We sat down with Mackenzie Collins and Georgina Ustik, the brains behind #PassHerTheMic, a project dedicated to showcasing, amplifying, and celebrating awesome female MCs, rappers, hip-hop artists, and more. It’s good to remember that “you don’t need a P to be a G.”
1) What is your project called, and what are you hoping to accomplish?
Our project is called Pass Her The Mic. Pass Her The Mic is a social media campaign on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram that seeks to raise the visibility of women in hip-hop and rap. Each week, we feature an up-and-coming rap artist, and throughout the week post their music, album reviews and interviews. We also have created a blog (https://passherthemic.squarespace.com/) that is meant to be a space for critical and intersectional feminist discourse surrounding women and hip-hop. We’re still in the beginning stages right now, but we’ll soon be posting music reviews, artist interviews, playlists and opinion pieces.
We want Pass Her The Mic to become a vehicle for female artists to gain more visibility. Media representations of women affect how we and others view our own abilities. If there are more female rap artists visible, young aspiring female artists will feel more capable in pursuing their aspirations. Through an increase in feminist discourse, we hope to change the music industry’s and public’s attitudes towards female rappers as something less objectifying and restrictive.
2) What was the inspiration behind Pass Her the Mic?
We created Pass Her the Mic because we both love to listen to hip-hop and rap, but we couldn’t help but notice the serious lack of female rappers. Actually, it’s not that they don’t exist, it’s that they are being funneled out by the music industry. In the late 80s and early 90s, there were over 40 female rappers signed to major labels. In 2010, there were only 3. So many female rappers are being ignored, because they aren’t viewed as viable business opportunities as much as their male peers.
Rap has the potential to be an extremely empowering platform to women. It began as a reaction to oppression, and remains a platform to express frustration. But, right now, rap is a one-sided conversation. There are so many men creating amazing music and getting appropriate attention for it, but we want to hear more from female rappers.
When we looked for music blogs or resources online dedicated to female rappers, we found nothing. So, we decided to create it! But, we want this to be more than just a resource for people looking for amazing female rappers. We want our site to be a space for conversation and interaction.
3) What is it about hip-hop as a genre / artistic field that particularly drew you in?
Hip-hop began as a reaction to racial oppression, and remains one of our favorite forms of expression largely because of its total dependence on the meanings of words. The voice is the most crucial and only necessary instrument. How often do we actually listen to lyrics anymore in other genres? Rap is spoken word, expression of reality. It is, in our opinion, the most socially and politically significant genre. It’s also such a creative field now, so many artists are changing the genre, and creating very self-aware music in the face of the commodification and appropriation of black culture.
4) Did you grow up listening to female rap and hip-hop artists? Are there any that had a particularly strong influence on you, and why/why not?
Georgina: For me, I didn’t get into hip-hop until pretty late in life. I adore Nicki Minaj, but the female rapper that influenced me the most would have to be Lauryn Hill. Besides for her amazing skill, husky voice and eloquence, I also just remember being really inspired by the way that she was clearly such an equal in The Fugees. She killed each song with her verses. There was something powerful in each song she was in. Also, Miseducation is an undeniably killer album, probably my most-listened to.
Mackenzie: She stole mine, but I think one of the first female hip-hop and rap artists I listened to was Missy Elliot. I remember watching her music videos on MTV and trying to dance along all throughout childhood! I still believe that she is one of the most well-rounded artists of all time- –singer, rapper, songwriter, performer, producer! Even though she was dismissed early on from the male-centric world of hip-hop for her appearance, she clearly did not let the patriarchy stop her and therefore was crucial in transcending hip-hop’s ideas around women. She is a hip-hop icon! ALL HAIL, QUEEN MISSY!!!
5) How do you discover the artists that you feature? Any tips for readers looking to get into and support female hip-hop and rap artists more?
We’ve discovered many through social media! Twitter, Facebook and Soundcloud especially. We’ve also found a lot through doing more research into female artists featured on some of our favorite songs by male artists. Noname Gypsy’s verse on “Lost” was one of our favorite parts of Chance the Rapper’s Acid Rap. We also found that once we told people about our project, so many people reached out with suggestions. It takes us a little bit of time to research, but that’s what we’re trying to fix!
Our first and most important tip would be to follow #PassHerTheMic (; We really are trying to make finding and listening to female hip-hop and rap artists easy, and the artists we feature are pretty incredible. We’re trying to be a resource for everyone just looking for good new music!
Another tip is to reach out to up-and-coming and amateur artists, listen to their music, share it, go to their shows. BUY their music. We want to build a supportive network for young artists, but just sharing their music on our social media isn’t enough. Be active about your support, always be thinking critically, and start discussion!
6) Where can we find your project, and how do you envision your project’s future?
You can find us on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram: #PassHerTheMic. You can also find us on Squarespace: https://passherthemic.squarespace.com/.
We envision our blog developing into a more developed resource for artist bios and interviews, and for Pass Her The Mic to become a voice that speaks out for, and supports, talented women. We are looking to build up a network of writers who want to engage in thoughtful discussion. We hope to steadily increase our social media following, because that’s where we see the artists we’re featuring getting the most visibility. Basically, we see the future of our project as becoming a bigger version of what it is now – we really want more contributors so we aren’t the only ones talking! We really love debate and discussion, so we want lots of opinions – if you’re reading this and have an opinion, reach out to us about writing!
We also hope that in the future we have more interactions with the artists themselves. We have a few exciting things in the works for content, so stay tuned!