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Women, Hip Hop, and Music: An Interview with Dr. Tammy Kernodle Part II

[By Alysha Griffin]

On yesterday, I provided Part I of my interview with Musicologist,
Tammy Kernodle. Today, I provide part II of the interview where I conclude asking
Kernodle specific questions about the performative aspects of hip-hop culture
as it relates to black women.
“Raising the Roof: Black
Women’s Voices in Hip Hop” series seeks to interpret the opportunities and
challenges black women encounter participating in hip-hop culture.

Griffin: What do you believe are unique characteristics in music by
African Americans? Are there unique characteristics in music by African
American women?
Kernodle: I believe that African Americans have this way of embodying
the collective experience within the performance of the individual.  We know how to tell great stories in our
music even when there are no words.  We
are honest in our presentations, because our music has been essential in our ability
to persevere through some extreme situations.  
The uniqueness of African American women’s music is their ability to
expand the context of how music reflects real life.  They provide a gendered context that male
musicians often ignore or are not aware of.
Griffin: In your article “Blues as the Black Woman’s Lament,” you
establish the African tradition of lamenting as the predecessor of the blues.
Do you see female Hip Hop artists engaging in any black musical traditions? If
so, what are they?
Kernodle: Yes I believe that rap music extends out of a tradition of
blues, soul and gospel performers that documented our experiences while
motivating us to keep progressing as a people. 
So when you hear certain female MC’s the way that they craft their prose
and presentation style is akin to the type of individualized performance
aesthetic that jazz singer, instrumentalists, blues women, and soul singers
actualized in their performances. 
Griffin: As we try to understand the black woman’s aesthetics across
genres, what are some of the re-occurring tropes in the music lyrics of African
American women that we may be able to relate to black women’s literature? 
Kernodle: Love relationships, economic conditions, and the
complexities of being black and a woman in social environments that tried to
make them invisible.