To kick off #MixtapeMonday, Kanaka Maoli DJ Iokepa Casumbal-Salazar brings us "A Flow So Impossible: Sister Lyricists"—a dope mixtape of female emcees and women's voices in hip-hop to inspire and uplift the people—all the way live from Honolulu, Hawai'i. Our collective shout-outs and mahalo to all the sisters in the struggle. Download, listen, and love.
A Flow So Impossible: Sister Lyricists — Liner Notes and Playlist
Indigenous peoples, in general, and Indigenous women, in particular, experience systemic, institutional, and representational violence all the time. Though our struggles are different – we seek the return and protection of our ancestral lands, rather than mere inclusion within settler society – many of us Native artists listen to hip-hop and value its subversive qualities. We appreciate its pedagogical possibilities, making hip-hop more than just a genre, but also a decolonial method and praxis. As a Native Hawaiian DJ, father, feminist, and writer whose people share a similar struggle, I wanted to support the innovative, if marginalized, voices of women in hip-hop and the music they produce. This mix features just a handful of artists who are doing something different with hip-hop: something revolutionary.
In Nirit Peled’s 2009 film, Say My Name, hip-hop artist Jean Grae explains, “the most beautiful music comes from pain and struggle”. This mix features some of that beautiful music. It’s true that much of hip-hop today continues to be exploitative, misogynist, homophobic, and heterosexist. Many male emcees still can’t seem to get through a verse without referencing their body parts or passively disrespecting women and marginalized men. Few men speak out against the degrading representations of women so prevalent in the mainstream. Even fewer explicitly denounce the industry’s failure to support women artists. This silence amounts to culpability. Here’s my humble offering as a show of solidarity in those struggles for a better hip-hop culture: a short and incomplete list, but some of my favorite women emcees.
We have the very dope, “Goddess of Hip-hop,” Medusa, representing Los Angeles, CA. Here she delivers a live version of her stellar hip-hop funk crowd pleaser, “Neck Lock”. Medusa has been in the game for years, but has remained firm in the underground scene, though frustratingly unrecognized by the record labels to the dismay of her fans.
Checking in next is the British emcee with Sri Lankan roots, M.I.A., who is equally loved and scorned by her critics. Here, M.I.A. kicks a concise verse for the haters.
Founder of the Hip Hop Sisters Foundation and bringing 25+ years in the game, the respected MC Lyte is featured here with her 808-kick drum, boom-bap classic, “Kickin’ for Brooklyn.” I also had to include a sick duet by Lyte and Medusa that provides the title for this mixtape.
Undoubtedly headed straight to the top is the young and extremely talented Nitty Scott, MC, just slaying us with a refreshing sound on two featured tracks. Scott combines contemporary content, prodigal technique, and a relentlessly fun approach to wordplay while remaining grounded in the old school, as evidenced by her many nods to the greats who paved the way.
I threw in some beats here and there by the guys, but the tape is really all about the ladies. Don’t sleep on beat producers Ta-Ku, Samon Kawamura, Ohbliv, The Midnight Eez, Denaun Porter, Dilla, Madlib, The Jazz Liberatorz, Testiculo Y Uno, and Oddisee. We also have a Nikki Giovanni poem that was featured on Blackalicious’ 2000 Nia, bell hooks and Angela Davis dropping knowledge to beats, along with a few fun clips from the sexy and game-changing Showtime series, The L Word (2004-09).
The microphone fiend, Jean Grae, posts up for three on this mix, clownin’ like she does so well, but also always providing witty lyrics and original concepts. Jean Grae is one of my favorite emcees at the moment because she is just fierce in her delivery, hilarious with her rhyme style, and selective with her collaborations featuring the best producers around.
We also have Canadian artist, Eternia, announcing her presence in the game. I respect her courage as a woman emcee rocking a sharp and aggressive energy modeled after the likes of Big Daddy Kane, LL Cool J, and Kool G Rap.
From her 2008 collection of unreleased material, here is the smooth Stevie Wonder cover by Lauryn Hill (w/the Fugees), “Blame it on the Sun.” Many of us would like to hear more from Ms. Hill – whenever she’s ready, of course – but are satisfied with whatever we can get our hands on.
