Film Review - Say My Name
Say My Name (2009) is a documentary that excavates many of the lost voices of women in Hiphop. Directed by Nirit Peled and produced by the production company Mamamess, the film presents a broad look at past, present and future female MCs of Hiphop music in the United States and London. The film privileges the oral histories of female MCs and enters them into the permanent record of Hip-hop history.
Say My Name includes exclusive interviews with iconic MCs such as Roxanne Shante, Sparky D, MC Lyte and British expatriate Monie Love, as well as new school artists such as Remy Ma, Rha Digga, Erykah Badu, Mystic and Invincible amongst others. More broadly, the film gestures towards the impact of Hiphop on global audiences featuring testimonies of popular Black British MC Estelle and emerging female grime MCs in London of diverse ethnicities. Though the voices of pioneering artists such as Queen Latifah and Salt-n-Pepa are an obvious void in the larger narrative spun by Peled, their voices are performatively evoked as many of the established and emerging artists featured in the film cite these trailblazers as inspirations. The most compelling aspect of the film is its focus on the personal sacrifices that many women have made in order to be appreciated and respected as lyricists by their male peers. Juggling motherhood, personal addictions, sexism and classism, the resilient women represented in Say My Name are conscious of the social obstacles they face. These women refuse to be portrayed as victims and counter the male-centric narratives that dominate the telling of Hiphop history. The exceptional lyrical skills of possessed by these artists do more to address the limitations that Hiphop culture imposes on women. The complex stories these women weave address the commodification of negative and demeaning images and/or stories of women that have come to represent the status quo of the genre as much as they speak to the multiple roles that women embody as mothers, sisters, lovers and political agents for social change.
Peled enters into a conversation about the state of women in Hiphop established by Queen Latifah and Monie Love with "Ladies First" in the late 1980s. This lyrical manifesto for women in Hip-hop can be read as the foundation of future arguments for the self-determination of women argued by feminist Hip-hop scholars such as Tricia Rose, Marcyliena Morgan, Joan Morgan, Gwendolyn Powell and T.Denean Sharpley-Whiting. Say My Name offers a visual and oral analysis of the matrix of contradiction that women enter into as simultaneous lovers, artists and critics of Hiphop culture. Though commercial Hiphop privileges misogynist, sexist and hetero-normative content and images, as artistic producers and scholars of Hiphop culture, we must continue to illuminate the possibilities for agency in Hiphop that are available to women across lines of racial, ethnic, class and sexual preference. Peled and her production team are on an artistic mission to archive the intersections of class, race and gender and their impact on the possibilities for success of women in Hip-hop. Say My Name is now a documentary series that will explore the voices of women in Angola, South Africa and Rottendam. For more information on Say My Name and Mamamess Productions please visit: http://www.saymynameblog.com