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H.E.R Story: The joys and pains of the female Emcee - Part I

13 Sep 2005

Toronto Emcee Eternia - photo courtesy of www.eternia.ca

Imagine a love affair or perhaps a fatal attraction, one filled with sacrifice, struggle and adoration; the reward is bittersweet. The love affair is with Hip Hop and the lovers are the fans and the critics, but none have felt the bite of unrequited love as much as the female Emcee.

Female Emcee sounds strange and contradictory knowing Hip Hop’s emphasis on misogyny and masculinity. True, rappers battling for supremacy doesn’t readily bring to mind images of females spitting fierce rhymes, grabbing and posturing. But contrary to what we may believe there are ferocious female rappers out there. Although it may be hard for most of us to name them. “Hip Hop has produced no Bessie Smith, no Billie Holiday, no Aretha Franklin,” proclaims Hip Hop commentator Nelson George in “Hip-hop America”. It is clear that Hip Hop’s respect has not been earned by female Emcees. Lauryn Hill surpassed the odds providing a glimmer of hope. But lately insecurity has taken hold. Why? Well, let’s face it, there are very few females strong enough to be Lauryn’s successors. But that doesn’t mean they’ve given up.

Here are three home grown talents sharing their love, struggle and frustration with Hip Hop. Tara Chase, Eternia and Sage, names you may or may not recognize, discuss why they are chasing what seems like the impossible dream.

Buoyancy comes from her easy laughter [read our full feature on Tara Chase]. Tara Chase or should it be Lady Chase has paid her dues yet is refreshingly gracious after all these years. Probably the most experienced of the group Tara is realistic about success in hip hop for females but surprisingly still optimistic.
A Honey Jam graduate and known as “The Circle’s” first lady, the admitted tomboy and cartoon fanatic has grown as an Emcee, producer and is now an astute business woman.

“I have no problem with being a lady,” she says chuckling.

For those of us itching to know the fate of “The Circle” it is still a mystery, even to Tara, when asked about the group’s status, she admits, “I don’t really know, everyone is doing there own thing but we still support each other.” Now back in school after dropping the mix-tape “The College Graduate” [read our review] and starting her own label Chase n'' On Music, Tara is focusing on her education and encourages others to do so as well. She tells us how hard it is to educate young women on the pitfalls of the industry.

“Not everyone’s going to like you but for younger women it’s hard to express that to them.”

Tara admits that she has made her share of mistakes and candidly recounts that Michie Mee, veteran Emcee advised her on what life as a female Emcee would mean.

“She told me what was going to happen in my life and I took it one ear and it went out the other, I took it in and I appreciated having the conversation but ultimately I didn’t make the changes at that time that probably I should have but in the end it helped me grow.”

Toronto Emcee Tara Chase

Still it is obvious the she enjoys the sense of community fostered in Toronto’s female hip hop community.

“We just try to help each other along with advice and information.” Tara has emerged as the thinking woman’s every woman, especially when it comes to her music.

“Lyrically I’m trying to be the best I can be. I like to know that people respect me and my music at the end of the day.”

Tara remains in our consciousness because of her willingness to work in the face of the odds. This work ethic has been passed along to another Honey Jam alumni, Eternia, who has also been preparing herself for the journey ahead.

Part II of the H.E.R Story will be available next week...

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