Still I Rise: Hip Hop, Feminism & Poetry – A review by Cartèlea Kelsie

Programmed by the Poet in the City Producers as part of Poetry & Lyrics Festival, Still I Rise was a refreshing event featuring a collective of insightful, influential and intellectual women from the worlds of spoken word, rap and poetry.

An opinion blog piece written by Poet in the City Volunteer Cartèlea Kelsie about feminism and how it is portrayed in the music industry. I enjoyed writing this piece firstly as it is my first blog I am writing about where it will be published for the world to see, and secondly, I am very passionate about feminism, music, poetry and strong influential women. This event really stood out to me, and I wanted to share my views and write a piece on such and captivating event.

Chibeza Mumbi, member of Poet in the City Producer’s group kick started the event with a beautiful, eloquently spoken opening, leaving the guests waiting in anticipation for what was in store.

The main topic was thought provoking and had everyone’s minds wondering: How are poetry and rap changing the debate about feminism?

The first speaker, Rasheeda Page-Muir, is a poet, visionary feminist and orator from South East London who grew up surrounded by women (guys were a backdrop!). Rasheeda knows what she wants and will not let anything get in her way. That is the impression I got from her as she carried herself very well in her public speech, leaving the guests in awe. Rasheeda is the founder of Revolyoution – a space where debates are held about current affairs and any other topics young people would like to speak about, giving them a platform and a voice -she has also recently done a Ted talk. Inspiring or what?!

Rasheeda’s speech about the problematic portrayal of masculinity within rap music was gritty, hard hitting and very real.

As mentioned, Rasheeda grew up surrounded by a lot of females. Things changed when her nephew was born and she started thinking about how she would be able to show her nephew (alongside her siblings and family) that it is okay to grow up in a patriarchal world.

Rasheeda also spoke about the timeless classic track by Cadet (a grime artist, well known for his hard-hitting, raw lyrics) called “Letter to Krept”. In the track he speaks directly to his cousin, another grime artist, in a loving manner largely unheard of within the genre as it’s not considered ‘masculine’.

When the song was released on Youtube, it got thousands of views, as it was something different and not seen very often. It was definitely an eye opener, and the audience was captivated from the get go as it seemed Rasheeda had years of experience in public speaking!

Inspiring and at the age of 19 to be doing so much is a testament within itself. She’s certainly going places, without a doubt!

In conclusion: a great public speaker, getting her point across that grime and hip hop artists CAN speak in a loving way and it is okay to show emotions and feelings in a track and incorporate feminism into it ending patriarchal and misogynist views.

As said by Rasheeda; “the mandem needs feminism!” – Brap, brap!

Shay D is a rapper (winning the Best UK Unsigned Hype Award 2012 Best Hip Hop Female Artist), spoken word poet, youth worker and presenter on Itch FM. She was warm and welcoming, with a splash of fire and sass. Shay D spoke, and rapped, about her upbringing; her grandad dying, seeing her mum being strong and being made homeless with her family, doing youth work in Hornsey and the ‘chicken shop situation’, a very poignant story which really stood out and played a big part in her life, she even went on to perform a track with that title. It resonated so much from a personal perspective.

She also rapped some tracks acoustically which were great as it showed she’s very versatile, and you can tell her aim is to get real rap across. Her domestic violence rap was my favourite as it is something that a lot of young girls go through today, and they feel like they have no one to turn to. When she mentioned in the song about the boyfriend ruining her birthday, and saying he will make up for it, it hit home as I know so many people who have been through that scenario.

Some of my favourite lyrics that stood out to me were:

“Regain your respect and drop the knowledge on them”
“Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”
“Trust your gut; let it be, set it free”

Floetic Lara was a very bubbly character who was charismatic and animated as soon as she entered the room. She is a singer and poet, amongst many other things and is from Brixton, so this event was a perfect match for her. She also does youth work.

Her singing style had a Jill Scott kind of essence to it, with melodic soothing jazz tones and a touch of rap. She sang a lot about finding herself and her inner glow as she calls it. She was very knowledgeable about her music, particularly hip hop music, and she also spoke on her travels and performing in Asia. She sang three great songs, which were both great and all had a different feel to them. They were great because they were tranquil and when she sang it made you feel relaxed and seemed like you were going on a journey.

It was great to listen to her as she threw a lot of knowledge down and explained how hip hop can come across generations and even across the sea as she was surprised that her audience in Asia knew a wealth of music even telling her about some tunes she never heard before!

Floetic Lara’s inspirations were Lauryn Hill and Erykah Badu which was no surprise to me as she oozed that appeal those both incredible artists have.

My favourite song was her last one, which was sung but also had poetry involved too with great guitar and the piano playing. It was of her speaking to her younger self, planning for her destiny and also stating that women are the building blocks of our castle. Ladies are expected to be strong all the time, but in fact it’s actually okay to take a step back sometimes.

Overall, Floetic Lara’s performance was great and very empowering and refreshing to see. Finishing with a great summary that hip hop is very powerful and closing with the comment, ‘it is not just about shaking booty!’

The Q&A was very insightful, where all the guests were speaking about femininity and what it meant to them which was genuine and authentic, nothing was rehearsed, and the whole talk was smoothly run and entertaining.

The artists also spoke about the importance of getting the youth together, giving them a voice and a platform, as we are the future after all!

The vulnerability of grime artists specifically was also mentioned, and how they have a façade in some aspects.

Below you can see some powerful comments/statements provided by the guests:

“Creative arts industry – very transferable!”

“Spoken word is very powerful and poetry does tie in with it very well”

Voila! So, there you have it, my insight and my views on Still I Rise; this event was astounding, and it really shined throughout. The audience sat in anticipation, excited to hear what the next person would say, to the point that when it had to be drawn to a close, you could tell the audience wanted it to go on!
Leaving with a closing statement: Women need to support and empower each other more. When all different women from all walks of life come together, we are a force not to be reckoned with.

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