A woman’s place in hip-hop

In an interview with a blog called Honeysoul, R&B artist Joi laments that there aren’t very many successful female producers. The problem, as far as she’s concerned, is chauvinist attitudes in the music industry. And racism.

To wit:

Joi: The industry is horrifically chauvinist. And racist. But horrifically chauvinist. There are no female producers. Name me one. Besides Missy!

[Laughs] I was about to say Missy..

Joi: Besides Missy, name me one. You can’t. There aren’t any. [...] Erykah is a woman of her own design and creation, but James Poyser is there. india is a woman of her own design, but she certainly has men that are a part of her crew [...] All of the women who are truly, truly 100% producing all of their stuff, you’ve never heard of them. And they’re brilliant. So just that fact alone tells you that the business is incredibly sexist. It is very difficult to forge your own path as a woman.

[Note: I jacked these quotes from Jay Smooth, and it looks like he might have transcribed them himself. They aren't 100% verbatim, but I listened to the interview myself and they're more or less accurate.]

Perhaps fittingly, she doesn’t go on to provide any specific examples where women have produced good records and men in the music industry were like, “We’re not going to support this, because you’re a woman and you’re place in hip-hop is in the kitchen, in front of the sink.

If this was really the case, I’m sure it’d be grounds for some sort of class action suit by female artists against the TIs in the music industry. I’d even lend my own support to the case, if I thought there was a good chance I might score from it. That’s the kind of guy I am.

But of course it’s not. Could it be that the equipment – computers, mixing boards, samplers, turntables – it takes to produce a rap record is too difficult for a woman to operate? Hence most prominent female artists, including Missy Elliott, have been known to work with male producers in the studio.

Before the PC community jumps down my throat (nullus), even the President of Harvard University Lawrence Summers has suggested that the lack of female presence in the higher echelons of fields such as science and engineering is due to biological differences between the sexes. Is producing a rap record not a form of engineering?

In that sense, it’s also worth noting that there are fields in the music industry in which women have experienced more success than their male counterparts. For example, male dancers in rap videos (try naming one of those) are largely out-earned by their female counterparts. Surely this is a matter of chauvinism! And racism!

What it all comes down to is that men and women are born with different sets of traits (boobs, to use an example). To the extent that women haven’t been successful at rapping and producing, it’s because women lack talent at both rapping and producing, not because of male chauvinism and/or racism.

Recommended for You

Around the Web

Best of XXL

  • http://www.unkut.com Robbie

    My theory is that if you had a nice set of boobs to fondle/look at in the mirror, why the hell would you spennd time making rap beats or conducting scientific research?

    This theory may not apply to flat-chested gals, however.

    • twomilli

      that’s like saying… if a guy has a large dick that he can fondle and play with all day… why would he do anything else.

      i’m a woman with nice titties who makes beats and raps and conducts scientific research.

      women haven’t been encourage to make music and express themselves.

  • http://xxlmag.com Bol

    Good point.

  • Blacky

    even more of a reason someone like Missy would be good at that shit

  • Che

    as would bol and his bitch tits.

  • Tipper Gore’s Inner Sex Pot

    nullus, Bol, seriously, I realize bitching is your oxygen but would it really kill you to write something with a positive spin, an up-beat thread or hopeful angle. I think there is enough misery flowing out of every orifice of hip-hop, media, government, history,pop-culture, religion and politics. Maybe once in a while you could throw us a wacky curve-ball and not contribute to that deluge? It’s just plain lazy, and though realized you are a blogger not a journalist, pull you socks up.

    PS: glad to see you can identify the anatomical differences between the genders (“boobs, to use an example”). What did you get your degree in?

  • http://www.myspace.com/lone_Nigerian lone Nigerian

    Am I seriously reading this? It feels like we just went back 2or 3 hundred yrs. Are you really trying to say women are dumber than men? Wow

    like the comment above me I am tired of all the misery and battles. Women vs. men. Black vs. White, latino vs. black, damn near everybody vs. hiphop.
    i’ll just wish everybody peace.

