this film celebrates southern female rappers from gangsta boo to rico nasty

'Southern Rap Queens,' highlights the often-overlooked women in rap who are changing the face of hip-hop.

by Eda Yu
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Mar 14 2019, 3:13pm

From Missy Elliott to Lil Wayne, rappers who hail from the American South have made their influence known in contemporary hip-hop. States like Texas, Florida, and Georgia have produced some of rap’s biggest names of all time (like T.I., DJ Screw, and — of course — the legendary duo OutKast, to name just a few). And the Southern hip-hop style is easy to spot with its upbeat, luxurious production or high-energy crunk.

Too often left out of the conversation, however, are the women who also played an integral role in shaping the Southern rap scene — contributing to the sound of contemporary hip-hop around the world.

“Southern Rap Queens,” the latest installment of Red Bull Music’s Momentum series — a line of short films that underscore the impact of creative scenes on societal progression in major U.S. cities — attempts to fill that gap. With interviews from trailblazers like Tennessee’s Gangsta Boo and contemporary rap-punk rockstar Rico Nasty, the short film thoughtfully celebrates the deep-rooted and often-overlooked impact of Southern female rappers in Southern hip-hop. And it feels impossible, it seems, not to be emotionally moved as each woman candidly details poignant moments of what it’s like to carve out space as a female artist in the male-dominated rap game.

“When a strong woman is in the building, the presence is felt,” Gangsta Boo states firmly near the beginning of the short film, setting the tone for the remainder of the video.

As they’ve ascended to national fame, strength is often what these women have returned to in order to navigate the numerous obstacles in their path to becoming a nationally-renowned female rapper. And the journey, as “Southern Rap Queens” shows, is not unique to any one era or artist — it’s something that’s happened time and again, across generations of female rappers.

La Chat, another female rap pioneer from Tennessee, shared, “I was one of the rappers that I felt like I never had to show my body to make it, you know. Like I said, my name is La Chat, you can Google me. I always wore the big, baggy clothes. I always wore the t-shirts. I always wore the hats. Because I wasn’t selling bodies. I’m selling music.”

Pioneers like La Chat and Gangsta Boo command the scene with their reflections on the past, while rising stars like Rico Nasty and bbymutha push the envelope even further as mothers in the rap scene. Chattanooga-born bbymutha is a mother to not one but two sets of twins and draws heavily on her experiences in black motherhood as inspiration for her work.

“I had my second set of twins. I moved into my grandmother’s house, and my grandmother had dementia,” bbymutha explained when describing how she began rapping. “I was helping to take care of her, and I was at home all the time by myself with my grandmother, two newborns, and my older two kids. So I started writing [music] and seeing what I could come up with. It was the only thing that was keeping me from going crazy a little bit.”

Rico Nasty who, like bbymutha, is a mother and rapper, chimes in to support her peer, adding: “Women have children and rock the shit out they lives. [They don’t] care about what people have to say about them raising their kid, what people have to say about the confidence that it takes to be a mother. That shit is very inspiring.”

At its core, “Southern Rap Queens” does a fantastic job of celebrating the massive, obscured influence of women in Southern hip-hop. By sharing these rappers’ poignant stories and uplifting the importance of femme community, the short film takes a great first step at giving women in rap their due — even if it’s just the beginning.