If there’s anyone who can speak to the possibility of a woman dominating in a male-driven industry it’s Kim Osorio. The 39-year-old Bronx native made history when in 2003 she became the first female Editor-in-Chief of The Source and even after the mag went through several tumultuous years of suspect leadership, returned in 2012 to take the reigns and restore its credibility. As we got to thinking about the current environment of women in rap we reached out to the hip-hop journalist veteran to get her thoughts as well as her first-person insight on her participation in the documentary A Genius Leaves The Hood and the influence Jay Z has had on women in the industry. Check out the Q&A.
How do you feel about the current landscape of hip-hop as it pertains to women?
“I think the landscape has changed over the years and what I think is next is… it’s important to fill in the void. There was one point in time where Kim, Foxy, Lauryn, Missy and Eve were all out and very successful. Then that died and Nicki came out on the scene. She has been out for four years but we have not seen any mainstream female hip-hop artists since. Sex appeal has been driving the success for female artists and that is a little sad. A lot of times we look at who’s the sexiest and say they are successful. But that is a reflection of the culture as a whole. We only celebrate and reward sex appeal not intelligence.”
Female rappers are always told to form a sisterhood and discouraged from battling, which is a pillar of rap. What do you think about that?
“I think there is a strong sisterhood, but you also have to remember once women get to a certain level, things change and people change. People start pitting you against one another. It is very hard for someone in our culture to share the spotlight. Sisterhood usually exists more when people aren’t doing as well. People should also remember a lot of these women don’t know each other, so you can’t build a sisterhood if you have never met each other.”
How did you get involved with A Genius Leaves The Hood?
“I have a relationship with one of the producers; We worked together in the past. When he asked me to be a part of it, I said ‘Why not?’ I talk a lot about the culture and Jay Z – obviously being a big force within our culture. Speaking to that, based off of my profession, being vague does not allow you to say anything negative or positive because it may affect your career and, in the long run, you want a bigger check. But for me, it gave me the opportunity to speak out on something I am familiar with.”
How did you feel about Jay Z coming up in the ’90s; at the time did you see him expanding his brand beyond a rap artist?
“In the 90s, I remember respecting not only his artistry but his business sense because he was an artist who made himself. I think during that time period, it was very hard for him to be acceptable without a major label backing him, since he was turned down by so many. Therefore, he had to make a name for himself. Those business skills are a hustler’s spirit. In hip-hop that’s very valued because you are able to hustle and make your own way. Would I have been able to predict he would be at the level he is at today? Probably not.”
Has your opinion of Jay Z changed based on some of his business deals and the backlash he receives?
“I don’t’ think so. As you study people and watch them grow, they do different things that you may have an opinion on here and there. I do not have a strong opinion and I am also a fan of Jay Z. So my opinions on him are rooted in what he has done as a rapper and he has mastered both the rap and business world greatly.”
What influence has Jay Z had on women in hip-hop?
“I think he has an influence on both women and men just in general. That’s something everyone says, he influences them. You can answer this question many different ways, but I don’t think there’s a difference. If you look at the culture overall, there are so many debates about how he portrayed women in his videos to where he is now as a husband and father. There are so many ways you can go with this conversation.
Thinking about the female artists Jay Z has worked with and signed, would you say these women benefited from his mentorship?
“I would say those women benefited from his grooming. A lot of people may say Foxy Brown became who she is because of him but I don’t agree with that. Every women that has been under his guidance, had to make their own way. For example, if you tell me Jay Z influenced Beyonce and her creative decisions, I would believe that because they are married. But would I say he’s responsible for it? I wouldn’t believe that. There are some careers that took off because of Jay’s influence and others have not. Either way he is not responsible for how successful an artist becomes.
There were a lot of thought pieces about Beyonce’s “Drunk In Love” Grammy performance, with people claiming Z was pimping out Beyonce. Is there any merit to this?
“I think the criticism was a little bit much. They are a power couple and everyone will scrutinize what they do. I believe their performance was another business move on their part. They are husband and wife, they can do what they want. Who cares what everyone says? I don’t think anything disrespectful was done. It was a marketing thing to me. My kids love that song but I am mindful of what they sing. I think people need to be mindful on how they parent their children.”
Purchase A Genius Leaves The Hood, available on iTunes, Google Play, and VHX now, here!