Gris-Gris, an online journal of literature, culture & the arts

Turn Her Mic Down

by Donny Rose

One.
The absence of Salt-N-Pepa, Sweet T,
Ms. Melody, Monie Love and Queen Latifah

Two.
The unacknowledged genius
of Rah Digga, Lady of Rage,
Ladybug of Digable Planets,
Jean Grae and Mia X

Three.
The little girl who identifies MC Lyte
as the lady that does
voice overs for award shows
instead of her rightful title
as Empress of Rhyming Words
or pioneer

Four.
The homophobia that put a gag order on Bahamadeia’s brilliance

Five.
The industry that told Lauryn Hill she was crazy
until she began to wear the label

Six.
The industry that constantly
calls on Missy Elliot
to reinvent the genre
but tells her that her body image
fits best behind the boards
and not in front of the camera

Seven.
Our inability to resurrect the
Lil Kim that died
on March 9th, 1997

Eight.
Amil
Princess
Shawna
Diamond
Eve
Every first lady of
insert rap label here
who was skilled enough
to land a deal
but not valued enough
to produce anything more
than a teenage boy’s hard-on

Nine.
Hip Hop
has always had a confusing relationship
with the women in its life
Hip Hop wants its
Dear Mamas
and baby mamas
and bust it babies
and queens
and ride or dies
and jump offs
and wifeys
to be packaged
all the same
Hip Hop loves a voiceless cheerleader
Hip Hop wants its women rockin high skirts
and high moral values
Hip Hop like its women
to hold a man down
but not hold him up
when Hip Hop
passes the mic
to the next lady in line
she has one shot
to drop a hit like it’s hot
she gotta be burning building
and fireplace at the same time
she gotta be
an around-the-way girl
and porn star
and pacifier of male egos
and cover page pretty
and alibi
and accessory
and the kind of arm candy
that can bite back
she’s gotta be

so grateful
her knees gotta be so sturdy
Hip Hop will tell her
good things come to
the girls that can
swallow their pride

and wait for their time
to shine
she gotta be patient
and fierce
and docile
and a killer
and non-threatening
she gotta be able
to fill the void
all while not throwing off
the natural order of things

Ten.

Somewhere in the world
a little girl is tossing her rhyme book
under the bed
when Hip Hop grabs its genitalia
ice grills and drools at
its heroines
it is telling them
where they belong
where their place is
encouraging their rhymes
to go silent
and I’d love to know
just how much greatness we have lost
by making her turn her mic
off.