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    >”Are you really trying to say women are dumber than men? Wow”

    I think you may have missed the only somewhat relevant point. Men are biologically inclined to more complex tasks than women. Women have a higher pain tolerance, etc.

    These are proven facts, I don’t believe Guy was stating that “women are dumber than men”. Way to miss the point.

    My theory is similar…If there are so many women making tight beats, where are they? These beats would surface, and we would know of them. There was no conspiracy to hold Missy down, she got hot and no one wondered why.

    There may be sexism in the recording industry, but only as much as there is in any other industry (which is some, but not an absurd amount).

    • Pgroot

      You should really do some research- your comment bleeds ignorance and confirmation bias.

      The music industry is extraordinarily sexist -sometimes it’s hard to tell what is and isn’t sexist in society because sexism was the norm for so long. People who are privileged tend to not see how the system oppresses the under privileged (like whites claiming racism doesn’t exist anymore).

      Most current scientific studies about skill, IQ, task completion etc and esp female presence in male dominated fields (like sciences/engineering) show that the differences between male and females stem primarily from societal conditioning rather than ability innate to either gender.

      That’s not to say females and males aren’t different. Testosterone plays a major part in ones’ desire to take risks and act competitively which may contribute to some of the wack gender ratios in the lucrative business of hip hop.

      Anyway, this article is wack, lazy and poorly written

  • daesonesb

    Ya’ll need to get laid.

    Saying things like this usually doesnt help.

  • ishakamusa

    There are no barriers to producing. Nobody holds women back. They just don’t do it.

    Just trying findinga woman who can really use software better than you. If you really care about that stuff, you probably can’t.

  • butterfly jones

    Your comments completely reinforce the reasons why I don’t read ‘hip-hop journalism’. As most of the writer’s are sexist, chauvinist and display backward attitudes. Like you. Women and they’re contributions in the hip-hop world are ignored. Are you telling me that you just wait for stories to come to you, and that you don’t go looking for a story. Some journalist you are. This bullshit was so easy for you to write, must have taken all of five minutes, but a real investigative piece on where are the women who are producing music, not just out there poppinig their coochies in a video, that might actually be a bit of a challenge for a writer like you. I understand why you don’t bother.

  • http://www.myspace.com/xadam22 Adam22

    there are a lot of dumb bitches commenting on this piece, predictably.

    he could have just layed it out real flat:

    there aren’t any well known female producers because no females have made well known beats. i personally know hundreds of dudes who make beats, some successful and some not, and know no females who do it.

    get your fucking heads screwed on straight.

  • jon longway

    if you can make a beat you can make a beat if you can rhyme you can rhyme no matter if ur a man woman black or white. but dont get all but hurt about how theres no women producers if you wanna have women producers you need women who wanna be producers and the men out catagorise that. sorry thats how it is. women need to stop with these sob story shit. make a beat thats bangin if you can and shut the fuck up. you chicks get everything anyways all you gotta do is suck some dick us men gotta work for it!

  • projectnrm

    “Women aren’t as talented as men when it comes to producing?” That’s just a ludicrous assertion. In this day and age we can clearly see that men and women are equal at just about everything (except athletics). The thing is that women aren’t programmed to do hip hop because its a very aggressive, masculine form of music. Women are taught to be emotional and not be effusive with their feelings, thus leading to a disconnect with “typical” hip hop. And note that this is just in America. Some of the most successful hip hop acts overseas are women (Lady Sovereign, M.I.A, Ms. Dynamite). Not as talented…you crack me up, homie. Keep writin’…

  • So Crates

    if a female comes up that can really murder a track, then let her come up and be known. if she can rap tight or make a hot beat i’ll listen to it, but don’t call it sexism if i don’t wanna hear a medicore female mc do a task she’s not completely proficient at.

