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America, Ass, and Bad: Music CONFESSIONS TUMBLRCOM IP-HOP HOORAY ee q eers of the music world celebrate their rise to the top of the charts -and ther newfound industry power By dames Patrick Herman. Photographed by Elig-FEs TUMBLR.COM s Lauryn Hills Grammy sweep last February proved, America is, offi. cially, a hip-hop nation. And after two decades under male leadership, women now rule. Just ask rap kingpin Sean "Puffy" Combs "Female MCs always had it so hard-no respect-it was like thcy was livin' in Siberia, he says. "But it made 'em strong. Now their shit's so hot, they dont needa mike to be heard." In fact, soon every one will be hearing the new albums from hip-hop queens Mary J. Blige, Aaliyah, Lil' Kim, Missy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, and Da Brat, all friends as well as frequent collaborators. They're even making plans to take their act-The Bitch Tour-on the road with a funky twist on Lilith Fair, coming to a sold-out stadium near you. But dont call them divas (except perhaps for Ms. Blige, who cited personal drama at the last minute and was unable to attend the photo shoot). Mary J. Blige, 28. Claim to fame: The queen of hip-hop soul. There's something about Mary: "Hip-hop plays a big part in my music. I've always been sample-orient ed-Barry White, Isaac Hayes. The strcets is gonna be happy with my record. You'll cry to it, dance to it, fuck to it. I've done a lot of love songs. Most of'em are about how fucked up women are treated. It's good to know my music helps people. Im goin' through it, too-the same tears, the same black eye, the same stomachachc and I'm gonna get us through it. I'm at such a place now, such a peace, I cannot be knocked down. Im Mary the lone woman. Mmm-hmmm," What becomes a diva most: "Someone who got through tough times and paid dues, like Tina Turner and Aretha Franklin. Good God, those were war storics they had to tell. Men wanted to rule them and treat them like shit, and they got through it." The Mary Jane girls: "People expect us to be com- petitive, but I didn't give Lauryn Hill her career-that was somethin' she worked for. And she didn't give me my career. Why should I think about competition if she got somethin' she could contribute to my project? I cannot be jealous. It's wasted energy. Ijust did a duet with the Queen of Soul herself, Miss Aretha Franklin I keep quiet when the veterans are in the room-and honey, she is a veteran. When I came out of the booth, she said, 'That was very nice.' And then she went in Power players (from eft): Aaliyah, Lil Kim, Missy Misdemeanor" Ellot and Da Brat. Not pictured the booth and killed me. FOR CAADEY CURRY MANAGEMENT MAKEUP BY NONKA FOR TE CEBCRAHMARTIN AGENCY. MSSY VAR DyCH NA POTTER FOR a NAS 00LL HOUSE NY, MAKEUP UY CF0G FER ELL 8RAT l-Kim-CONFESSIONS TUMBLR.COM aliyah, 20. Claim to fame: The R&B Lolita is now filming Joel Silvers Romeo Must Die for Warner Bros. Ready for her close-up: I want people to look at me as a full-on entertainer, not just as a singer or a dancer. It's taking my career to another level and showing every side of me." Foxy lady: "My mom will say, 'There is some- thing about her that was always sexy.' My image isnt a put-on. When you listen to me and hear the smooth tones--that's what I'm givin' off. As a child, I didn't notice. Now Im in tune with it. It can definitely be a power, and I use it to my advantage." Fierce competition: "People try to bring negativity my way, especially with Brandy and Monica. If Im competing with anybody, I'm competing with myselfto be original." What becomes a diva most: "Oh, that word. The Websters definition is an opera singer who has a lot of range, but that's changed over time. Now a diva is a bitch. Were not all bitchy. Its just a myth thatš not goin' anywhere. If you're gonna describe somebody, call her a queen.I shows respect.Is royaly." issy "Misdemeanor" Elliott, 27. Claim to fame: record business is male-dominated, and when yo're not bein' The female Pufly" runs her own record label, taken as seriously as you should, you gotta go in there screamin the Gold Mind, Inc; she rapped for a Gap TV because they'll walk all over you. And the word can be positive: ad campaign. Talkin' bout a revolution: "Fe IfIbe like, 'Thats a baaad bitch,' you know that means dope. males are takin' over. We droppin' our albums We gotta stop thinkin of it as bein' negative, 'cause it's gonna at the same time to make that point clear, so when we do our be used regardless. Men call us that when they're intimidated. Bitch Tour itll be obvious. It took a strong female like Lauryn Female bonding: "Instcad of compcting, we help out and en to be successful and open doors. Now everybody else can fall in hance cach other. When I see another female artist, we always line." Bitch, bitch, bitch: "My first single's called Shes a Bitch.' show cach other love-we just so happy that we broke that bar- That doesn't have to be your everyday personality. But the rier down of us not ein' able to do as much as the men." lKimCONFESSIONS. TUMBLR.COM 0 Music a Brat, 25. Claim to fame: Runs her own record label, Thowin' Tantrums Entertainment; she is the first female rapper to have a platinum record. She's the one: "Before me, people didnt know how to market a female rap artist. I laid the path in the way Queen Latifah and MC Lyte did for me. But you need to grow in this industry. I want to produce, act, and direct -get my hands in every thing. I got an cye and an car for good talent." Birds of a feather: "My friends all stick together. There's only a handful of us women in the industry with labels-theres not enough of us to be bickerin'. We're like the dream team. Its all about unity, havin' a strong support system. Were mature adults and we know the value of friendship. Nothin' should come between two friends- friends are forever, men aint." To each her own: "I got the tomboy thing goini on, and I can still be sexy. Missy's futuristic you dont know what she's gonna do next. Kim is like the madam-diva type-raunchy and nasty. Shell shoot your ass. Mary's sultry and spiritual and soulful, the ghetto queen of R&B Aaliyahs funky, she represents the teenagers. Shell make you party with her. We all are supa dupa fresh, and we gotta hold hands and rock together." il' Kim, 24. Claim to fame: The girlfriend of the late Notus B.I.G. runs her own label, Queen Bee Records. She's come a long way, baby: "Im really proud of my CONFESSIONS TUMBLRICOM new album. My favorite lyrics 'A queen is not a queen because she has failed/ But a queen is a queen because failure has not stopped her..../ Women are taking over for the new millen nium.' Like Puffy said, we dont need a mike anymore. We bein' heard. Its our era." What becomes a diva most: People love to use the word diva. I like queen better. A queen knows it all but doesnt let you know it right off. She's good-spirited and righteous. She's the boss: "With Queen Bee, I call the shots. I want my label to be the female version of Bad Boy. Me and Puffy may be family, but at the end of the day, I'm gonna do what I have to do. I'm also working on Bad Girl Films- ever since I did Sheš AllThat, Miramax has been offering me lots of things." In the company of women: "Were all characters. Brats the southern street girl who needs to be wild. Aaliyah's the pretty-girl type, the sexy artist that's un- touchable. Missy's like a cartoon and you love to watch her, shes so cute. Mary, you love to watch for her rength. Mary's the girl you can identify with. And me, Im like a little Mary. Lauryn's getting what she deserves. Her success made me work harder. Now we all know a hip-hop woman can make it."O ki- CONFESSIONS TUMBLR COM thabeehive-deactivated20160215: lil’ kim, aaliyah, missy elliott, da brat photographed by elfie semotan for the august 1999 issue of elle magazine.