Often when we think of women in hip-hop we think of hot babes, skimpy outfits and inordinate amounts of booty shaking. In other words, we think of flashy guest stars in a man's show. But just because that's the way things were doesn't mean that is how they are always going to be, thanks to the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival.
Founded in 2004 by Michele Byrd-McPhee, the Ladies of Hip-Hop Festival is an event by women for women, holding to the authentic spirit of hip-hop while critically examining women's role in its culture. Through workshops, performances and talks women get a chance to show their skills both on the dance floor and off it as female role models. Using the language of dance the Ladies are connecting the world, one woman at a time. We asked Michele some questions about her project.
HP: Why do you think men have dominated hip-hop for so long?
MB: I think this subculture functions like mainstream or pop culture where men are in all the positions of power. It doesn't help that women in hip-hop have been always viewed as the "side piece" or "eye candy." It's hard to break through; men have always dominated the rap, graffiti, DJ, and dance scenes. They are the producers of events, they bring in other men to teach, to perform... it's just the way it has always been.
HP: Which female dancers and artists inspire you?
MB: In terms of dance my inspiration is a warrior of a women named Marjory Smarth. She is a pioneer in dance, [and] is one of the only women to teach at almost every corner of this planet with the guys. Marjory just spent the last two years of her life battling stage three breast cancer -- never stopped dancing and even teaching! She is amazing! In terms of music, it would be artists like Bahamadia. She is a HH pioneer in music. An amazing lyricist sharing the stage with the Roots, GangStarr and so many others.
HP: What can dance do that other art forms cannot?
MB: Dance is universal, movement goes beyond words! It is a way to communicate without speaking a particular language. I am going to Stokholm to teach. I don't speak the language but we all share the common interest and understanding of Hip-Hop dance. It's amazing. I can travel the world and make connects with people that go so deep..and never say more then hi.
Check out their Kickstarter page to stay updated and get involved.