Women Who Impacted Hip Hop Over the Last Five Decades, Pt 1

Discover through the Webster collection women who have impacted Hip Hop over the last 50 years. From pioneers to classic albums sampled by today's artists.

By HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Curated by Ramya Ramaswamy, Natalia Andino, and Asia Demmer for the HipHop2020 Innovation Archive under the direction of Joycelyn Wilson, PhD.

1973 -1982: The Foundation

One of the most influential pioneers in Hip Hop is DJ Kool Herc, a Jamaican immigrant who, along with his family, moved from Kingston to the Bronx in 1967 when he was 12 years old. He is regarded as one of Hip Hop's founding fathers, and often given the credit for hosting the party on August 11, 1973 that shaped Hip Hop's foundational elements. His sister, Cindy Campbell, is often left out of this origin story.

Cindy CampbellHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Cindy Campbell, Hip Hop's first party promoter

On August 11, 1973, DJ Kool Herc and Cindy made history when they hosted the “Back to School Jam” in the recreation room of their Bronx apartment building at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. This historical party is recognized for launching the hip hop movement.

hip-hop-history-tidal-readHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

A DJ Kool Herc Party, A Cindy Campbell Promotion

A cultural and artistic movement originating from the technological savviness and creative ingenuity of African American and Afro-Caribbean youth influencers. Hip Hop has since grown to become a global phenomenon and has had a significant impact on various aspects of society.

The vision is rooted in the womb of women like Cindy Campbell as well as record executives like Sylvia Robinson. She saw what was coming for rap music and hopped on board first!

Sylvia Robinson, Godmother of Rap MusicHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Sylvia Robinson, the god-mother of popular rap music

Not long after the steam of this underground arts movement caught fire, a lady by the name of Sylvia Robinson, a music industry veteran, founded Sugar Hill Records. She is responsible for executive producing the groundbreaking hit "Rapper's Delight" by the Sugarhill Gang. 

Now what you hear is not a test!!

"Rapper's Delight", released in 1979, was the first chart-topping rap song put out on Robinson's Sugar Hill Records.

We gon' funk you right on up!!

Robinson is also behind "Funk You Up" by the Sequence, the first all-Lady rap trio from Columbia, South Carolina. The South been saying something!!

The Message (1982-10-01/1982-10-01) by Grandmaster Flash & The Furious FiveHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Don't push me cuz I'm close to the edge!

Robinson is also behind “The Message” by Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five, the first rap song with explicit social commentary about social politics in the early 80s.   

1984 - 1986, The Legend of Lolita "Roxanne Shante'" Gooden

Roxanne Shante, born Lolita Shanté Gooden, is a pioneering rapper from Queensbridge, NY. Gaining fame in the 1980s at the young age of 14 with her hit "Roxanne's Revenge," Gooden played a pivotal role in the "Roxanne Wars" and the rise of the legendary Juice Crew. 

"Roxanne's Revenge"

At 14, Lolita Shante' Gooden, changed Hip Hop with the release of "Roxanne's Revenge" (1984), produced by Marley Marl. The diss record was a response to UTFO's "Roxanne Roxanne", and ultimately launched the most infamous rap battle in Hip Hop history: The Roxanne Wars.

Her raw, unapologetic style and lyrical prowess challenged norms, paving the way for future female MCs in a male-dominated industry.' 

"Roxanne's Revenge" (1984/1984) by Roxanne Shante'HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

"Roxanne's Revenge" (1984), Pop Art Records

The Micheal Webster Collection, curated by the HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Roxanne Shante vs. Sparky Dee (front)HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Round 1 - Roxanne Shante' vs. Sparky Dee
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Vinyl Record, Round 1 - Roxanne Shante vs Sparky Dee, 1985

Capitalizing on the moment, Roxanne Shante' teamed up with Sparky Dee, who had responded to "Roxanne's Revenge" with "Sparky's Turn (Roxanne You're Through)." The ladies ultimately joined forces and released under Spin Records Round 1 Roxanne Shante' vs Sparky Dee.

Roxanne Shante vs. Sparky Dee (disc)HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Sparky's Turn (Roxanne You're Through) - Roxanne Shante' vs. Sparky Dee
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"Sparky's Turn"

Round 1 Roxanne Shanté vs. Sparky Dee included 6 tracks, "Roxanne's Revenge," "Sparky's Turn," as well as "Roxanne's Profile," "Sparky's Profile" and the censored/uncensored versions of the battle record, "Round 1."

Roxanne Shante vs. Sparky Dee (back)HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

The Legend of Roxanne Shante'

The influence of Roxanne Shante' on Hip Hop is still felt to this day. She is a pioneer of battle rap and has one of the most unique voices, which ultimately landed her the radio show "Have a Nice Day w/ Roxanne Shante'" on LL Cool J's Rock the Bells Radio.

Gooden is not just a music icon but also an advocate for artists' rights and education in the Hip Hop community. 

"Just Say NO" Concert Against Drug Abuse ft Roxanne Shante - Autograph (The Golden Era) by Michael Webster CollectionHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Roxanne Shante' Autograph to DJ Web, 1986

As part of the "First Annual Concert Against Drug Abuse" at the Atlanta Civic Center, Roxanne Shante' performed along with DJ Web.

1987-1989: The Rise of MC Lyte

MC Lyte's on the microphone!

MC Lyte lives at legendary status in the world of Hip Hop. earned her a legendary status. Her debut album, Lyte as a Rock (1988), is considered a classic, featuring hits like "Paper Thin", showcasing her ability to deliver powerful messages with a commanding presence.

MC Lyte Side 2 by HipHop2020 Innovation Archive. Wilson CollectionHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

"Just like a test I Cram to Understand U..."

MC Lyte challenged the stereotypical portrayal of women in Hip Hop. Her strong, assertive persona presented an alternative image of femininity in the music industry, inspiring many women artists to address community issues while speaking directly to the men.

Self-Destruction (back).jpgHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Stop the Violence's "Self Destruction

Along with Ms. Melody, M.C. Lyte was also a prominent voice for women on Stop the Violence's "Self Destruction." Her verse critiqued violence at parties as she implored listeners to "leave the guns and the crack and the knives alone."

Self-Destruction (disc)HipHop2020 Innovation Archive

Self Destruction - Stop The Violence Movement
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M.C. Lyte's verse on "Self Destruction" is particularly memorable, as she delivers a message of hope and unity in the face of adversity.

Self-Destruction (front).jpgHipHop2020 Innovation Archive

The album and the participation of MC Lyte and Ms. Melody helped to pave the way for greater representation and recognition of women artists in the men-dominated world of hip-hop.

Credits: Story

Curated by the HipHop2020 Innovation Archive VIP Team

Credits: All media
The story featured may in some cases have been created by an independent third party and may not always represent the views of the institutions, listed below, who have supplied the content.
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