Title of Project: From Tomboy to Sex Toy: The Evolution of the Female Rapper in Mainstream Music
Inspiration Behind the Project:
From Tomboy to Sex Toy: The Evolution of the Female Rapper in Mainstream Music is a discussion the evolution of women in rap music throughout the past three decades and their navigation of hip-hop culture. Beginning with the most successful pioneers, Queen Latifah, and Salt n’ Pepa as well as others who paved the way in the mid-1980’s, this thesis explores a period of rap that did not degrade women, but still made it difficult for them to gain significant footing amongst the male dominance.
Then the 1990’s, a period where the over-sexualization of women in rap began and eventually took the genre by storm. Led by Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown, a small group of women made a huge impact by using not only their overtly sexual lyrics, but also their actual bodies. The objectification of the female rapper was the status quo for the period, but there were two major success stories who did not buy into this idea. Much of the late 1990’s was dominated by Missy Elliot and Lauryn Hill who used new methods to garner mainstream attention; Missy, humor, and Lauryn, a refreshing meeting of harshness and vulnerability that balanced as perfectly as her aggressive rap style and her beautifully melodic and heartfelt singing style.
At the start of the new millennium, women in rap music appeared to be a dying breed. The past success of the 20 preceding years was nearly forgotten as many of the artists simply disappeared into obscurity. Five years into the new century there were virtually zero females in the genre. It wasn’t until the close of the first 10 years that a new group of women began to emerge. Looking at where it stands now, this thesis discusses the artist Nicki Minaj who is currently the only female rapper in the mainstream. From Tomboy to Sex Toy: The Evolution of the Female Rapper in Mainstream Music evaluates the progressions, the setbacks, surges and tactics of women in rap music.