Women are the essence of Hip-Hop. We’ve crystalized the artform. At this moment we honor the impact Women have had on the culture from the dawning of the movement. This brief synopsis highlights some of the contributions of Women in Hip-Hop. The velocity of WOMEN has dictated the global expansion of Hip-Hop.

On August 11, 1973, Cindy Campbell, “The mother of Hip-Hop” tasked her brother, Kool Herc, to DJ a back-to-school party that changed the world forever — This was the “birth of Hip-Hop.”

Women birthed the children who dominate the culture. Without a doubt, the mother is the first teacher. Our words and actions are the infrastructures for the adults our children become. Many of the Hip-Hop classics that set the foundation for the culture were recorded in rooms and basements of a mother. A mother who had to endure the noise.  A mother once told me, “As long as I hear the music, I know he’s alive.” In the hood, our children don’t always survive. For some MOTHERS, Hip-Hop is the answer to their prayers!!!

The love of our children and our desire to keep them safe was the reason we allowed and nurtured the talent.  LL Cool J credits his grandmother, Ellen Hightower, for giving him the rampancy to explore this art form. He and many other Hip-Hop legends often speak of the impact their mothers and grandmothers had on their Hip-Hop legacy.

In the hood, the classics that speak to the heart of our souls were inspired by love and affection for women. Roxane Roxane by UTFO, Fly Girl, by The Boogie Boys, Around the Way Girl, by LL Cool J, Dear Mama by TuPac, Renee, by the Lost Boyz, and many more.

Fly Girls have been some of the most impactful in the movement. Women like Sylvia Robinson of Sugar Hill Records, Carmen Ashurst of Def-Jam Records, Heidi Smith, from Rush Artist Management, Monica Lynch, from Tommy Boy Records, Lisa Cortez from RPM and Mercury Records, Thembisa Mshaka, Author, BET Networks, Mandy Aragones from Slick Rick Entertainment, Dedra Tate from Flavor Unit, Motown, and countless others have been leading the industry and driving the movement.

The DJ is the bedrock of the culture. Women have moved the crowd for decades. DJs like Wanda Dee, Spinderella, Jazzy Joyce, and CoCo Chanelle set the tone for some of the hottest Hip-Hop artists to ever do this.

The DJ and the MC go hand and hand. Sha Rock is noted as the first female MC known to the culture. She wasn’t alone, pioneers like Mercedes Ladies, Jazzy J, and Roxanne Shanté, are just a few of the women to represent for every double-dutch crew in the hood.  Women like MC Lyte, Salt ‘n Pepa, Antoinette, Miss Melody, Nikki D, Queen Latifa, and Monie Love, made the funky fresh. They were cardinals in the game! They gave us our hairstyles, our attitude, and our stance.

One of the dopest to ever hit the street; Rokafella (Founder/CEO of full Circle Productions) stated, “Breaking is the dance of the oppressed; the hungry.” B-Girls made it cool for women to present with masculine energy that naturally flows through many women. The attitude that let it be known, “We don’t care what you look like. We care if you are dope.” Rokafella has traveled the world representing Hip-Hop through breaking. Said Rokafella, “In ‘87 they deemed breaking dead, but the indignant vibe of the B-Girl was like You can’t tell me when and how to do this.”

B-Girls went underground creating dope moves that helped build a platform and represent the culture. Legendary B-Girls like Kim Holmes, and Violeta Galagarza continue to push the culture as it expands globally.  The mainstream spell is powerful!! The underground scene is invisible. The commercialism of the culture closed the door to many female dancers. The cameras were not there to capture it, but the culture, the art of breaking, quietly crept around the world. Rokafella said it best, “They tried to smother breaking, but the power from the ancestors kept the flame burning.”

In the ‘90’s, Hip Hop dancers like Rosie Perez, Laurieanne Gibson, Big Lez and Michele McBryd (who created the first Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival in 2004), shook the room and changed the game when they hit the stage.

Graffiti writers are the artists who’ve been documenting the culture. Graffiti legends like Lady Pink, and TooFly tagged our stories on street corner walls. White trains became canvases that served as couriers. These artists risked their lives to spread the news of street legends from every borough in NYC. Their work opened doors for artists like Lady Aiko to represent the beauty and art form of Hip-Hop during collaborations with brands like Louis Vuitton and Estee Lauder. By design, the female graffiti writer has actualized the art into the universal symbol for all things Hip Hop. Much of herstory was never well-documented.

As the culture expanded, Hip-Hop journalists began to tell the stories in various publications. Hip-Hop magazines like Word Up, put names on the map. Kate Ferguson, Editor of Word Up magazine, provided a platform that represented Hip-Hop to the masses. She paved the way for journalists like Kim Osorio, (former editor for The Source Magazine), Joan Morgan, and Dream Hampton. In a male-dominated industry, these women broke barriers writing Hip-Hop stories for various publications.

Equally monumental was the work of photographers, videographers, and filmmakers. Photographers have been capturing the moments from behind the lens and contributing to herstoy in publications. Women like Piper Carter, of the Piper Carter Studio and Martha Cooper, a pioneer responsible for some of the legendary graffiti photos art has ever captured.

“In ‘86 when I came into the game, no one in the film industry was hiring young women of color,” says videographer, Pamala Gibson, Founder/CEO of Atlantis Video and Film Productions. Gibson directed videos for artists like Whodini, and Dana Dane. “Hip-Hop was an opportunity for women to work.”

The work these women put in document events that can be archived by established educators who pay it forward. Queen Herawin, a college professor, Dr. Kyra Gaugt, and Martha Diaz, Chair of Education at the Universal Hip-Hop Museum, work fearlessly to educate the youth and preserve the culture.

Women own and direct the record labels. Women arouse the ideas. Women finance the projects, Women nourish the crew, link the plugs, structure and facilitate deals. Women establish and market the brand. Women perfect the drip. Ultimately, Women strengthen the culture.

WOMEN have been and always will be the innovators of the culture. These are only a few who have laid the foundation for the children, grew the culture and forged the movement. Our voices dictate the sound of the future.