International Women’s Day Special – Celebrating Six Inspirational Artists

Words: Doug Phillips & Megan Hofman

This International Women’s Day, LDN wanted to take the chance to celebrate the artists who have actively honoured and commemorated the female half of the population. These artists use their platform and outreach to raise their audience’s consciousness on feminist issues regardless of what month it is and in turn have produced some truly stunning and mind-altering works of art. 

UK rap prodigy, Little Simz doesn’t see gender as a relevant consideration when concerning her talent and craft, making her a somewhat ironic addition to an International Women’s Day feature, however her no-nonsense, ruthless lyrics and attitude provides a raw and important inspiration to all.

“I disregarded all opinions and continued my mission. Unapologetically I be bossin’ it, getting better with age. Got it back, never lost it, my legacy remains.”

Her frustration with her sex preventing her from being taken seriously by her peers can be seen in ‘Venom’, from her 2019 LP, ‘Grey Area’.

“Fuck those that don’t believe, They will never wanna admit I’m the best here from the mere fact I’ve got ovaries. It’s a women’s world so to speak, pussy, you sour, never givin’ credit where it’s due ‘cause you don’t like pussy in power, venom.”

While her gender may not be relevant, her message certainly is.

In 2019, North Carolina rapper, Rapsody released the ultimate dedication to influential black women with her album Eve. With each track named after a personal inspiration such as Sojourner Truth, Michelle Obama and Aaliyah, Rapsody spoke truthfully and directly to, and through essential figures of black women history. Powerful and emotionally enlightening, ‘Eve’ is an essential listen this international women’s day. Reyna Biddy speaks plainly with her empowering message on ‘Reyna’s Interlude’. 

“Black women, you are everything they knew you wouldn’t be, you are gorgeous, even through the suffering, you needn’t forget why, you hold the world together. Thank you for your mercy. You are the strongest form of human. Black women.”

The first track on Rapsody’s ‘Eve’ is simply titled ‘Nina’. Like many of her peers, jazz icon, Nina Simone sits firmly at the top of Rapsody’s (track) list of inspirations. Powerful, independent and driven by a passion for music, Nina Simone hand-built her legendary career from the ground up, in world where most others were trying to tear it down. An academic journal by Jasmine A. Mena’ and P. Khalil Saucier entitled ‘Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood’ Nina Simone’s Africana Womanism’ attempts to “move beyond superficial appreciation of Nina Simone’s lyrics” by carrying out extensive content analysis into many of her works. Their research found that Nina had an active hand in raising the awareness of several sociopolitical issues including anti-black oppression and Africana womanism (hence the inspiration from Rapsody). The clearest example of an active effort in doing so can be heard in Nina Simone’s ‘Four Women’ which tells the tragic and moving story of four women of colour from then-present day and history.

With their third album named ‘Women in Music Part III’ Haim definitely deserves a spot in our feature for this special day. The three sisters, who are based in Los Angeles are not afraid to speak out about the gender imbalance in the music industry. There is one particular song on their latest album, which is based upon an interview the band had with a male interviewer. Este, the bassist, was asked “Do you make the same faces in bed?” This inspired the sisters to write the track ‘Man from The Magazine’, however that is just one of the many anecdotes the sister used to write about sexism. There is still a lot of prejudice around female musicians, especially with their capability to actually write and produce their own music. Este, Danielle and Alana show these people just how wrong they are.

Icelandic singer Björk was not to be left out, when it comes to celebrating women in the music industry, the ‘Oh So Quiet’ singer has had a major impact. Björk gained her fame being the lead singer in the band The Sugarcubes, in 1993 she decided to start a solo career, which has been very successful. In 2016 she used her social media platform to raise awareness on sexism in the Music Industry. She argued that female singers were frequently derided if they didn’t sing about topics such as love, relationships and motherhood. It was not the first time she has openly spoken about this issue in the press. She told Pitchfork in 2015 “Everything that a guy says once, you have to say five times” and that she had trouble getting her ideas out there, especially during her time in The Sugarcubes. Which is why Björk is a big fan of working with fellow women in the industry and is not afraid to talk about the sexism problem that still seems to be very prominent.

In 2019, Australian singer Julia Jacklin released her fantastic album ‘Crushing’, which led to a lot of talk about her experiences and why she chose to write about them. In an interview with the Independent, Julia said she was getting really sick about the fact that whenever a woman talks about her experiences it is immediately labeled as political or radical. Music is a form of art, for many people a creative outlet. Some musicians use writing music as a form self-help, writing or talking about the things you are experiencing can help you process them. Julia is a perfect example of this, on ‘Head Alone’ she sings “I don’t want to be touched all the time I raise my body up to be mine”. She also argued that ageism is just as sexism still a very prominent thing in the Music Industry. The quality of the music or the artist should not have to be about age, gender or origin, however with her career taking off at 26, she was already considered old. Crazy, right?

Being a woman in the music industry is tough, the prejudice, sexism and ageism is still very much prominent, but by talking about it we are raising awareness and by celebrating these amazing women we celebrate their talent and braveness to speak about these issues.

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