Filipina-American, LA-based, emcee Rocky Rivera was a successful music writer for the likes of Vibe and MTV before writing rhymes. Her lyrics reveal a well-read artist with a rebel spirit. Here, she spits verses dedicated to three revolutionary women: Gabriela Silang, Angela Davis, and Dolores Huerta.
I also wanted to include another LA emcee I only discovered recently, Gavlyn. She writes rhymes that speak to being a woman in the industry among her childish and sexist male peers. With ample swagger, Gavlyn is hungry: a young emcee with a serious commitment to hip-hop.
One of my favorite emcees since she dropped Shapeshifters in 2008, Invincible hails from Detroit with a beautifully chalky voice, smart writing, and important content. I had to include three tracks in this mix because, like Jean Grae, she so skilled and concerned with social justice. On “People Not Places,” she interrogates the violence of forced removal, the logic of replacement, and the illegal settlements in Israeli-occupied Palestine. A Native person’s go to emcee, for sure.
The well-respected lyricist, Rah Digga, kills two tracks on this mix. A brilliant artist who has spoken eloquently in interviews about the challenges women face in the masculinist hip-hop scene – from motherhood to the petty games that over-entitled boys play with their dis raps – Rah Digga is ferocious with her intricate rhyme style comparable to the hardest male emcees out there.
From Philadelphia, we have the now classic offering by the under-recorded and under-supported emcee, Bahamadia, with her smooth, laid back signature flow, characteristic of the “golden era” chill that we loved about Tribe, De La, and the Roots.
In light of women’s struggles in the industry still controlled by hetero-white men, the stories and music of women like these help us to rethink what hip-hop can mean and do in this world. Their voices embody alternatives: methods and aesthetics that defy the violent and abusive status quo. Our support for women emcees is crucial and can help fulfill hip-hop’s transgressive promise in ways that are free from appropriation, tokenism, and exploitation.
DOWNLOAD: "A Flow So Impossible: Sister Lyricists Mixtape"
Iokepa Casumbal-Salazar (Kanaka Maoli) aka DJ Cookiehead Jenkins, Honolulu, jockey-o-discs, runs the podcast and radio show, Solid State Deluxe, featuring eclectic mixes & delicious sounds of soul, jazz, funk, afrobeat, samba, salsa, boogaloo, beats, blues, breaks, cumbia, reggae, r&b, and hip-hop, new and/or old. Formerly of the University of Hawai`i–Manoa’s 90.3 FM, KTUH, Honolulu: “Hawai`i’s Only Alternative", Solid State Deluxe is a soundtrack for the struggle, music for your mind, and bump for your trunk. For more music, check out: solidstatedeluxe.com You can follow him on Twitter: @iokepakepa
Solid State Deluxe ::: A Flow So Impossible — Playlist
- Therepay Session, Skit #1 – Therapy session, The L Word
- Ego Trip (feat. Nikki Giovanni) – Blackalicious
- Neck Lock – Medusa
- Boom Skit – M.I.A.
- Kickin’ for Brooklyn – MC Lyte
- Bullshit Rap – Nitty Scott, MC
- I’ve Come – Ta-Ku
- Stick-Up – Jean Grae
- Keep It Moving – Samon Kawamura
- 32 Bars – Eternia & Moss
- Cacao – Ohbliv
- Blame It On The Sun – Lauryn Hill
- Set It – Gavlyn
- Midnight Anthem – The Midnight EEz
- People Not Places (feat. Abeer) – Invincible
- Bang – Eternia
- Heart – Rocky Rivera
- State of Emergency – Invincible
- jUsT 4 dA hAwAiI eVeNiNg – Denaun Porter
- You Got It – Rah Digga
- The Band – Jean Grae
- Lay Down Low (feat. MC Lyte) – Medusa
- Stepoff – Gavlyn
- Uknowhowwedu – Bahamadia
- Tight – Rah Digga
- No Easy Answers – Invincible
- Supa Jean (feat. Jean Grae) – Jazzy Jeff
- Untitled James Brown Chop – J Dilla & bell hooks
- Music of My Mind Pt. 2 – Jazz Liberatorz, bell hooks, & Skit #2 – Therapy session, The L Word
- J’s Day Theme #3 – Madlib
- Windyridge – Testiculo Y Uno & Angela Davis
- San Francisco – Oddisee
- FeminiNITTY (Remixed by J.Period) – Nitty Scott, MC