Sit back, empty your mind and ready yourself for the forthcoming question. Ready? Okay, how many significant female singers within Hip-Hop and it’s related genres can you name that have emerged in the last 20 years? By ‘significant’, we’re talking about having an impact through record sales, credibility or both.
Have a think. Ready?…
My guess is that the following names will be kickin’ about your brain: Erykah Badu, Lauryn Hill, Jill Scott, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, Mariah Carey, Beyonce, India Arie, Aaliyah… maybe even Rihanna thrown in at the end.
Now break that down to the last 10 years… a little harder right? We’re given just Jill Scott, Alicia Keys and India Arie, who were all fresh to this millennium. Leaving just Rihanna who crept in around 2005 and is arguably more pop orientated despite working with a number of Hip-Hop artists. Forget about the last 5 years. Scary.
Have the ladies mentioned above dominated the industry so heavily that others couldn’t break through? Have the trends and changes in music over the last decade meant that the art and technical ability in singing doesn’t count for much anymore? Maybe reality music shows killed the creative skill of artists being able to carve out their own vocal style?
Remember when you heard ‘Fallin’ by Alicia Keys back in 2001? Her vocal was so raw that you could connect and you knew she’d be around for a long time coming. How many female singers have you heard that have put themselves across in that way since?
Even if there are talented female singers out there looking for exposure, most have to juggle with the idea of jeopardising their own vocal ability in favour of featuring on a record produced in a way that reflects a current trend. Think about the dominating dance phase we’re going through.
In fact, this also coincides with the fact that producers and production teams are now getting as much recognition as artists themselves. Though for some producers this recognition is overdue, it’s also a glowing example of how the industry has changed. Are all the great singers being overshadowed by the production around them? We’re all able to hear but how many of us are willing to listen?
So, the next time a heartfelt harmony or ambitious melisma catches your attention, take note. We need to support gifted female vocalists before they all fade out.