  • nsaniT

    Women are holding THEMSELVERS back, one of the best hip-hop albums of all time was “The Miseducation of Lauren Hill”. You look to a female for hip-hop now, you hear “Stilletos” that is NOT males fault. Lauren Hill and Mary J Blige have proven that a woman can be sucessful in the game. Woman today as far as hip-hop goes are doing this to THEMSELVES. Bol, i know you agree somewhat.

  • Combat Jack

    ^ Didn’t Lauren get all sued up for blatantly jacking all her beats on that album from dudes?

  • NsaniT

    im talking lyrical content, so what if she jacked beats… the girl had talent and skill that SHOULD have set a precedent for all females trying to enter the game. but (along with most hip-hop nowadays) people arent looking back to the golden age. I just wish it was the 90′s again as far as lyricism goes. Hip-Hop is slowly unraveling. Lauren and Mary J showed that a woman can survive in the game, but like i said in the previous post. what do we hear from females now? Missys the only woman in production, and lyrical content? we got “stilettos” and “Concieted” i mean what the hell is happening?

  • Randi

    ok…Jean Grae can rip it. And she is not totally unfortunate-looking. Ok, ok, she ugly. But none of the really good rappers look good. except for Nas. Damn, some of you dudes are stressed and really need to rub one out.

  • Randi

    And one more thing….It’s technology. There are also very few female gamers out there. It has more to do with the interests of females rather than their abilities.

  • nsaniT

    Ah i forgot jean grae.. thanks. Now Jean Grae? she represents what the hip-hop game needs from females.. hell she representswhat hip-hop needs from everybody.
    If you happen to like “concieted” or “stilettos” turn off your radio, go listen to some underground, or throw on a damn Wu album.

  • nsaniT

    i just noticed Randi’s post, how can you compare “gamers” to the lack of females in a genre of music? i do agree its a lack of interest though, it seems most females are fine being the groupies. Well, Oh well. Lauren Hill Mary J and now Jean Grae have made names. even missy elliot’s doing things.. and that woman wore a trash bag in a music video! (i’ll never let her live that down) Females need to apply themselves, Hip-Hop isnt a “guy thing”, its barely a “cultural thing” anymore. its worldwide, theres TURKISH hip-hop. i never thought id say that… Something has really been started in this genre of music.. and its up to BOTH genders to keep it alive.

  • Brandon

    I guess im sexist then..because women are not good at rapping,nor producing..and since this is confidential,women are made for fucking..and the kitchen,but they still deseve equal rights..if there was any good female rappers and producers..there would be more..but since they are too busy messin with they hair and nails..there wont be any..if there is any good female producers..they will be tomboy straight up

  • Hustle Hard

    You people must hate girls. you sure as hell dont respect them.

  • http://www.myspace.com/diversedaproducer Diverse Da Producer (Female Producer)


    Firespitter is seldom used for any female in the music game, yet Stephanie “Diverse” Whitaker is bringing pure heat. A rising music producer from Flatbush, Brooklyn, this lady beatmaker seized first place at both the International Producers Association (IPA) Beat Battle 2006 and the MTP Beat Battle Invitational Ladies First 2005. Once the judges heard an inferno coming from a small 5’4 frame they knew that she was indeed a force to be reckoned with.

    Impressing music lovers with her eclectic mix of Asian sounds blended with Dance hall, hip-hop mixed with Dance hall, and straight up hip-hop, confident and poised – Diverse utters, “My talent is going to bring good music to the industry. A producer is a producer whether male or female and it shouldn’t be oh she’s a female and she does beats. There are a lot of women out there who have great talent – better than just shaking their asses on the screen.”

    There’s no doubt that this curator puts in work. She is used to long nights – creating beats with her Yamaha Motif keyboard, MPC 2000, Protools, Cubase, and other programs from 6 pm in the evening till 7 am the next morning.

