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It has always been difficult to breakthrough as a female rapper, but nowadays many up-and-coming women MCs feel required to bring certain assets to the table that their foremothers did not.
In an exclusive clip of the new ABC News special The Real Queens of Hip-Hop: The Women Who Changed the Game, 21-year-old artist Lakeyah responds to a question posed by moderator Angie Martinez about what her generation of female rappers cares about by saying, "Right now it's about looks. It's about how you look. You come in the game, it's rare to look [slim] like me."
ABC/Michael Le Brecht 'The Real Queens of Hip Hop: The Women Who Changed the Game'
Confirming that she means she does not have an outsized backside, the rap newcomer adds that she does feel pressure to modify her body: "That's the worst part about it. Just having to deal with so many comments from people you don't know. Just having to deal with so many comments from people you don't know. Like, 'Oh, I hope she get a surgery. I hope she get this.'"
The moment is part of an overall conversation between Lakeyah, Martinez, Roxanne Shanté, and Lil Mama, who represent four generations of female rappers. Shanté, who's career started during the nascent period of hip-hop in the mid '80s, explains back then "it was all about battle rhymes and battle raps. So I walked in with a certain amount of confidence." Then came the advent of video vixens in the '90s and aughts.
"What they did was they made the video girl more important than the female rapper," Shanté theorizes. "So now what happens is the talent that the female rapper now possesses is overshadowed by sexualizing the female in hip-hop. So then you have the next generation of female rapper who comes out, who says, 'Okay, now I'm sexy and I'm talented… So now what are you going to do?'"
While the women all agree that there's nothing wrong with the women who own their sexuality, or even choose to get surgery, Martinez concludes that "when it became a requirement for all women, that's when it turned left."
Watch the full video of the illuminating intergenerational conversation above.
The Real Queens of Hip-Hop: The Women Who Changed the Game – An ABC News Special airs Monday at 10 p.m. ET/PT on ABC, and can be viewed the next day on demand and on Hulu.
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