Women in old-school hip-hop

Some of the first female hip-hop artists to influence a whole generation

These influential women made it in the game and left more than just their mark behind—they left a hip-hop legacy. Their determination, confidence and raw talent have influenced both male and female artists to this day.

The Fugees- The Score

The Fugees, comprised of Lauryn Hill, Pras Michel and Wyclef Jean, were active in the 90s, and blew fans away with their 1996 album, The Score.  The hip-hop album, Timeless and enchantingly cool, is listed on the Rolling Stone’s “500 Best Albums of all Time” list.  The group’s reggae vibe, as well as the presence of Hill’s enchanting R&B voice distinguishes this group from any other alternative hip-hop trio of the 90s. The album includes Hill’s infamous cover of Roberta Flack’s “Killing Me Softly,” and even an effortlessly cool cover of Bob Marley’s “No Woman, No Cry.” The trio is one-of-a-kind in the way that they fused soul, reggae and hip-hop, all while maintaining flawless rapping and powerful lyrics.  Hill would go on to have an equally successful solo career after The Fugees split in 1997.  Thankfully, Hill is still active—you might even have seen her at the Montreal Jazz Festival this summer. Both The Fugees, and 90s hip-hop, would have been lost without Hill.

Trial track: “Ready or Not”


Roxanne Shanté- The Bitch is Back

Roxanne Shanté’s 1992 album, The Bitch is Back, is your typical record-scratching, beat-mixing, drum machining, emceeing, hip-hop album. It will remind you of the music of Spike Lee’s Do the Right Thing. It’s the essence of the early 90s— a time when clothing and music were as colourful as Shanté’s style. Shanté’s career was short, but far from tranquil.  The Queensbridge, N.Y. native became known thanks to the Roxanne Wars—a series of rap rivalries during the mid-80s between Shanté and another Roxanne. The rivalry began with a dispute over a cancelled show. The disses began  with Shanté’s track “Roxanne’s Revenge,” produced with the help of New York record producer Marley Marl.  Diss tracks and rap battles have always been an important part of hip-hop culture—a culture where pride and egos are important. “On stage tryin’ to recite like me, but what I really see is Creepshow 3.  I size em’ up to die and pulverize em, so bad her own mother won’t recognize em,’” raps Shanté in her first track off The Bitch is Back, “Deadly Rhymes.”  The Bitch is Back was Shanté’s second and final album.

Trial track- “Big Mama”

Salt-N-Pepa – Hot, Cool & Vicious

If you mess with them, they’ll take your man. They made that damn straight with their very first album, Hot, Cool & Vicious. The album was launched in 1986, making Salt-N-Pepa one of the first all-female groups out there. From Queens, N.Y., the ladies formed a trio with confident and feisty raps. They were the hip-hop feminists of the 80s. If you think you’ve never heard any of their songs, think again. Does this ring a bell: “Push it. Push it real good?” Ooh baby, baby, their hit “Push It” has played in one too many commercials. Salt-N-Pepa’s overall energy during stage performances is remarkable. Their jams from Hot, Cool & Vicious were also great hits in clubs that still play on the dancefloors of today. “Shoop” is a perfect example, as it still plays in dance clubs and is frequently used in hip-hop choreographies in dance studios. These ladies were way ahead of their time in terms of musicality. Hot, Cool & Vicious will definitely get you hooked on the groups vivaciousness. A definite must for all who appreciate the classic hip-hop genre.

Trial Track: “I’ll Take Your Man”

Da Brat – Funkdafied

Da Brat knows how to let the funk flow. If this album doesn’t convince you that she is the badass queen of rap, then you’ll have to listen to her track “Funkdafied” one more time. This was her very first solo album, launched back in 1994, back when the female rap game was still very fresh. Her style is known for mixing R&B rhythms with smooth rap prose. She demonstrates strength and confidence in her verses. Da Brat is 90s hip-hop from head to toe. She brought the funk, and a sleek smooth tone of voice, with lyrically genius content. Not to mention, her 90s house party music videos were the bomb. Her jam “Fa All Y’All” is super funky and cool. The hella cool music video for the song demonstrates her class and poise. She is an inspiration to all female rappers out there. If her jam “Sittin’ On Top of the World” doesn’t inspire confidence, then I don’t know what does.