    Originally from Panama Colon, Diverse is what the names implies “a multi- talented young woman” who infuses hip hop, Latin, R & B, soul and whatever moves her to create unforgettable tracks that make the head nod. At the tender age of five Diverse was already mimicking music heard on the radio and located the notes on the piano. It was then that her family knew that she had an ear for music.
    “At age seven my father’s late best friend Franky Murray bought me my first keyboard the Casio SK 5. I started creating my own music,” she reveals. By age fourteen, Diverse knew that she had God given gifts and began taking her talent more serious and started recording her beats.
    Diverse has worked with the likes of rapper Sean Watson, who is about to change up the rap game from her label, Dymond Cutz Records, Desiree, R & B sensation from Hush Hush Entertainment and hip hop soul singer Tachelle Shamash from Femmixx.com. Diverse is also featured on the upcoming documentary Lady Beatmakers: Volume 1, slated for release the summer of ’06.
    The music game has been starving for new energy and Diverse is that missing link. She’s gonna change the industry in a big way. “I want anyone who has great talent! It’s all about getting my name out and skills to the greatest,” she expresses. Knowing that this young lady can rival the boy beat makers the streets will be watching.
    For interviews and serious inquiries please contact Tachelle at 347-613-6332 or Tachelle@femmixx.com

  • \sjios\deio\shnd

    i guess men don’t like being bossed about by women, so thats why their arent many female producer.

  • me

    women producers? e.g Georgia Anne Muldrow. she recorded with The Roots and Platinum Pied Pipers, she plays every instrument know by man, sh’es also a talented singer.
    I’m not from America, but I thought you’re tolerant in here.
    The writer’s saying women are bad rappers. this is sexist.
    what about Mc Lyte, Foxy Brown, Mc Invisible (on Platinum pied pipers’ cd), Lauryn Hill, T-Love (Jay Dilla recorded with her),
    Lisa “left eye” Lopes, Lil’ Mo, Bahamadia, Foxy Brown, Lil Kim…
    and Jean Grae. there are so many talented female mcs.
    you just don’t appreciate them you cocksuckers.

  • Michael Williams

    By Davey D

    Article Launched: 03/15/2007 01:35:57 AM PDT

    There’s definitely a revolution of sorts going on as hip-hop struggles to survive by purging itself of the negativity and commercial-driven, minstrel-like stereotypes that are plaguing it. Leading the charge are female artists and activists who, as of late, seem to be feeling like late civil rights activist Fannie Lou Hamer when she said she was “sick and tired of being sick and tired.”
    In this case, many have grown weary of the onslaught of misogynist-themed songs and videos green-lighted by the corporate media outlets that air them. As a result, we are seeing more and more women coming together, starting their own record labels, putting on their own events and concerts, forming their own artist collectives – basically demanding respect while creating space for themselves.

    Erinn Ransom, a local activist and instructor at the University of California-Berkeley and Laney College in Oakland, explained that things are out of kilter and off balance. “People have been suffering from an estrogen deficiency even if they don’t consciously know it. It’s like your body is craving spinach or some other food to make up for being low in iron.” Ransom added that all the hard-core hip-hop stuff was fun and had its place, but serious issues like ongoing wars, global warming and continued inner-city strife have people seeking a new direction. It comes as no surprise to her that women’s voices are being sought out.

    Leading the charge are popular artists like Queen Latifah,

    who has a new HBO movie “Life Support,” which focuses on the impact of AIDS in the African-American community. Because of her acting prowess, many forget that Latifah has one of the oldest artists management companies (Flava Unit) within hip-hop. She expanded upon her business and has produced and directed her own films.
    Latifah has set the bar and has been an inspiration to many, including her legendary contemporaries MC Lyte and Yo-Yo. They recently have combined efforts to put together a weeklong “Music Makers” camp where they will expose inner-city youth to industry experts to get an understanding of how things work behind the scenes.

    In a recent interview, Yo-Yo said it’s critical that she and other successful women guide young people – especially women – to determine their own destiny. The goal, she said, is to get young women into a mindset of wanting to start their own businesses, and at the very least become familiar with the internal operations of the institutions and businesses they are involved with. More importantly, she wants women to network and build community.

