Steady On Her Grind

{November 29, 2010}   Ladies First

Yes, I’m Pep and there ain’t nobody
Like my body, yes, I’m somebody
No, I’m sorry, I’m-a rock this Mardis Gras
Until the party ends, friends
Yes, I’m blessed, and I know who I am
I express myself on every jam
I’m not a man, but I’m in command
Hot damn, I got an all-girl band”- Salt N Pepa, “Expression”

“Who the fuck want war?
Fed-Ex beef straight to your front door.
It’ll be a murder scene,
I’m turning Pink Friday to Friday the 13th.”-L’il Kim, “Black Friday”

“Rap is what you do.  Hip-Hop is what you live.”- KRS ONE

This past holiday, Twitter was abuzz over hip-hop’s latest feud between Young Money’s sole female rhyming sensation Nicki Minaj, and Bad Boy’s former sole Queen Bee,  L’il Kim.  Attempting to pinpoint the source of this bizarre beef will ultimately prove to be a futile task.  Instead, ponder this:  Twenty years ago,  in addition to being able to see Salt, Pep, and Spinderella move the crowds in their videos, one could also see Queen Latifah and Monie Love shout out women everywhere on “Ladies First”, and MC Lyte tell the tale of “Poor Georgie.”  A decade ago, Missy Elliott & Eve spit verses alongside heavyweights Nas & Q-Tip on Elliott’s Number One single “Hot Boyz”, which spent sixteen weeks at the top of the charts.  Now, in 2010, as Nicki Minaj rides the wave of both critical acclaim and mainstream success from a style that at least in spirit appears to be partially influenced by both Elliott & L’il Kim, the latter has chosen to enter into another time-honored tradition amongst female rappers (and not to be outdone, reality show stars as well); tearing each other down, rather than build each other up.

“We believe that women of color are in a state of emergency.,” says Kathleen Adams, co-founder of Momma’s Hip-Hop Kitchen, an event that since 2008, has exclusively showcased female artists and also aims to serve as a platform for community organizing, as well as empower women on issues that directly affect them such as HIV, and reproductive rights.  “There’s a lack of representation available with mass media.  Women are being attacked and exploited not only via hip-hop but also due to our community’s  culture.  Women aren’t being respected.”  And just what are Kathleen’s thoughts on the Harajuku Barbie?  “If she could be more of an advocate with sexuality like Lady Gaga, she hasn’t taken an activist stance on issues.  When asked about her sexuality, she doesn’t ever give an upfront answer.  She has a lot of personas, you never know [just who she is].  It’s just kind of weird.  I don’t think there should be a feud.  L’il Kim said she wanted to be a black Pam Anderson; Nicki Minaj has her Barbie persona.”

While Kathleen’s love affair with hip-hop began innocently enough with the mid 90’s one hit wonder Skee-Lo’s wistful tune “I Wish” (“I was super young…that’s the first thing I got with my brother.”), she admits to becoming disappointed with it as she grew older.  “I fell out of love with hip-hop at the end of high school, going to college.  I was becoming a woman, turning into an adult, dating and exploring the world.  A lot of the interactions I had with men were influenced by hip-hop.   I didn’t like the way I was treated….I didn’t wanna ‘drop it like it’s hot’.  I didn’t feel like I was respected or valued; it was crazy.”

The idea for Momma’s Hip-Hop Kitchen was born in hip-hop’s birthplace, the South Bronx.  Kathleen, who currently serves on the board of Advocates for Youth’s Young Women of Color Leadership Council, began volunteering in the area when she met emcee Lah Tere of Rebel Diaz, and had “a meeting of the minds.”   “Hip-Hop was initially started to spread messages, feelings, emotions, and make change.  People rapped about their situations….[now] hip-hop/rap changed so much there’s no substance to it all, so let’s take it back to its roots.  We just thought ‘Yeah something needs to be done, women aren’t involved in the conversation at all, let’s just have it focused on women’.”

The first event was held in 2008 in New York City and in addition to musicians, featured visual artists, theatre, dance, and poets.  A typical guest’s experience should go something like this:  “When you walk into the lobby, you’d see a plethora of community organizations, and vendors.  You’d see a DJ doing turntable tricks, bomba dancers.  You can see great artwork from visual artists, you can see spoken word poets, at the end of the event, you’ll receive a compilation of the artists for free.  [One can] meet and network, reunite with old friends.  It’s early in the afternoon, and safe for the family to come.  Sometimes we have an afterparty, it’s just a great free afternoon.”  One can also receive free HIV testing.  “We really encourage our audience to be HIV tested.  The goal is to make sure we’re staying protected.  My goal, my passion is to lower the rate amongst communities of color.”

Much to the surprise of the organizers, MMHK exceeded its attendance expectations.  “We thought seventy-five people were gonna come.  It was all word of mouth, social media.  Five hundred people came.”

Since that auspicious beginning, it has become a yearly event held in the Bronx,  and as a result of the warm reception they’ve received, as well as requests to hold the event in other cities, there are plans to do so in the Midwest.  “We’ve had a lot of great feedback.  Initially we weren’t trying to do this every year.  But now we’ve formed a company, an LLC, we have fiscal sponsorship.”

Kathleen double majored in women’s studies and urban studies with a concentration in architecture and a minor in environmental policy as a student at Fordham University and is currently working to earn a Masters In Urban Studies, (and later on plans to get a Masters In Architecture) there as well.  So naturally her advice to young women looking to get in the hip-hop game is to “stay in school.  You really have to have talent, to know the business, you have to be professional.  Women know ‘If I use my sexuality and sex, I’m more likely to get attention’.” [But] if she had the knowledge of how the industry works, she’d realize, you can still have commercial success and keep your clothes on.”

The next MMHK is scheduled to happen on March 5th, 2011, and applications for artists will be made available on their website.


et cetera