Barbie does Bed-Stuy : A brief history of white women and hip-hop

On Friday,  Bay Area filmmaker and hip hop artist Kreayshawn will be performing at Doc Howard’s with Mann, Nims, and Baby Bash. Kreayshawn is interesting because through her image and music she questions the ever-changing dynamics of gender and race in the hiphop community. How does she do that? You might ask. Well…SHES A 90 POUND WHITE GIRL DOING BASED HIPHOP OUT OF OAKLAND!!!!! Roll the clip….

 

I will write more on Kreayshawn, White Girl Mob and her influence on the hiphop community next week. But since I’m really kind of excited to attend this show I decided I would take a look at the history of white women in the world of rap.

I’ll first start by saying I’m probably not the best person to write about this subject being I’m not really a hip hop artist, and more importantly I’m not a white woman (my mom was though). But hip hop and its performative functions has always been something I am interested in. A few years ago I wrote about how hip-hop relates to racial performativity. While I might not be entitled to write this piece, the really interesting thing about white women and hip-hop is that many people might say they are the least entitled to perform. That’s not my opinion, the Game actually just released “Uncle Otis” a dis track, where he refers to Kreayshawn  as “a little white bitch”.   The real  irony of researching this article is that , I could find virtually nothing in regards to hip-hop and Caucasian women, yet other hiphop artists seem to be obsessed with them.

 

So where does this all begin? Strangely enough at the very beginning….

NEW YORK 1981


 

Blondie: It seems that the first time Barbie met Bed-Stuy happened in 1981 when post punk band Blondie released The Rapture   I personally don’t care for the hiphop section of the song (Patton Oswalt said it best, “Nothing spoils a great song harder than the “rap” section of Blondie’s “Rapture.”)  However , the song and subsequent video are actually pretty historical as it was the 3rd Billboard hit to feature rap music following The Sugar Hill Gang’s “Rappers Delight” and Kurtis Blow’s “The Breaks” respectively.   The video was also important as it was one of the first television appearances of hip hop artist Fab Five Freddy and street artist Jean-Michel Basquiat.

 

After Blondie’s the Rapture,  the relationship between  white women and hip hop gets kind of foggy for the best part of two decades. But this happened…

 

The 90s saw an emergence of white electroclash artists such as Peaches and Princess Superstar both artists have had success with hip-hop endeavors and release albums and tour pretty regularly.

 

21st Century: This past decade has seen a few white female rappers emerge. They include:

Northern State:

I first remember hearing about Northern State in 2004, a trio of Long Island rappers that many dubbed the female equivalent of the Beastie Boys.  Northern state came together in 2002 and include members : Sprout, Spero and Hesta Pryn.  They released three albums in all and have worked with artists including The Roots and Adrock from the Beastie Boys.

 

Dessa:

Margaret Wander aka Dessa has been performing along site Minnesota hop hop collective Doom Tree since 2005. She released an ep in 2005 and then last year released her first full album A Badly Broken Code. Dessa is also a published writer and teaches at the McNally Smith College of Music.

 

Uffie:

Anna-Catherine Hartley (stage name Uffie) is an American born socialite who started out by providing vocals in the French House Music scene. She has worked with many prominent French deejays including Mr.Oizo and Justice. Her first full length album dropped last year and features appearances by Pharrell Williams, Mr.Oizo and American Indie Rock band The Rapture.

Lady Soverign:

Globally there has also been an emergence of white female artists.  U.K. rapper Lady Sovereign is probably the most commercially successful white female rapper to date. Her first full length album was produced by Def Jam and she was one of the first non-American females to be signed to the label. Her album “Public Warning” was a commercial success both in the United States and the UK.

Yolandie Visser: South African hip-hop artist Yolandie Visser has been performing with the Hip Hop group currently known as Die Antwoord since 2001 in its various forms.  She is known for her haunting vocals as well as her rapping style that is both in English and Afrikaans.

This article in no way is a complete compendium of white women hip hop artists, in fact I’ve even omitted a few.  I feel that while the legitimacy of some of these artists is up for debate, it’s important for a group to be represented none the less.  Especially when said group is repeatedly marginalized in a mainstream hip-hop with chart topping songs such as Plies “Becky”.  So, if you enjoyed this article and want to see “Barbie” Hip-Hop in its most current form make sure you catch Kreayshawn at Doc Howard’s this Friday.

About Daniel Pewewardy

Daniel Pewewardy is best known for his performance as Potifer in the Rose Hill High School 2003 production of Joseph and The Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.