December 5th, 2008
|04:25 pm - on HOVA, hooks and hip-hop princesses...| Rihanna I haven't really talked about pop culture in a while. I just hadn't really had anything to say. But I've been thinking about something weird the last couple days and thought I'd just rant about it here a little here and see other people's input on the subject.
Yep, I'd chop off my arm to hit that...
Have you ever noticed that at any given time there is only one crown princess of hip-hop? Sure, there's lots of female rappers, but that's not really what I mean. In the beginning, back in the day, in the before time, in the long long ago, there was Michel'le. Michel'le was part of the World Class Wreckin' Cru. And by part of, I mean she was fucking Dr. Dre, and someone was like "Dayumm! Dre's girl is hot and can sing, someone should get her to do hooks on this song" and they gave her four lines to repeat over and over again and then had her standing around looking all hot and stuff.
Before you turn off the lights let's get one thing understood
If you plan to make love to me you've got to do it good
Cuz I'm a hell of a woman and for me it takes a hell of man
So don't you dare turn off the lights unless this you understand
It was lightning in a bottle. But much like Dre frequently is, The WCWC was WAY ahead of it's time. Nothing really came of it. Sure there were females in the rap game. You had your Salt-N-Pepa, your MC Lyte, even your Roxanne Shanté, but they were all actually rappers. Then you had your female acts tangentially related to hip-hop: En Vogue, Nia Peeples, Pebbles. But they were more just R&B singers who happened to hang out with Rappers.
And then came Aaliyah. It is my sincere belief that God so loved the world that he saw fit to take the very concept of sexiness and pour it into the fleshbound vessel of a 15 year old girl, whom he allowed to walk the earth. The idea of the hip-hop princess was born.
Hip-Hop had long played with fusion between itself and other music styles, not only with the World Class Wreckin' Cru, but you had the likes of Run-DMC and Aerosmith teaming up. Salt-N-Pepa and En Vogue. Public Enemy and Anthrax. But now, in this earthbound angel, you had the genesis for what would become the standard of the musical style. Get a talented (or at least semi-talented) rapper to spit some rhymes and then toss in hooks by a sexy soul singer. Like I said, lightning in a bottle. And as all of the predictions of the great prophet Phil Spector would come to pass, God is a young black girl who can sing.
Like all messiahs, Aaliyah's time on this earth was very brief and seven years later she was dead. But she made way for others, mere mortals who would fill her void.
In her wake came Brandy, but Brandy didn't have street cred, so she was replaced by Monica. Monica was here for but a cup of coffee and she was in turn replaced by Mýa. Mýa probably could have done ok with her career, but the mighty juggernaut that is Jennifer Lopez decided she was "street" so she changed her named to J-Lo, started using the word "nigga" and took the spot. J-Lo then decided she didn't want to be street anymore and turned her attention to acting (and later back to other non-hip-hop music styles) which left a void. That void would be immediately filled by Ashanti, who actually coined the term "Princess of Hip-Hop" for herself, coronation in the A-T-L and all. The problem was Ashanti, while hot was quite negroid in appearance and so her spot was usurped by Christina Milian, who was just as good a singer and 10 times sexier and more marketable to a caucasian audience. The people being fickle as they are, Milian's album falls from the charts and she was in turn replaced by Ciara. Ciara takes up the baton and runs with it, but then like J-Lo before her, the machine that is Beyoncé simply decides one day that she is the new hip-hop princess and Ciara is banished to obscurity. Again, like J-Lo, Beyoncé bores of the role and looks for more interesting solo opportunities than just singing hooks. Furthermore she decides to get involved with Jay-Z, who secretly is actually the current living avatar of God(-MC) himself. HOVA so loved the world that upon taking Beyoncé for himself, he saw fit to give us a new messiah, and once again took sexiness and made it incarnate and set it upon the earth in a teenaged female form, and thus the world was given Rihanna.
So anyway, my point is, given the popularity of the style, sexy female hooks over street gangsta hip-hop verses, you'd think there'd be a huge market for hook singers. There have always been duets with hot female singers. Everyone from Diana Ross to Britney Spears. From Dolly Parton to Whitney Houston. But in other music styles, any number of females singers can be in demand at one time. Indeed, others like Missy Elliot, Faith Evans, Mary J Blige and even Mariah Carey have attempted to kind of horn in on the action. But it never really works out. They all do better as solo artists, and none of them have ever been as ubiquitous as the princesses I mentioned above. There's even been situations where you'd have a Pop or R&B artist who'd bring a rapper in to spit a verse in the middle of the song. This was the whole base formula behind using the Left-Eye in TLC.
But I find the whole hip-hop princess thing curious. I dunno why, but somehow the fact that there is only one at any given time just makes it seem more magical. That and I'm pretty sure that the tears of Rihanna can actually cure disease.
So does anyone have any idea why that is? Also, jameel and I were talking about all this yesterday, and I think I've been able to trace the entire lineage back as far as it goes, but did I miss anyone? Did it not really originate with Aaliyah? And does this phenomenon happen in any other music style? Or for that matter any other art style at all?
||Date: December 5th, 2008 - 10:00 pm
I miss Aaliyah
OMG Re: Darkwing Duck Icon.
and that is why I keep you around. :-D
flaps in the night, actually...
that's a movie I should really get on DVD at some point.
don't we all?
I diagree with your lineage.
I think Mary J Blidge started the whole thing. For a while she was bigger than any title. No one could touch Real Love. If Michel'le built the throne, then Mary J assumed it.
I would put Missy in there. For a hot minute, everyone wanted to work with her.
I would put Eve in instead of Ciara. Ciara didn't stay around long enough or really have enough sucess to really make a claim at the title. I would say that in the Vanessa Millian/Ciara/Ashanti tussel for dominance, there was no clear, undisputed winner until Eve trumped all of them. Eve got hot quick, had long lasting singles and collaborations, and has had some success in Hollywood. Plus, I saw a snippet of her sex tape, so I can't let this list pass without mentioning her.
I though Rah Digga would have had a better career than she had, but it goes to show that I am no nostradamus.
Aaliyah predates Mary J. I'm actually a big Mary J fan, but I ended up leaving her out because I don't think she fits the bill of what I'm trying to get across. Maybe she does. It's kinda like you said though, she was bigger than the title.
Yes, everyone wanted to work with her, but really, most of the songs it was Mary J. featuring ____ instead of ____ featuring Mary J. Blidge.I think she's kind of famous on her own in a way that Rihanna really isn't. Does that make sense? Maybe I wasn't clear enough that I'm really talking about people who were famous for being designated female collaborator. Mary J did a lot more than just be "ooh, we need a bitch to sing hooks"
Missy I had a harder time with. I actually had her in there and then removed her and then put her back and removed her again. What it finally came down to is I consider Missy a rapper in her own right, not an R&B singer. She's actually great vocalist, and her hooks on a lot of Lil Kim stuff are amazing but she's not known for it, in my view nearly as much as she's known for her own stuff. As opposed to J-Lo and Beyonce, who, though they have brilliant solo careers, I think in the annals of hip-hop have definite stars next to their name that say "designated hook singer."
Eve I think is absolutely amazing. And yes she can sing, but even more so than Missy, I think of her as the OPPOSITE of what I'm talking about. You don't hire Eve as a collaborator to sing hooks. You hire her as a collaborator to add a hip-hop verse. I left out Lil Kim and Left Eye for the same reason. I think they're important, but I think they're on their own list which goes the other way. Same with Rah Digga, but as you point out, she never had anywhere near the level of success of the others I mentioned.