Put Some Repeck On Womxn's Work
Its time to support the movement to excavate, archive, and uplift 5 decades of womxn's artistry in Hip Hop.
akua naru August 18, 2020
Rappet akua naru in conversation with Hip Hop icon Lauryn Hill photo by Matthias Loescher
Dear Beloved Community,
My name is Akua Naru (for those that don't know) I am a hip hop artist, producer, performer, scholar, activist. I write this letter to invite the community into my excitement by sharing an important project with y’all. Throughout the past several months, I have assembled a global team of artists, activists, and scholars in the service of mapping, documenting, archiving, and centering Black womxn’s artistic work throughout Hip Hop music and culture. A dream that I had been sculpting in various iterations throughout my artistic life, like recording "The World Is Listening", an homage to the brilliant and often overlook women who shaped the Hip Hop fell in love (throughout my life)
On Tues, Aug. 18th, myself and my team are launching an Indiegogo campaign to fund the first phase of this work, a project called theKEEPER Digital Archive: which is the first comprehensive digital database archive and _____ to focus solely on the vast world of women/femme artists throughout Hip Hop’s five-decade history.
I have been a lover of Hip Hop and the power, the action of rhyme, since a small girl. I’ve written, p
This project originated while I was in residence as a Nasir Jones Fellow at the Hutchins Center for African and African American Research at Harvard University throughout the 2028/19 academic year.
If you’re a woman who raps, you’re always acutely aware of the fact that you’re constantly being underestimated and your (among countless others) contributions to Hip Hop culture consistently devalued, disavowed, and oftentimes wholly erased. To the point that the general public has no idea the extent to which womxn’s artistic and imaginative work has shaped and propelled Hip Hop culture forward, globally.
So while a fellow at Harvard, I began to imagine creating a master list of everything recorded by women in Hip Hop. As I researched and started constructing the earliest iteration of this list, I found many more recordings by women than I myself was initially aware of, and it forced me to reckon with a history I’ve been taught which is largely dominated by men and boys as creators. While a fellow at Harvard, I was among a cohort of brilliant and talented people working across Black Studies--hip hop scholars, musicologists, ethnomusicologists--and I would often ask them “have you heard of this artist? What about this one?” Even when asked about artists who had been signed to major record labels and who had put out a significant amount of musical work, everyone would be completely baffled and perplexed. I had more and more conversations with people who study Hip Hop and who know what they’re talking about, scholars like Tricia Rose, Bakari Kitwana, and Laquita Bonett Bailey, and these folks responded similarly: “who is that?” No one around me knew them, but it was clear to me that these women were an important part of the story. What also became clear was that I was looking at an alternate history to the history of Hip Hop we’ve been sold.
From there I started to raise other questions: What were the circumstances that would make it so that people would know the men and boys releasing music on famous rap labels but not know the women who released music as their labelmates? Further, what system was set in place to make it so that we know these men but we don’t know these women artists?” As I attempted to begin to explain that, I began to stumble across all of this information and to categorize and digitize it. However, as I moved from platform to platform, I realized that this information was far too dynamic for the platforms that currently exist, and I wanted the way I accessed this information to be just as dynamic. I kept a journal where I wrote down notes on what I needed the platform to do, and once I talked with someone and drew it up fully, I realized I had basically designed my own database.
With theKEEPER Archive, we have collected countless artists/recordings that tell an alternate history to what is commonly known, a world of works that must be excavated and brought to the center, offering us a very different view of the culture we know and love. Now more than ever, the world is coming to understand what Black people have always known, that Black women’s works/voices matter and must be protected and amplified. Because Black women were never small. And our contributions to Hip Hop were never small. For those of us among the multi-generational community shaped by hip hop music and culture, theKEEPER Archive as a resource can offer us valuable insight into what Black women have experienced and how their truth has shaped their art and the world. A resource that centers women/femme hip hop artists allow for a greater understanding of the artists’ interiority, our identities, and the cultural and systemic forces which provide the context for both artists and their works. This resource gives us entry into a world forced to the margins, it allows us access to a world of knowledge important to balance our understanding of a culture we have all been shaped by. By creating theKEEPER Archive, we attempt to address the erasure of black women’s contributions to hip hop by offering unprecedented access to the recorded works of black women throughout the entirety of hip hop’s history, as well as to provide information produced about their work. We facilitate critical work employing data from this archive through the development of finding aids, resource guides, and other materials that assist in a generative and diverse use of its collections.
theKEEPER Archive is the first phase of an even larger project. Our global team--theKEEPERS--hopes long term to provide a wide range of resources designed around five principles: to push progressive discourse, educate and inform the public on the breadth and depth of women’s work, depict an accurate portrayal of Hip Hop history and culture, disrupt dominant narratives of oppression, and
build community through events and activities. We hope to create spaces, programming, and digital content which facilitate multi-generational conversations within the hip hop community where we also honor and celebrate the Mothers of the culture in the ways they deserve. Our mission is to shift the inner resources of girls on the ground. We believe that if people knew the real truth and honest history, it could help to change the way we show up in the world.
Today, we are launching a campaign to fund the first phase of this work--theKEEPER Archive--and we are inviting the world in to support us through financial contributions, the donations of your time and talents, and/ or online support via posting, sharing with your networks, and keeping the conversation going about this project. At this juncture, it is so important for the world to see that there’s a community that is excited about this work.
We see ourselves as keepers and protectors of this history. We are here to defend and amplify Black women’s voices and artistic contributions. This is a way for us to be in power through the knowledge we keep and share with the world.
Please join us in our mission and help us bring this work to the world.