The Lil Yachty collaborator is giving aspiring female rappers a voice.
In 1993, MC Lyte made history when she became the first female solo rapper to be nominated for a Grammy, for her single “Ruffneck.” She was bold and unapologetic, proving she deserved the spotlight as much as any male act. Four years later, Missy Elliot broke out with her single “The Rain,” from the album “Supa Dupa Fly,” which was certified platinum. Female rappers were finally gaining not only recognition, but also respect in the industry.
So why, decades later, has the number of female rappers signed to major labels dropped significantly? According to NPR, the number of female rappers signed to major labels dropped from 40 in the early 1990s to just three in 2010. From Nicki Minaj to M.I.A., there’s no shortage of talent, yet the industry has regressed.
Twenty-one-year-old rapper Leaf has no tolerance for the industry’s crushing sexism. People are constantly trying to label everything she does, from the way she sounds to the way she dresses, but the eccentric Brooklyn artist doesn’t want to be compared to anybody but herself. Now, with a critically-praised album, an all-female creative collective aptly named Magnetic Bitch Movement (MBM) and a Lil Yachty collaboration under her belt, she’s using her power to give voice to young female rappers.
“I feel like [women] are being silenced and I’m just not standing for it,” Leaf says. “As a woman it’s my job to empower other women. Even more, I want to listen to music every day that empowers me to be the best I can be. Music and life and feminism are all unanimous.”
“I feel like women are being silenced and I’m just not standing for it.”
To encourage females to pursue music careers, Leaf is partnering with the social entertainment network/app Clapit to host an “open call” for up-and-coming artists (both men and women). Artists can upload their original videos onto Clapit; in a month, the submission with the most “claps” will be deemed the winner. Once a winner is selected, Leaf will fly her out to New York City for a mentorship day in the studio. The competition launched April 12 and runs for a month.
As someone who struggled to fit in growing up, Leaf discovered the beauty of embracing her differences from a young age. She began uploading her music to MySpace at age 12 and worked odd jobs before realizing her calling was not only to be a musician, but to empower all the “weird girls” to not give up.
“The most important piece of advice I would give young women is: Always stay true to yourself,” Leaf says. “Have extreme confidence in your art, and most importantly, never give up your passion, whatever it is. Stick with it, and just be confident that you don’t have to change everything about yourself to be beautiful and accepted.”
“Have extreme confidence in your art and most importantly, never give up your passion, whatever it is.”
Leaf is optimistic her open call on Clapit will encourage female rappers to feel they’re heard in a male-dominated industry. She also hopes to bring women together to support each other and collectively push change within the music industry.
“If I had it my way, the future of hip-hop for women would be similar to the 90s, where it was so many different types of women all representing different women of different cultures,” she continues. “And then on top of that, banding together and making statements with each other rather than against each other.”
By encouraging females to share their talents, collaborate and challenge the rap industry’s sexism, Leaf is grabbing back the spotlight and giving hip-hop the feminist voice it desperately needs. We couldn’t be more excited.