
Director: Radha Blank
Beyonce: Lemonade (2016)
Directors: Beyonce, Kahlil Joseph, Dikayl Rimmasch, Todd Tourso, Jonas Akerlund, Melina Matsoukas, Mark Romanek
Editor’s note: The research team for this public syllabus includes students in Dr. Janell Hobson’s graduate research seminar in women’s, gender and sexuality studies at the University at Albany, State University of New York: Sarah Amplo, Arezoo Hajighorbani, Janelle Hogges, Lily Hughes, Aminata Kargbo, Sade Lubin, Sydney Lemire, Jamie McCoy, Yoanna Moawad, Bria Nickerson, Alexander Perry, Lynn Rios Rivera, Emilia Romero Hicks, Madison Snyder and Chanthanome (Toui) Vilaphonh. The reading/resource list was assembled by Arezoo Hajighorbani, Sade Lubin, and Yoanna Moawad.
Join Ms. for a special plenary, “Surviving Hip-Hop: A 50th Anniversary Celebration of the Women Who Shaped the Culture” (featuring Joan Morgan, Dee Barnes, Drew Dixon, Toni Blackman and Monie Love), set for Friday, Oct. 27, 2023, at the annual National Women’s Studies Association Conference in Baltimore, Md.
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