What Ms. Melodie’s Death Teaches Us About Women in Hip HopJuly 19th, 2012
By Arielle Loren
“Do you even know who that is?”
My aunt, an 80s hip hop fan, quizzed me, as I browsed through old tracks of the late Ramona Scott aka Ms. Melodie. The Brooklyn rapper was one of the few female members of KRS-One’s legendary Boogie Down Productions (BDP) group and served as an early groundbreaker for women in hip hop.
I was just a baby when Ms. Melodie’s music hit the airwaves. Her first single, “Hype According to Ms. Melodie,” dropped in 1988 with a playful spin on the Hickory Dickory Doc nursery rhyme. The rap artist went on to release an album entitled, Diva, and became one of the few references for female emcees coming up in the 90s.
Focusing on lyrical flow and battle skills, the hip hopper never really made it to a high level of fame compared to her contemporaries MC Lyte and Salt-N-Pepa. However, Ms. Melodie’s legacy echoes a time when women could be respected as dope emcees without needing hardcore sex appeal to sell their music. Talent was power, and not the kind that required plastic surgery, wacky wigs and open legs.
The passing of the “Live on Stage” hip hop aficionada begs the question if a lyricist like her could gain any traction in the contemporary urban music scene. With female rap legends like Missy Elliott and Queen Latifah doing more behind the scenes work and exploring other industries, Nicki Minaj, Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea have become the rising frontrunners of women in the game.
The “Ms. Melodie” genre of hip hop is mainstream dead. Her “real woman” image lacks the popular push-up bra and hourglass appeal. Not to mention, she wouldn’t bring the wacky and weird as part of her creativity. She just rhymed, represented for the ladies and shined for the “regular” group of us. It’s that lack of simplicity that’s missing from contemporary mainstream hip hop. Just dope lyrics on a clean beat won’t sell a female emcee anymore.
There’s much to learn from our elders, and the passing of Ms. Melodie is just another reminder that sometimes less can be dope. Take away all the glitz and glam from many contemporary female rappers. How strong is their legacy and will we remember their music?
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