The British ‘first-wave’ of women in hip hop

20.03.12 Words by: Charlie Jones

With Seattle band THEESatisfaction’s debut album pending, I’ve been digging into some of their influences. In the UK, groups like Monie Love, Cookie Crew, She Rockers and Wee Papa Girl Rappers, mostly based around the south London area, predate the band’s Afrofuturist worldview and elegant collision aesthetic.

The better known Monie Love was protege to Queen Latifah, appeared in her Grammy award-winning feminist anthem Ladies First and was a member of afrocentric hip hop collective Native Tongues, along with Jungle Brothers and De La Soul. She Rockers enjoyed relatively successful releases on the now defunct Jive Records when it was still known for its hip hop yield and not the pop music mega-names like N*Sync and Britney Spears. Legend has it that the group got their big break after performing a spontaneous rap in front of Public Enemy at their local McDonald’s, before band member Betty Boo went on to forge a moderately successful pop career with a track for The Beatmasters, a couple of successful singles and a short-lived band as Wigwam with Blur bassist Alex James.

Sister duo Wee Papa Girl Rappers, on the other hand, have all but vanished into obscurity, despite the fact their 1989 single Wee Rule reached #6 on the UK charts. Regarded as a hip hop group, the distinct reggae and dancehall influences of their sound is unmistakable. Even their name is a corruption of a Caribbean French creole expression ‘Oui Papa’, while this video is shot in the ever vibrant and lively setting of Kingston, Jamaica. Their dub-to-pop fusion surfaced while their UK contemporaries were still emulating their North American contemporaries and decades before Rihanna’s Man Down.