    Ransom also pointed out that for years African-American women have been encouraged to be individuals, but so much so that a deficiency in community has been created. Now, she says, you find that being balanced as women artists create spaces for themselves.

    Here in the Bay Area those spaces have come about thanks to strong-willed artists, dancers and DJs like Jennifer Johns, Aya De Leon, Tracey Bartlow, B-Girl Aiko, DJ Backside and Pam Tha Funkstress to name a few. Others include female artist collectives such as Sisterz of the Underground and Herstory, who have all done their own female-themed events, one-woman shows, artist showcases and concerts.

    Also on point is Hip Hop Congress’ Women’s Project, where the 35-city Bay Area-based organization is working to put together a listing of women involved in hip-hop to be used for networking.

    For more information, hit up

    sarah@hiphopcongress.com or check hiphopcongress.org.

    Another project of note has been developed by Stanford’s Hiphop Archive headed up by Marcyliena Morgan. In celebration of Women’s International History Month, she and hip-hop scholar Dawn-Elissa Fischer are putting together a resource guide highlighting women in hip-hop at http://www.hiphoparchive.org/prep/


    In recent days, Maleena Lawrence has expanded her talk show on Comcast 26 and launched a series called “Ladies First,” which focuses on women in hip-hop. She said she had grown frustrated with asking, “Where are my sisters at?” every time she showed up at a hip-hop event.

    Like Ransom, Lawrence has noticed a lack of community and has sought to change that, first with the all-female team she has working behind the scenes on her show, and now by creating “Ladies First,” which she hopes will bring together the West Coast’s women in hip-hop. If you’re interested, drop her an e-mail at

    themlshow@gmail.com or check out


    ROLL CALL: Here’s a shout-out for the upcoming “Queendom Vol. 1″ compilation album put together by a male Bay Area rapper named Oposit. The album features everyone from MC Lyte and Ladybug Mecca of Digable Planets to L.A.’s Medusa and DJ Kuttin Kandi, along with Bay Area artists the Conscious Daughters and Aya de Leon.

    In Seattle, “Rise: Women Reshaping History Through Hip Hop” has put on three jampacked all-women’s showcases over the past six months with artists like Pinay Sa Seattle, Melissa Noel Green, CanarySing, Gigi, Choklat and Laura Piece Kelly.

    In Pittsburgh, women have rallied around a collective called Nakturnal, which has nurtured the burgeoning careers of award-winning artists like Vanessa Germen, Empress and Kellee Maize, who has generated a huge buzz with her new album, “The Age of Femine.”

    In Washington, D.C., there is a thriving community of women hip-hoppers with names like Noodles, Najiea, Mahogany Jones, MN8, DJ Soyo and DJ Earth1ne. Many of these artists have participated in the monthly women’s showcase B-Girl Manifesto or the annual Can a Sista Rock a Mic festival.

    In New York City, it was standing-room-only for the premiere of “Lady Beat Makers: Vol. 1,” a new documentary on female hip-hop producers. The film was the brainchild of Tachelle “Shamash” Wilkes, who heads up the popular Web site http://www.femmixx.com, which spotlights women in hip-hop.

    These events are just the tip of the iceberg of what’s out there and what is set to come.

  • kaykay

    I think some of the earlier posts (and the main topic) is some of the silliest bullshit I’ve ever heard on this subject. The main reason women don’t get pushed to be producers/DJs/beatmakers in the rap business is because it’s male-dominated and the men running it don’t want any competition, obviously. Plus,teen girls who are into technology usually end up playing down their prowess in it because they don’t have it pushed on them from birth that they should be technologically inclined,like boys do. I’ve read so many countless interviews by both females artists (both rappers & singers) that they always have to fight an uphill battle when they want to take more control over their work—-even Lauryn Hill said that she had to really fight to get a chance to produce her own record, because no one took her seriously about it at first. Plus, she said, she was seen only as this cute little singer and that’s all she was supposed to be. I mean, Beyonce writes/produces her own songs,even though she rarely gets credit for that (I know, I know, she’s not a rapper,but hers is the only name I could come up with at the moment. It’ isn’t that women don’t want to or can’t be producers/beatmakers, they just don’t get that encouragement like the men to do whatever they want studio-wise. Also,I read in this book written by a record industry insider in which he said that most women artists in the business would rather deal with men, which I’m assuming is because that’s all they ever see holding the real power.

