Ladies First

For its first original music documentary, BET decided to put women center stage in My Mic Sounds Nice: A Truth about Women in Hip-Hop.  The film discussed the idea what it is like to be a female in the male dominated realm of hip-hop from industry vets like MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, Missy Elliot, Trina, Eve, Medusa, Lady Bug Mecca and more.  My Mic Sounds Nice also featured commentary by Kevin Liles, Swizz Beatz, Chuck D, Quest Love, Russell Simmons, Jermaine Dupri, as well as members of the media such as Big Lez, journalist Smokey D. Fontaine and others.

The documentary begins with the start of hip-hop creating its buzz on the streets of New York City during the late 70’s, early 80’s and placed a much need spotlight on the female pioneers such as Angie Stone, Sha-Rock, Roxanne Shante and others.  It progressed into what is considered by most hip-hop heads and aficionados as the “golden age of hip-hop” during the mid ‘80s to early ‘90s as female MCs like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa and others cemented their place in hip-hop history.  The foundation these ladies paved ushered in what I call the “Hailey’s Comet “of female hip-hop artists – a flash of ladies that shimmered during the mid ‘90s and eventually faded into the horizon as the new millennium evolved.

My Mic Sounds Nice also explored the concepts of the hypersexualized MC like Foxy Brown, Trina and Little Kim, MCs that exploded based on talent and originality like Missy Elliot and Lauren Hill, as well as the pressure of being a female MC, a pressure Nicky Minaj is surely feeling now as she is attempting to resurrect the idea of a female MC back into the industry’s collective consciousness.

After the first 20 minutes, I was well on my way to giving this documentary a D+, and the “D” was not for dope.  I felt like I was watching an over packed suitcase bursting at the seams, bustling on an airport ramp to nowhere.  I contemplated how director/executive producer Ava DuVernay could cram over 30 years worth of history as well as the question of the disappearance of the female MC into an hour-long documentary.  But as the film continued, I began to see the method of her madness.   The film was just as elusive as the notion of a female hip-hop artist in today’s industry.  Slowly my opinion changed from skepticism to optimism.  My Mic Sounds Nice is not a hurried, crash course in being a woman in hip-hop.  Instead, it is a well crafted mosaic of opinions created to provoke thought and evoke change.  Like the peep shows that littered Times Square in the ‘80s, it played with viewers mind –   tantalizing, teasing, forcing the viewer to demand more as the credits rolled.  If Ava DuVernay wanted the streets to percolate with the question of “Where are the female rappers,” then she has certainly sparked the debate with this documentary.  I give My Mic Sounds Nice an A for astonishing and thank Ava DuVernay for tackling a subject that is long overdue.

Female MC’s From NYC

Diddy Honored by BET

On Monday BET aired the third annual BET Honors, an award show taped on January 16 in Washington, D.C. recognizing individuals within the black community achieving excellence within their perspective fields as well as exemplifying the mantra “Giving back to give forward.”  Actress Gabrielle Union hosted the event for the second time.

Harlem native Sean “Diddy” Combs received the Entrepreneur Award; an accolade befitting him because more than anyone in the entertainment industry, Diddy is an entrepreneur.  Known for making a way out of no way, Diddy went from being a dancer to a mogul.  His accomplishments are shining examples that affirm if one has a dream and is willing to grind hard to achieve that dream; it will one day become a reality.  Bad Boy, Justin’s, Ciroc (yes the man has his own alcohol) and Sean John – from movies to music to the runway nothing is out of Diddy’s grasp.  He is the true personification of the phrase “Veni, vidi, vici.” What realm Diddy will conquer next, one only knows.  In his acceptance speech, Diddy got personal and thanked his mother Janice Combs.  He told a poignant story of  how she worked round the clock to provide for him and his sister after his father was murdered and mentioned that he wanted to make sure that she never had to work again.  Well, he has certainly managed to attain that task and more.  A famous quote of Diddy’s is “Sleep is forbidden,” this award shows that for him failure is also forbidden.  Former boss and mentor Andre Harrell and Mary J. Blige celebrated him in song.  Considering that Blige was discovered by Diddy and their work defined the genre of hip hop soul, it was a fitting tribute.

Two Jersey girls were also honored.  The original queen of hip hop, Queen Latifah, and the iconic Whitney Houston were also two of the award recipients.  Both hailing from East Orange, these living legends prove the New Jersey isn’t the “Garden State,” it is the Star State.  Taraji P. Henson presented Queen Latifah with the Media Award as Latifah has placed her mark on every facet of the industry and has the awards to prove it.  Another legend, Patti Labelle and future legend Jasmine Sullivan paid tribute to the Queen Latifah, who’s real name is Dana Owens, in song.  Gracious as always Latifah thanked her mother and father and called people to take action in the effort to bring relief to Haiti.  Pioneer, actress, singer, producer and author, Latifah has shown through tireless hard work why she was given the title of queen and on Friday she and Diddy along with Wyclef and other stars will participate in another telethon to help bring much needed aid to the survivors of the recent earthquake in Haiti. 

There are very few that have or will achieve the levels of success that Whitney Houston has, but there were some that had written this legendary vocalist off.  How sweet it is to prove haters wrong, and after being presented with the Entertainment Award by Neo, Whitney is glowing example of what a survivor really is.  In her recent comeback to the spotlight, Whitney has shown the world that her voice was not the only gift she was blessed with.  The other is a strength that I believe may have been unknown to her until it was truly tested.  Whitney says that she stays “prayed up,” and needs nothing more that her God and her child.  Thank God that we will have the pleasure to hear that wonderful voice for many years to come.  Vocal powerhouses Jennifer Hudson and Kim Burrell tore the walls of the Warner Theatere down with songs befitting a tribute to one the best voices in the entertainment industry. 

Other performers included the musical genius of Stevie Wonder, India Arie, Trey Songz, Maxwell and Take 6.  Neurosurgeon Keith Black received the Public Service Award and educator Ruth Simmons received the Education Award.