“Where did all the female hip hop artists go? We need to find the next generation and make sure their voices are heard.” –Queen Latifah
Although the charts are inundated with a plethora of ubiquitous pop artists like Beyonce, Rhianna and Lady Gaga, one tends to wonder…whatever happened to female hip hop acts like Queen Latifah , Da Brat and Salt and Peppa? Perhaps this is a sign of the perpetually transformative trajectory of the musical landscape or perhaps our musical posterity has yet to look back at the derivative sounds that encompass today’s music. Nevertheless, new generations of female artists are doing just that, bringing back the hip hop sounds of yesteryear and infusing it with other musical genres to create a fresh eclectic sound and one such artist is Shea Rose.
It was just only a few years ago that Shea Rose began singing. She started out as a poet and progressed to song writing. After leaving her dream job as a writer for MTV in New York City, she began to sing as well upon returning back to her native Boston where she experimented by performing with neo soul and classic rock acts, according to Noelle Janka in an article in Performer Magazine at Berklee College of Music. After listening to her current LP, “Little Warrior”, it is clear to me that her oeuvre are drenched in heartache, righteous anger, and communal frustration mitigated by a subtext of humanitarianism, hope and inspiration.
“Music is a Godsend, a life saver thrown out to me at a time in my life when the light at the end of the tunnel was flooded by unrelenting darkness,” declares Shea. She goes on to say, “Music has helped me to reconnect with the human condition, my community, humanity and the world at large.”
A retroactive assessment of an artist’s early years is often the best indication of their musical influences. Her recordings showcase an array of musical influences including Janis Joplin, Marvin Gaye, Amel Larriuex and Queen Latifah, whose hit song “U.N.I.T.Y” she recently re-recorded. Latifah—who coincidentally was determined to find female poets, emcees and musicians—initiated a nationwide search which resulted in her handpicking five fresh talented female voices among six hundred and Shea Rose was one of them. In an interview in Ebony Magazine, Shea talks about what it was like meeting the Queen, “…it was all about sisterhood and just being you. It was magical.” Yet still Shea struggles to define her sound, one of which is Rock ‘N’ Roll, a genre not accustomed to her prima facie physical portraiture as a Black female urbanite.
“I struggle to describe my voice and my songs when asked because…I’m still discovering me…I can say that I am a soulful…performer with traces of Blues, Folk, Jazz and Rock influences…Or as I often say, ‘The Female Lenny Kravitz meets Lauryn Hill.” And from listening to her “Little Warrior” LP, I can eagerly concur with her utterance. Songs from “Warrior” to “Go So Hard” and “Jungle Fever” capture an intransigent call for awareness surrounding issues of transcending life hardships and antiquated racist ideologies. And in a world where assertive and confident women are easily called the “b” word, songs like “I’m the Sh*t” is an affirmation of female self esteem and empowerment. The lyrics and tone of the LP can at times be perceived as austere and astringent to the senses but it is balanced with a fair amount of facetious levity.
As Shea Rose prepares to embark on the echelons of the music industry, she has a clear message for her musical peers. In her interview in Ebony Magazine, when asked about what’s missing from music today, she said plainly, “Content. We need more stuff, not fluff…something…kids can take home and really think about.” And I couldn’t agree more.
Jacques Fleury is the author of Sparks in the Dark: A Lighter Shade of Blue, A Poetic Memoir and It’s Always Sunrise Somewhere and Other Stories.