Trial track: “Funkdafied”


Back to school with OUMF

Behind the scenes of OUMF’s music festival with Mikey Rishwain Bernard

One of Montreal’s biggest back-to-school festivals is back for another year. Think old school hip-hop bloc party with DJs, live bands and loud crowds—this is OUMF.

From Wednesday Sept. 7 to 10, OUMF will present free performances from local and international artists outdoors on Saint-Denis Street at Quartier des spectacles. The festival is celebrating its 6th year and the lineup is one to look forward to. Renowned DJs such as DJ Jazzy Jeff and Skratch Bastid will be taking the stage.

This year’s great lineup of artists would not be possible without festival and program director of ‘M pour Montreal’ Mikey Rishwain Bernard. ‘M Pour Montreal’ plans a multitude of music showcases at festivals around the world. They are in charge of the musical program for OUMF. Rishwain has been handling all the music aspects of the festival. “My specific mandate is music programming and I also go on stage to host and say jokes that some people laugh at and some don’t,” said Rishwain.

The festival will be focusing on hip-hop, everything from old school to new school. DJ Jazzy Jeff used to kick it with Will Smith in their duo group “DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince.” “He’s considered a catalyst to Will Smith,” said Rishwain. “He is a music pioneer to DJs. It’s good to see a guy still keeping it old school. It’s an honour to have him perform for us this year.” He added that there will also be indie bands and many female acts.

“I’m looking forward to Hein Cooper. He is a beautiful Australian man that looks like Justin Bieber and he has great songs. It’s great to bring that Australian vibe to the show,” Rishwain said. He said he’s also excited for the “Word Up Battles.” It’s a rap battle between two rappers, all in French. The rappers go on stage and compete live.“It could be edgy, but it’s very entertaining,” said Rishwain.

Another major highlight is Canadian DJ Skratch Bastid. He’s the first Canadian DJ to ever be nominated for a Juno Award and he will be performing at OUMF this coming Friday at 9 p.m.

The event is free and geared for all age groups. For Rishwain, OUMF signifies a boost before the school season. “A lot of young students from everywhere that are new to the city, they need their melting pot,” he said. “They seem to communicate through music and partying. This festival kicks off the school year.”

Interview with music programmer Mikey Rishwain Bernard. Photo by Bruno D. Capture.

Rishwain is well-known in the Montreal music scene. He plans a multitude of music festivals throughout North America and has brought many talented local artists closer to stardom. As festival and program director of ‘M pour Montreal’, his goal is to help artists develop outside of Canada.“We are here to put a system in place for artists to play for a lot of influential people in different countries,” he said, adding that he’s always been really big on bringing people together. “We are ‘M’ for middle guy, bringing musicians together to create success and showcase opportunities on an international scale.”

Mac DeMarco and Half Moon Run are great examples of artists that gained success through ‘M Pour Montreal.’ They first played in front of ‘M pour Montreal’ audiences. “We do music industry conferences by showcasing these bands and artists,” said Rishwain, adding that that was how these groups started their careers.  He said he remembers booking Grimes and Half Moon Run in England when no one knew who they were and now they can sell out a whole show by themselves.

Last year, he saw Mac DeMarco and Half Moon Run play all around Europe. Rishwain said their crowds were even bigger in Ireland and Germany than in Montreal. “Knowing that they played together at ‘M pour Montreal’ and seeing them play in Europe gave me goosebumps. It shows how fast things can evolve and it happened in a matter of years for these bands,” he said.

Milk & Bone is another example of local success for Rishwain. “It was an honour to be part of their early success. These girls were always practicing. I heard a song and took a chance before ever hearing them perform live,” he said. “My feeling was booking them right away and it became a dream come true on both ends,” said Rishwain.

“I enjoy putting a breath of my own spirit in what I do,” he said. What he loves most about his job is to represent artists from Montreal. “I help pimp lots of bands and artists.”

Make sure to come and party at the OUMF music festival and laugh at Mikey Rishwain’s jokes. For more information regarding the event, visit their website.

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