    Also, as far as I’m concerned,music is music–it’s either good or it’s not. An artist,whether male or female, either has talent or they don’t. And to say women lack talent at both producing and rapping–well, I’m sorry, but there’s lot of male rappers out there who aren’t all that talented and rap about the same stupid shit all the time (banging hos, throwing their D’s, bragging about their grills or being a so-called gangster)but you’re saying they’re just better better because they’re men? Gimme a damn break–what a joke!

  • Terrell

    The state of hip hop is so sad right now. I don’t know if it is a male or female thing but it is unlistenable right now…give me Lauryn Hill over Soulja Boy anyday.

  • Tori

    I think that if you are a woman who doesnt give a fuck about a man being a pig to women, the word cunt, or bitch or ho or whatever.. you can be successful in the hip hop industry as a producer. I think most women are too concerned about the image that rap is giving them and they need to just chill out and realize its a genre that sells, and need to stop trying to save the world. Think of it THIS way: with out bitches and hoes, there would be no rap.. think of the power we possess!
    Just another cunt.

  • http://rockcandydiva.wordpress.com Jaz

    huh….trying to figure out whether or not to be mad….

    well i definitely agree that if she as so terribly vexed she should have been able to name a few artists…put them out there and promote them. certainly. it’s a shame she couldn’t stand by her statement and use that as a forum to promote the great musicians she’s talking about. i also agree that many women (when it comes to producing, dj’ing, etc.) haven’t really put themselves out there on the level that men have. it could be a result of sheer intimidation. i now plenty of women who are enamored with and genius’ when it comes to technology (i, myself, have a love for technology). call it a sign of the times. i don’t think that’s the issue on our end. but i certainly think a lot of men in the industry think it would be convenient if they could pass it off as such. i was listening to a popular dj speak the other day and he was talking about how hard it is for good female dj’s to get booked because the girls that are being showcased are really just “friends” with the event promoter or club owner or whatever…and surely these women are cute…but they can’t spin. so you sit through terrible music all night (because we don’t stand for sh**ty music now do we) and at the end you can’t help to think to yourself…”why did they have to put a chick up there?” unless you’re one of the dudes trying to bone her. the harsh reality. we are helping men to perpetuate this stereotype in hip hop when we try to use our sexuality to get over and do things in a half assed fashion when we know we can do better. i know women who would agree that a women in the industry should use her assets to get noticed when really raw talent probably WOULD in all honesty get your foot through the door. but as a result of chauvenism on both our parts (because let’s not lie…hip hop is one of the most chauvenist art forms out there…Oprah was actually on to something) women are reduced to Trina material. Trina’s good but we know she could be better. she gets accolades cause she flaunts her sexuality like every other female MC out there getting MASS praise. the only one is Missy but Missy can also get away with it cause she rolls with Timbaland and acts like a dude. it’s a shame it has to get to that point. but whatever….hip hop is chauvenist. i love and support a chauvenist art form. what can i say? we all pick our poison.

  • Nomad Noname

    I’m a woman whose got boobs and I’ve been told by many men that I am beautiful not only for my looks, but my thoughts, ideas, principles, and sincerity. I rock the mic better than most men in the industry, and I’m on my way to being a great producer too. normally I don’t toot my own horn, but you’ve just pissed me off. there are mostly female dancers in hiphop because jack ass men like you only put strippers on hip hop videos, and the reason why there aren’t many women in the audio field is because they’ve been put down their whole lives and told they’re only good in the kitchen. I’ve experienced it myself. so chill out on the whole “women are stupid and only good for shakin’ it” B.S.