Atlanta’s A3C Hip-Hop Festival has only been around for eight years, but has already become one of the most revered hip-hop festivals in the USA. Every year, thousands of hip-hop fans pass through its doors to enjoy the crème de la crème of the indie scene rock its many stages. Admittedly, 2011 was the first year I had attended A3C, but even from across the pond (at home in the UK), I was introduced to the buzz off A3C via artists and friends on my Facebook newsfeed. I attended last October and instantly knew that I wanted to be more involved with the next year’s festivities, and set out to make it happen.
On October 12th at 6PM, eight women of colour sat around a table and discussed their significant roles in hip-hop as part of stupidDOPE.com Presents: Lipgloss & Sneakers. These eight women were: Hip-hop legend and radio presenter Monie Love; Tiffany Hardin of the Gild Creative Group and manager of Karen Civil and NY rapper Kris Casanova; A’rfa Butt of MTV UK; singer/songwriter Nikkiya; Street Execs emcee Adrift Da Belle; Jamla Recording artist Rapsody; Women on the Move founder Amber Ravenel; and lastly but not least, your truly, Ayara Pommells of Soultrain.com.
“I chose to be involved in the panel because the climate of women–especially within hip-hop–suggests [there are] many misconceptions of us and by us. This was a good way to start the dialogue on it. The women in the panel came from different areas within the music industry and it was great to have many perspectives. I think in the long run it’s important to reintroduce the theory of sisterhood in a male- dominated field. “– Monie Love
The discussion was set for one hour and a half but ran over time (as to be expected). We discussed women’s roles in the media and responsibilities to fans, the lack of collaboration between female artists versus back in the late 80s and early 90s, gender discrimination and whether or not it exists, plus a host of other topics. Our panel was also extended by questions from the audience, which was greatly appreciated. It proved that our experiences were not just the tales of a woman scorned, but were genuine concerns of many female artists and professionals who have shared similar experiences.
“I thought that we kept it entertaining yet insightful…My favourite part of the panel was when we discussed the integrity of selling records and creating content that is not damaging to the artists’ personal and professional brand. There is sometimes a disconnect between the two and the artists that are able to take advantage of it end up being the most successful. I believe out of all the lessons learned, we have to ensure that there is collaboration all the time and the willingness to do so…” – Tiffany Harding
The aim was not to be another token women’s panel, but to be the beginning of an empowering movement–eight women in the industry discussing the ins and the outs of the industry and to highlight the difficulties and to come to some form of common solution to any of the drawbacks identified. I mean, there’s no point even debating an issue without trying to progress. One only has to look around and see that, at least in mainstream hip-hop, female artists appear to be lacking a sense of community.
We all know that at least on the surface, the music industry is a significantly male- dominated arena. But are males just hungrier than their female counterparts? Are they more able to set the personal feelings to the side and “get money together,” or is the industry itself creating a hostile environment? Are the labels to blame? Is it the fans? Are they more comfortable only having a small handful of key women on the frontline? We are a dying breed and it’s time to proactively seeking out change and come together and give birth to something productive. The future of hip-hop doesn’t rest entirely on all on our panel, or on this particular group of women, but on the shoulders of all who choose to be a part of it. Once we commit our time and resources to something we immediately become culpable. That day, we vowed to continue to make a difference.
“I spent the weekend hanging with hip-hop legends, new artists, executives from major corporations–all women who have become beautiful friends I will be building with over the next year. Lipgloss & Sneakers will be back next year bigger and better at a festival near you. There are many women in the entertainment and media industry who play very important roles, and are behind the success of so many projects, artists, and organisations. We want Lipgloss and Sneakers to be the voice and platform to showcase their work, mentor and create roles for other young women new in the industry. Lipgloss and Sneakers: Building communities and sisterhood worldwide!” – A’rfa Butt
So, stay tuned.
Ayara Pommells is Owner of UK website Rawroots.com and a music writer for Soultrain.com, stupidDOPE.com, Badperm,com & Earmilk.com. Ayara also handles PR for several artists. A woman of many hats. Follow her on Twitter @iAmaButtafly.