Hip hop has always been a male dominated industry. It’s probably something to do with the blatant misogyny in the lyrics, or the sexually explicit imagery in the videos. Whilst big female icons such as Missy, Nicki, and Lil Kim have paved the way for the girls to be taken more seriously, back in the eighties and nineties when commercially hip hop was in its infancy, there was a very low female presence. A woman’s place in a hip hop video was sprawled over a car bonnet, or shaking their ‘juicy doubles’ (Sir Mix-a-lot’s words, not mine). Any female rap vocals that were around at the time, were more as guest vocals on other people’s songs. Artists like Ya Kid K and Jazzy P appeared on big dance anthems. But the girls wanted their own turn. And it came at the start of the nineties.
The nineties were an interesting time for music in general. The cheesiness of the eighties were going out of fashion, and everyone was talking about Mad-chester. Hip hop was changing too. Whilst in the eighties it was all about the gangs and the guns, a collective of rappers called The Native Tongues were making music with a more positive message. Amongst them were De La Soul, Tribe Called Question and The Jungle Brothers. There was also a couple of ladies in amongst the primarily male gang. Queen Latifa is, who is better known now as an actress and a talk show host, was releasing music of her own. And then there was her protégé Monie Love.
Monie went out on her own with her single ‘Grandpa’s Party’. It was followed up by her debut album ‘Down To Earth’. At last hip hop had some female icons (Neneh Cherry and Salt n Pepa were also having big chart hits) . It would be easy to say that the album was released at the perfect time. But in reality, it was part of the reason that hip hop moved the way it did. Recently Nicki Minaj sampled female-liberation-nightmare anthem ‘Baby Got Back,’ but turned the sexism in the message to her own advantage. It would no doubt never have happened without the groundwork being laid ‘Down To Earth’ was part of that groundwork. But it wasn’t just the girls she was representing. Whilst she was a woman taking control in a man’s business, she was also a British artist making her way to the top in an American dominated market.
The album spawned a handful of singles. ‘It’s A Shame (My Sister)’ was a huge cross-over pop hit. Whilst on ‘Ring My Bell’ she teamed up with the huge vocals of Adeva to create a more house-influenced floor filler. House music and rap seemed to go hand in hand in the nineties, and Monie was at the forefront of it again, mixing the two styles to create huge chart hits.
Monie is still huge in the states as a radio show host. But this album is no doubt what she will be remembered for. It is a great collection of songs that still stands up today.