Music is a crucial part of protest. As soul and gospel soundtracked the civil rights movement, folk the anti-Vietnam war movement and punk denounced authoritarianism and capitalism, the playlist of the fourth wave of feminism includes hip hop and electronic R&B with sassy rhymes. We pick six of our current favourites.
Sudan Archives is self taught violinist and vocalist Brittney Denise Parks, who makes ethereal, slick R&B equally informed by hip hop, electronic music and West African rhythms. Nont For Sale is about female empowerment as much as about leaving behind a selfish friend or lover, with a music video that pays homage to the beauty of black women. Co-directed by Parks, it’s partly set in a hair salon where Parks and her dancers rock a series of afros and braids with pride.
Set to clubby electro beats, Brooklyn-based Miss Eaves’ feel good lyrics are a celebration of womanhood, with songs about embracing pubic hair, singledom, sexual freedom and thigh size. When trolls accused her of promoting “disgusting” bodies in the music video for Thunder Thighs which featured women of different body types and ages, she channeled any anger she may have felt in the defiant Hi H8ter.
When Mona Haydar released her ode to women wearing headscarves Hijabi (Wrap my Hijab) with its music video featuring women of different ethnicities sporting head coverings, the backlash was immense, with many seemingly unable to get their head around the concept of a Muslim feminist. The Syrian American poet, rapper, activist, chaplain and mother of two from Michigan rapping about domestic violence, migration and the mental health of Muslim women might be an incomprehensible oxymoron to some, but she’s a crucial voice in hip hop and popular culture today.
Ever since her debut album Metropolis in 2007, Janelle Monae’s music has regularly tackled politics, social justice and feminism. Dressed in her now tradesmark tux she has become one of pop’s LGBTQ icons, and on her latest album Dirty Computer she addresses sexuality on funky R&B tunes that have more than a little influence from The Purple One.
Nora Lum, aka Awkwafina, blends satire and off-colour humour with girl power by rapping about everything from farting to Asian stereotypes, even dedicating a song to her genitalia in a parody of the obssession some of her male counterparts love to boast about – the song went viral in 2013 and helped to launch her career. More recently she starred in the all-female spin-off Oceans 8 and in the box office hit Crazy Rich Asians, and her latest EP In Fina We Trust covers ghosting and self-identifying as an Asian American, in a witty, honest mini-album that turns hip hop braggadocio on its head.
As well as releasing tracks like the feminist call to arms The Future Is Female, drummer and producer Madame Gandhi tours universities and conferences speaking about gender equality. In 2015 she ran the London Marathon free-bleeding to raise awareness of the stigma that still exists around menstruation. Additionally she takes a nurturing approach to her production sessions by ensuring musicians have room to experiment, are fed healthy snacks and take breaks. Her latest release Bad Habits is an uplifting Afrobeat-inspired track about personal empowerment. Read our interview with Madame Gandhi here.