One of my favorite things in hip-hop, just so happens to be one of the rarest things in hip-hop; female emcees. My first experience with hip-hop was with a female emcee. The first track I remember hearing was “Supa Dupa Fly” by Missy Elliott. That is the track that started my relationship with hip-hop. That track taught me a lesson that would continue to be reinforced throughout my relationship with hip-hop. That lesson was that female emcees are a necessity in hip-hop.
Women always brought something different to hip-hop. Usually they make their presence known on the hooks. They provide a different feel and a lighter side to the track, which was cool. I enjoyed that but the women really made their mark with me when they spit verses. It’s a completely different vibe when a female starts rapping. Female emcees elevate hip-hop to a whole new level.
This is the magic that has mostly been missing in Christian hip-hop and it’s the same magic that Thi’sl is trying to capture with the new all-female compilation album Gurl Code. Female emcees have often been placed on back burner in hip-hop. Only a few have made serious noise in mainstream hip-hop and even less have in CHH. Gurl Code is an attempt to put an end to that and showcase the female talent in CHH. Thi’sl entrusted some big names (Butta P, Natalie Lauren, Jackie Hill, and Jai) to carry out his vision. He also brought along some lesser known names. Everyone on the record was there to bring the female musicians to the forefront.
What the Game’s been missing
Hip-hop has been a boys club, pretty much since its conception. Sure women have had pockets of success and impact, but it’s always been hard for females to breakthrough in the genre. If it’s hard for women to breakthrough in the mainstream game, it has been dang near impossible for women to breakthrough in CHH. There have been talented women to bless the mic, but none have sat around the top of the genre. It has been hard to even find more than a handful of emcees.
Gurl Code is the exact record CHH needs. CHH fans have been clamoring for more female emcees (and musicians) to come to the forefront. CHH has been missing a strong female presence. Gurl Code provides plenty of female artists that are talented and can fill the void that is in CHH. This compilation gives fans everything they’ve been clamoring for. Gurl Code has a wider variety in sound, in style of music and shows that not only are there strong female emcees, but that there is a little depth in that area. Gurl Code has come at the perfect time and has the potential to change the landscape of CHH, simply by providing the game with what it’s been missing.
Did the Music Hold Up?
Some hip-hop fans would argue that the reason there isn’t a strong female presence in hip-hop is because the talent isn’t there. It’s a fair argument to consider because hip-hop has been around for decades now and there have been some females that have been able to breakthrough. The reality of it is that women get scrutinized much more in hip-hop than a man does. It’s unfortunate but true. Female artists are held to a different standard than their male counterparts. That has affected how many female artists there are, much more than a perceived lack of talent. Regardless of what you think about female emcees and artists, Gurl Code is a monumental record in CHH. To my memory, nothing like this has ever been done in CHH and this has the opportunity to make history. All of that will be for nothing if the music isn’t good.
The Cast of female emcees and vocalists
With the cast that Thi’sl was able to assemble for Gurl Code the music should be there. Artists like Butta P, Natalie Lauren, Jackie Hill, Heesun Lee, Jai and V. Rose have all experienced varying levels of success in CHH. For the most part, they all delivered again. Jackie Hill makes two awe-inspiring appearances on Gurl Code and sets the tone for the record beautifully with her spoken word peace “WTTGGC.” Butta P and Natalie Lauren come together for “Made for This.” This is a dream combo for CHH fans because these are two of the top (if not the top two) female artists in the game. They don’t disappoint with a wonderful track that shows that hip-hop is as much for women as it is for the men.
V. Rose and Jai come through and provide solo tracks that show that Gurl Code is about more than just the female emcees. V. Rose and Jai have been two of the most successful vocalists within CHH. Both have released solid records and have blessed many of features. Gurl Code was just another opportunity to show the talent that each of these fabulous female artists have. The Spec produced “He Does” has V. Rose serenading the listener with beautiful vocals. The message behind “He Does” was just as beautiful as the vocals were, when V. Rose states “when no one loves us/ Jesus, He does.” Not to be outdone, Jai came with the J.R. produced “Alive.” This track encompasses everything that Jai is known for. The message was encouraging and introspective; there were moments with energy and of course has fantastic vocals. These ladies proved that they are more than just great for hooks, and they provided two of the best tracks on all of Gurl Code.
It’s easy to get caught up in the stars of this record, but if you do, you would be selling yourself (and this project) short. One of the greatest things about Gurl Code is its depth. There are female artists on this project that I have never heard of that will become regulars on my IPod. Artists like Martay, Marz, Erica Danea and Cho’zyn are a little off of CHH’s radar, but made huge impacts on Gurl Code. Time after time I was scrambling to find the names of these artists and more music from them. This is where Gurl Code will make its biggest impact on the genre. Gurl Code opens listeners eyes to artists they may never have heard of and brings great (and much needed) female depth to CHH.
As high as some of the highs were, Gurl Code isn’t perfect. It had a lot of the same problems most compilation albums have. If you listen to the record as a whole, the sound is a bit all over the place. This isn’t a huge problem because I understand that it is more of a showcase of talent. Compilations rely on the match-ups created, being as great as the sound. Gurl Code had a few that didn’t come together very well. “Turn Me Around” with Heesun Lee and Mia Hunt was a letdown. The EDM sound that they were going for was a miss and the powerful and dominating flow that I love about Heesun Lee gets lost. “You” that featured Sicily and Jasmine Le’Shea also didn’t hit that strong, and gets lost in the sauce when you reflect on the record as a whole. These are small glitches in an overall impressive project though.
No one can deny that a record like this is overdue. CHH needs this and it needs a stronger female presence. It would provide another, very important perspective to the Christian life that all people can benefit from. Gurl Code is able to capture that and present it in a wonderful way. This is exactly what CHH needed in every aspect. The music was good, the message was great and it gave CHH what it was missing.