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The Guardian: Editorial

culture

Why aren’t there more female rappers in Aussie hip-hop?

Male voices dominate the debate surrounding rapper Iggy Azalea and her connection to the hip-hop scene of her home country, a symptom of the industry in general. We asked four female players in Aussie hip-hop to weigh in

Fewer than 10 female rappers are signed to any record label in Australia. It’s a sad figure, but there are plenty of unsigned ladies making some of the tightest raps in the game.

To understand why female rappers are not featuring more prominently, it’s important to understand hip-hop’s place in the wider Australian music landscape.

For a long time Australian music was the domain of the pub rock gods. Rock was the quintessential Australian sound. Over time music, like Australia generally, was introduced to the concept of diversification. Much like meat pies had to make way for Thai food, rockers had to give up their monopoly on the Aussie sound.

However Aussie hip-hoppers have had to make concessions to the genre’s roots to gain any recognition. Hip-hop was created by the disenfranchised black communities in New York in the late seventies and Aussie hip-hop couldn’t be any more different.

In a sweet twist of irony, it’s the middle class, white boys rapping about beer and partying that are the most popular here. There is some logic behind that: to compete in the industry, hip-hop has had to conform to a set of expectations. Any artist that looks or sounds different from the ubiquitous “skip-hop” sound has to work much harder for mainstream recognition.

The sublimely talented Remi has been both lauded and criticised for his “progressive” sound. The truth is, while he’s dope as hell, it’s just straight up hip-hop. What’s unique about Remi is simply that it’s not the sound we’ve come to expect from Aussie rappers.

Until hip-hop in Australia is ready to be more open to diversity, be it gender, race, content or style it will remain hard for female rappers to come to the forefront.

Let’s make sure female rappers don’t get left behind: put at least one female MC on every live hip-hop show line-up and radio presenters can play one Aussie female rapper per show.

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