Song of the Day: Invincible, "No Compromises"
In 2002, Spin published an article called "Not Bad For a White Girl" that was about the then-current quest within the music industry to discover and promote a white female rapper. Eminem was in the midst of his initial rise, buoyed not only by multi-platinum sales but also plenty of Grammy love (he was just coming off losing Album of the Year to Steely Dan). Marshall Mathers' rare combination of raw skill and head-turning novelty was too much to pass up, and the Spin story tracks a bunch of producers, executives, managers and wannabes trying to find (as one subject indelicately puts it) "the Britney of rap."
As the story points out, not only has the hip-hop world been hostile to white women, but it has in general been twitchy about women at all. Back in '02, the most notable female MCs at the time were Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliott and Eve, all of whom had scored the rare combination of commercial success and critical respect (though ironically none of those women has recorded very much since then). Lil Kim and Foxy Brown were already on the downswing of their brief pop window, and Salt-N-Pepa and Da Brat were already considered nostalgia acts even though neither was all that far removed from their commercial peak. Fifteen years later, the landscape doesn't look all that different. Nicki Minaj has certainly carved out a place for herself, but she has made plenty of moves that seem like she's not that interested in rap (and is currently being dunked on by a just-out-jail Remy Ma). After Minaj, who is the second-biggest MC with two Y chromosomes? Is it MIA, who only sort of raps and works very much outside the hip-hop universe? Is it Twitter novelty act Azealia Banks? By attrition, it might actually by Iggy Azalea, a woman I've always found talented but seems destined to be relegated to one-hit wonder status. There are plenty of extremely talented women working the mixtape circuit like Rapsody and Angel Haze, but the mainstream remains relatively bereft of the fairer sex.
The Spin piece highlights a handful of potential Feminems, but pretty much all of them outside of the already-established Princess Superstar became nothing at all. One of the rare exceptions is Invincible, a Detroit-based rhymer who was spoken about glowingly in the article but ironically declined to be interviewed for it. She still raps and functions as a local activist in Motown, and her 2008 album Shapeshifters is a pretty dope slathering of beats and rhymes. I'm a fan of the slightly jazzy aural assault "No Compromises."