Where the ladies at? Yeah, it’s a common refrain uttered at rap shows all the time. But chances are the response to the inquiry has almost a 100 percent chance to only come from the audience. Never from the stage as the presence of female MC’s over the years has continued to fade like Bush’s popularity ratings.
The ladies of FEM (Females Earning Money) plan to change all of that. Notable lady lyricists Lady of Rage, Amil, Babs Bunny, and Lady Luck are joining forces, putting their solo career’s on pause, and hoping to resurrect the Femcee to marquee status again in hip-hop.
There was a time when Lauryn Hill, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and Da Brat were top billing stars in the game.
In recent years, however, as these women went through personal trials and tribulations, the attention lavished on the first lady of many rap crews—from Roc-A-Fella to Bad Boy to So So Def—waned. Then completely vanished. That female slot on the roster become another “ya man’s and em’s” spot instead.
As the four-woman collective gear up for the release of their street album, The Fem Movement, they’re prepping for their takeover with mentors, radio jock Ed Lover and Babs’ manager Uneek. XXLmag.com caught up with FEM to talk chauvinist’s attitudes, lady liberation, and broadening the female rapper’s exchange. [Editor's Note: Amil, pictured above, was not present at the FEM press date]
Uneek is my manager and we’re also business partners. So when she came to me with the idea doing the all female movement I just figured why not? I knew Luck for a few years, we always been cool, she’s my dog, and, of course, Rage, no problems at all. I was like, Yeah I’m down, let’s do it….We all know what it is, as far as where we stand as solo artists. Being solo artists got nothing to do with this. We’re just going to gel as a team, as a movement and still do our solo thing…We respect all female MCs, but our main objective is to have females who have been in the game that have experienced it. That’s why we won’t go through too much catty stuff. We’ve been there, done that…We are going to let people know that you can be you. FEM, the movement is trying to make a change. We’re trying to inspire women. We are not just looking for rappers. We’re looking for vocal singers, females that make beats, female lawyers, female stylists, ‘cause every artist needs a team. We’re not trying to bash men, but we need dudes to support us and not control us. That is one good thing I can definitely say about Puff. He always respected a hustle from a female, always patted you on the back, only a real man can do that.
The mixtape is going to drop some time in September and after that we are going to start working on the album. I like to say it’s a street album. I really don’t like to call it a mixtape, because it’s packaged like a real album. We are not just throwing verses on beats, we’re really thinking about the songs. We are coming together with the hooks, and DJ Doo Wop, he is not just hosting, he’s putting the project together. He’s mixing it down. He’s making beats. He’s not just on it like, ‘This is the new FEM joint! Let’s get it!’ He’s not doing that. The whole album is set around the theme of [the movie] “Set It Off.” In the movie, it was women who wanted to get to the top. They were in this environment where they had to struggle, they went and took it by any means necessary, and they died for that shit. That’s how I feel at the end of the day without music I’m dead…MC Lyte hollered, congratulating me on the project. I said, ‘Shit, hop on it baby girl,’ ‘cause you know me and her we chat on the Sidekick all the time. So she was like, ‘Bab’s, not a problem, send me the music.’ We got Lyte on there, we got Rece Steele from “Miss Rap Supreme,” we got Bahamadia, we got Mia X, Rah Digga, and Diamond from Crime Mob jumping on the album. We are reaching out to other females to see if they want to jump on it because the official album is just going to be crazier than that.
Lady of Rage
I basically felt the same way [about the idea when] I met Uneek on MySpace. She just hit me up and we started talking. She sent me some music and she shot the idea to me and I was like why not? I’m not doing anything else; I mean, I am working on my album, but I looked at it as this would be the better [of the two right now] and I want to make that money so I thought, Let’s do it.
And I feel like now is the time [where] there is a void in hip-hop with females and if we break our own ground, if we do it our self it means even more, because there is no guys [involved] besides Ed Lover believing in us and wanting to put the project together. We are doing it ourselves, it’s like, ‘Okay can you help us do this we’ve been there, we’ve done that, now it’s time to do it our self and its going to be even better.’
I know who I am, I know what I believe in, I’m not going to let someone dictate what they want me to be, because I am who I want to be. And it’s either you like it or you hate it. Love it or hate it and you have people who don’t know which direction they may want to go in, so somebody can come in and whisper in their ear, ‘Well, we feel you ought to do this or come on do this and that,’ and if you’re not strong enough, or strong enough to stand on your own merit you might fall victim to that. So I don’t plan on falling victim to that. I’ve had people in my ear whispering stuff and wanting me to do certain things, but that’s not me so if you know who you are you won’t have any problems being who you are without any problems with being who you are no matter what anybody wants to do.
It’s time for change. It’s time for people to have unity amongst one another. There are a lot of old traditions within the black community of separation. When it comes to females, we just have to see past a lot of things and our lifestyles. What we’ve been through makes us better people. One thing I like a lot about my group, nobody is bitter. Everybody wants to get better…I don’t want people to think that it’s a feminist group. It just happens to be a group of females that’s hot and want to rock. It’s just different, because of the obstacles that we got to overcome being females. A lot of females have been told—including me—that you got to piggy back off somebody you know? Once this dude’s album drops, we going to put you in his video, you know what I’m saying? I’m not saying that tactic doesn’t work, but you could be more creative. We have the chance to bring the spotlight to ourselves…. I can’t see to what point would it be considered a failure with the state of hip-hop right now. Personally this independent thing, this is the most beautiful thing I’ve ever encountered. With more fame and with more notoriety for what we’re doing we’ll just sell more things independently and we won’t have to break nobody off but each other.
That’s what Fem is trying to show you, the empowerment that you have, you know what I mean? Because with some self-esteem for yourself, if you realize a situation like that you say, ‘Oh, I am going do this all the way.’ Something like a lawsuit or even if you might have approached the situation differently, somebody won’t approach you like that, it’s all about how you carry yourself. Like the Bible says ‘You shall know them by their fruits.’ So you know it’s all about, how you carry yourself, young ladies.—Rosario Velazquez