They rarely get a chance to stand on stage among male rappers and their pay is meager but “I can honestly devote everything I have … I want to become a long-lasting rapper.”
“As a child, I did not know how to cry audibly so I started to rap,”
said rapper Choi Sam (24, real name Choi Ji-ae) who is making herself known in the world of underground hiphop. Did we think too lightly of female rappers? Asking why she started hiphop must have been a silly question. To her, hiphop is the reason to live and life itself.
In the minor genre hiphop, female rappers are the great minority. About 5 % of all rappers are estimated to be female. In the characteristically hard-hitting and rough genre, women do not have much of an advantage. They are ran over by male rappers and it is hard for them to gain the spotlight. In the world of hiphop, women rarely succeed. In South Korea, there is only Yoon Mirae who is good at both singing and rapping. She is also the bar that younger [female] rappers want to top.
Female rappers get into hiphop due to living in the US (Jessi, Jolly.V), friends or siblings who like hiphop (Jimin) and they start rap at places like hiphop clubs.1)TN: clubs as in groups, not discos Female rapper COCCA (25), who has recently released her debut album, said, “In college, I started rap as a hobby in a hiphop club at school and [then] debuted officially,” and “People who like hiphop share information on online communities.” Cheetah also said, “I got into hiphop by searching for information by myself at first, or meeting people on internet communities.” There are not as many educational institutions that teach hiphop as there are piano, guitar, or singing schools. The Korea Art Conservatory’s hiphop department which Jolly.V attends (accredited 4-year educational institution) and private schools are the few places where hiphop is taught. Some people pay hundreds of thousands of won a month to receive hiphop lessons by established rappers.
For female rappers, the chances to stand on stage are limited. Places that put aside famous male rappers and purposely get female rappers to perform are rare. COCCA said, “Recently, I got invited [to perform] more often but the pay was unchanged[ly low].” Popular rappers receive several hundred thousand won for one performance, something that nameless rappers cannot even dream of.
Female rappers who do not get a chance to perform at concerts perform in small groups in the streets or save money to barely rent a concert hall. They record on basic beats and distribute free ‘mixtapes’ to make themselves known. Both Choi Sam and COCCA have released several mixtapes online before releasing their respective debut single and album last year.
The discrimination of women is worse [in hiphop] than in any other genre, but there also exists cold-hearted judgement like “Female rappers are being ignored because they are not as skilled [as male rappers].” One female rapper said “Among the South Korean female rappers, there only is Yoon Mirae to imitate, so others copy her or cannot find their own voice and get lost, something that I have seen happen occasionally.”
What could be the reason why those unnies are captivated by rap nevertheless? ‘A craving for expressing oneself’ have both men and women. Choi Sam is at the extreme: “Before I turned twenty I did not want to live, but starting hiphop allowed me to live while letting out the things in my heart.” She said, “I feel that I’m getting closer to happiness by doing hiphop.” Cheetah noted that she raps “because I can let go of all pretense and frankly tell my stories.” In the end, rappers choose hiphop because they “want to pour out everything [bottled up] inside their hearts.” There are not many places where one can refreshingly speak their mind and receive applause for it; and for these women, who have a lot to say and possess strong energies, prettily singing songs is not satisfying.
The goal of all the female rappers is not to become a TV star but to communicate with their audience for a long time. Jolly.V said, “My goal is to become a long-lasting rapper” and “I want to become someone who spreads positive energy.” Lil Cham also says, “It is not a good environment for female rappers to stay in long, but I want to do hiphop for a long time.”
Mnet’s general manager Han Dongchul who planned ‘Unpretty Rapstar’ says, “As there are not many women in the hiphop genre, the basis is not broad enough yet. However, with the help of this show I would like to let people know that there are many skilled female rappers.”
Translator Notes [ + ]
|1.||↑||TN: clubs as in groups, not discos|