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Here’s The Problem With Calling Black Female Musicians “Flops”

By: Stephanie Jean

As we enter the new year, there are currently three black women on top of the musical food chain: Beyonce, Nicki Minaj, and Rihanna. These three women have been nicknamed “The Holy Trinity” and are by far some of the most successful black entertainers to date. However, while Beyonce,Nicki, and Rihanna all have amazing careers and reputations, there’s something to be learned about the women who aren’t so lucky.

Getting called a flop is probably one of the harshest things that can happen to an artist. The dictionary defines a flop as “be[ing] completely unsuccessful; fail[ing] totally.” If you ask anyone who they’d consider a flop, you’ll get a wide range of answers. Aside from The Holy Trinity, I’ve heard the term flop used for practically every black woman in the music industry. Artists like Keyshia Cole, Ciara, Michelle Williams, Lil Mama, Dawn Richard, Solange, and Kelly Rowland have all had the label “flop” thrusted upon them and their careers. And while there is nothing initially harmful about the word, something dangerous does start to happen when it’s continuously used as an identifier for black women.

The year is 2014 and I’m first hearing about both Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks. Iggy’s single “Fancy” is all over the radio and she’s quickly garnering commercial success. Azealia Banks is becoming vocal about her issues with the Australian “rapper” and getting picked up by multiple online news sites. Within seconds of googling, I’ve already made up my mind that Azealia is just jealous.

Every article posted is comparing the two’s social media numbers and Azealia’s getting slammed for her failure to reach the Billboard charts. Clevver News releases a video saying the only time we hear about Azealia is when she’s battling with other artists. My younger self can only assume that Azealia must be bitter. Why else would every media outlet keep implying that she was?

What I didn’t originally know in 2014 is that Azealia’s issues with Iggy didn’t stem from jealousy, but from concern and anger. Azealia felt that Iggy was awarded accolades and opportunities that she didn’t rightfully earn. The rapper felt that because Iggy is white, she was able to flourish in the hip hop genre despite her having minimal talent. She also complained that Iggy calling herself a “runaway slave master” was disrespectful and offensive given America’s history. (All of which can be found in Azealia’s 2014 interview on Hot 97)

Azealia was making valid points about white privilege and the way we handle music awards, but no one was paying attention. That is what happens when black female musicians are labeled as flops. Calling something or someone a flop was never meant to seem flattering, but the word quickly gets even worse when it’s aimed at black women.

It not only strips them of their voice, but it provides license for their thoughts, experiences, and opinions to get constantly trivialized and dismissed. It can even go as far as having them berated and disrespected, as we all saw in 2011 when Lil Mama was brought to tears on The Breakfast Club.

Radio host, Charlamagne Tha God, tormented Lil Mama for over twenty minutes until she finally she finally started crying. His only explanation was that Lil Mama deserved the criticism because she wasn’t considered successful. And that was the only explanation he needed.

Even Nicki Minaj (who is by no means unsuccessful) has had her opinions devalued. Last year when Nicki criticized MTV for snubbing her and other black artists, she was labeled bitter and her point was dismissed. Nicki Minaj, who has a networth of seventy million dollars, had her voice silenced because she was deemed unworthy and envious.

In addition, there’s hardly ever any talk of how hard it is for black women to exist in the music industry. These women get called flops the minute they start to fade, but no one ever mentions the hardships they deal with. Black females face systematic racism, sexism, and misogynoir. All this is proven with the lack of diversity we see now. There are over fifteen male mainstream rappers that I can name, but Nicki is the only relevant female rapper we have. There are dozens of white pop stars on the radio, but only Rihanna and Beyonce currently share the limelight.

We have to stay critical and aware of how black women in Hollywood are treated. It’s no secret that mainstream media thrives off demonizing or neglecting people of color, and there is no exception for celebrities. Sadly, even fellow black people take no issue with degrading black girls if it benefits them. Opportunity is scarce and it’s far more difficult for black women to keep and maintain steady careers. However, that shouldn’t give anyone a platform to downplay their talent or rob black women of their humanity.

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About The Author: Stephanie Jean is a nineteen year old blogger, writer, affiliate marketer, and student. She is currently studying Sociology and spends a good amount of time commenting on social justice and mainstream media. You can find her website at thugilly.com and literally everywhere else @thugilly.

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4 years 11 months ago

Great article. We need to focus on substance. Listen to some Conya Doss! This very issue drove Phyllis Hyman to suicide. Support good music! Not Nicki’s body parts.