Female rappers are a big thing at the moment, aren’t they? If people aren’t frothing at them mouth over Nicki Minaj then there’s a damn good chance they’re falling down the sex-fuelled Azealia Banks rabbit-hole. Banks put it best recently when she went on an exasperated Twitter tirade recently, saying something along the lines of ‘There’s no such thing as a female rapper. It’s rapper, period.’ Unfortunately, that distinction is going to be a long time coming given the founding tenets of the ’90s movement which propelled hip-hop into its current position at the head of popular culture was a profound disrespect for women. But what should be taken away from Banks is that good rappers don’t have to rely on novelty to get ahead. If you’ve got the goods, who you are should be secondary to what you can do. Nobody calls Eminem a white rapper anymore, or the Beastie Boys punk-ass Jewish kids, though neither of those things have really changed. With that in mind, I thought we’d take a trip down memory lane to find one of the first ‘female rappers’ who held her own against some seriously intimidating men.
Lady Of Rage is probably the most unbelievable, underrated force in hip-hop. She’s appeared on not one, but two of the most seminal rap albums of all time, Dre’s The Chronic in 1992 and Snoop’s Doggystyle in 1993. They both repaid the favour a year later with this certified G-funk banger that appeared on the soundtrack of some movie called Above The Rim which I have never seen but I’m sure it’s equal parts amazing and terrible given that the soundtrack is full of Death Row stars and Tupac is one of feature actors. As it stands, this remains Rage’s most popular single, but to be real, the reason it’s so enduring is because she pretty much wipes the floor with both of her bigger, more famous guest stars. What I really enjoy about her diction is the fact that Rage manages to go through three verses without saying anything remotely hypersexual and bringing the whole machismo swagger to a whole other level. “Let me loosen up my bra strap and, umm/ let me boost you with my raw rap.” She’s not obsessed with male genitalia the way Lil Kim was and she sure as hell isn’t dressing up like a kook and changing her vocal register to get noticed. Lady Of Rage is just great at what she does, and over this classic Dre beat. Anyone would kill for this beat. Seriously. I would.
It’s actually really weird hearing these two heavyweights, both of whom are introduced a full three minutes before the star of the track, talking about women in a way that is somewhat respectful. Dre literally calls her a legend and then gets straight back to business in about ten seconds, while Snoop takes a lot of time to remind us what his name is, only slipping up once when he has to mention ‘bitches on my dick.’Still, it’s got to be one of the most incongruous pairing of ideals of the ’90s, until you realise that the Lady Of Rage, short of her name, doesn’t take offence because she thinks of herself as one of the boys. Bitches, hoes, and all those other lovely names don’t apply to her, so she shrugs the whole thing off. It’s reverse-feminism on crack and it’s fascinating. Rage ‘rocks on with her bad self’ while that loping bass, funk guitar and siren synth makes you feel like you’re in the best song Tupac never got to appear on. That three minute wait is worth it. She’s got more lyrical inventiveness than both of the other guys put together, running through ice cream, cheetah and period metaphors in the first verse alone. Nicki Minaj in monster be damned, that was a minute, this is five of them and the energy doesn’t let up for a second.
A stone cold rap classic; ‘female’ optional.
Lady Of Rage ft. Snoop Dogg & Dr Dre – ‘Afro Puffs (Extended Mix)’