In an open letter posted to his Facebook on Tuesday, Rhymesayers' president Brent "Siddiq" Sayers apologized for a lack of female artists on his label's roster and committed himself to working to change that.
That this much-needed sentiment came in response to his exclusion of the lone female rapper to appear on the Rhymesayers imprint from their upcoming 20th anniversary show, which will take place later this month at the Target Center in Minneapolis, speaks to where females are in hip-hop today.
The letter was offered up in response to an interview that Chicago rapper and former Rhymesayers artist Psalm One did with Minneapolis' City Pages in which she chastised the label for their lack of female involvement and charged them with keeping her out of the performance.
Siddiq opened his letter by explaining the paths the imprint took with Psalm, explaining that her exclusion was not a vengeful one. Continuing though, he uses the opportunity to reflect and touch on a subject that doesn't get enough attention in the larger hip-hop world: the role of women in the genre.
"As president of Rhymesayers, I didn’t fail Psalm One. If I’ve failed anyone, I failed my daughter, my nieces, all of the women we work with and our women fans who deserve to see themselves consistently represented in our life’s work.
It’s not easy to swim against the current and be the exception in a male dominated culture. It takes an intentional commitment and a consistency that I haven’t prioritized enough. I accept the challenge and welcome the reminder to make it more of a priority going forward. My people and I can do better."
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In addition to offering up an apology, the label boss also explained how he plans to make that change himself:
"As label president though, I’ve never actively approached artists that way. Our strength has been that our relationships have started as personal ones that grow organically into business partnerships over time.
Looking at the lack of women artists on our label, it’s clear that I have to recognize it as a priority and shift my approach. If these voices aren’t found through these relationships I commit to going out and finding them."
While the context in which these remarks were delivered are less-than-desirable, as Psalm One represents everything Siddiq is missing, they do carry weight nonetheless. The current landscape of hip-hop has literally one significant female rapper in Nicki Minaj. With the exception of the sideshows that were Iggy Azalea and Azalea Banks, there have been very few female rap artists to emerge on the national scene. Columbia Records signee Dej Loaf recently popped up on the national radar, but even she has been a victim to forced marketing schemes from a label that seems to have confused her aesthetic.
At a time when music is being manufactored at a higher frequency than any other time in history it's mind-boggling that there are not more ladies gracing the mic, but it's not without trying.
Rapsody has and always will be one of my personal favorites, gender be damned, but even one of the lone guest verses on Kendrick Lamar's To Pimp A Butterfly couldn't keep the spotlight on her talents long enough to help her emerge from the underground. Similarly, Junglepussy has been crushing the New York scene for several years but has yet to find notoriety outside of those in the know and everyone in Chicago is hanging on every word uttered by the elusive NoName Gypsy.
The point is, the lack of female artists in hip-hop is not due to a shallow talent pool. Perhaps if more of those in charge had the thoughtfulness and understanding to take an empathetic stance like the one Siddiq provided in his open letter the genre would be in a better place.