“We only book what we believe to be dope. That’s number one. If we don’t like it, it’s not getting booked,” partner of Dope Entertainment’s Tariq Cherif told Revolt TV in an interview pridefully discussing 2017’s Rolling Loud lineup him and his partner assembled. Of the 54 performers listed on the bill, three were women. By those numbers, one can consider Cherif’s “dope shit only” outlook and deduce Dope Entertainment flatly doesn’t think music by women is, for lack of a better word, dope. Like he very clearly stated, if they don’t like it, it’s not getting booked.
And yet, the festival is a meaningful one within the genre. “Honestly I’d say that it’s the closest hip hop festival to be compared to Woodstock. The crowd this year was massive for an all hip hop lineup and I only see it getting bigger. For the industry as a whole that’s AMAZING,” Europe Angelique, owner of Prime Culture Creative, creative consulting and artist management company, tells Snobette.
That it was. However, the unfortunate reality still stands, there was little representation for women aside from the three acts and hostess Yes Julz, who heads an all-female creative agency, interestingly.
Angelique said she wasn’t exactly surprised by the male-dominant lineup, “I’m kind of numb to it at this point, but I am glad that publications and the internet are bringing it to the forefront because this needs to change. Female artists need to be included.”
In an interview with the Miami New Times, Cherif and hi partner Matt Zingler offered this statement as to why the lineup lacked women:
“Honestly, it’s not that we don’t want to put women on the stage; it’s mostly what people want to see. Earlier in the year, we took to our Twitter account to ask what our audience wanted at this year’s festival. Most of the replies were Future, Kendrick [Lamar], Young Thug, and a few others, so we did our best to abide by that. Also, most of our audience is male, so they just happen to choose males.”
At the end of the day festivals are a business and the bottom line does matter. Artist schedules and existing tours can interfere. Hot 97’s Laura Stylez said the station had an early goal of emphasizing women at the annual Summer Jam concert, whose coverage was dominated by Remy Ma’s performance, which included guest appearances by multiple female rap artists. “We wanted more female artists on the roster. In some cases it was an issue of scheduling. Some of the ones we wanted were touring or not ready because they don’t have an album ready,”
Unfortunately, that is not what Zingler and Cherif gave as a reason for the lack of women. They pointed to offering what their Twitter audience was looking for–a male following looking for male performers. With business in mind, something to consider: ticket buyers and Rolling Loud attendees go well beyond the 25,000 Twitter followers. Any business should be not only be trying to keep their core customers happy, but also finding money elsewhere.
The Future Is More Profitable When It Includes Females
Why do we think 2 Chainz was on The View and Future performed on The Ellen Degeneres Show? They’re trying to reach a female demographic and diversify their following, thus making more money. The statement from Rolling Loud is lazy, ignorant, and a surefire way to really pigeon hole their business.
Further, even with the bottom line held as a number one priority, festivals should consider themselves tastemakers and not succumb to be dictated as to what their following wants to see.
Stylez added, “You have to be choosy for headliners, you have to sell tickets, but you should be giving more artists a platform.”
“I just went to a Princess Nokia show in [Atlanta] that was more live than any male lineup show I’ve been to in the past two year outside of Freddie Gibbs. Like, I don’t need a man to validate my existence in the musical realm and neither do any of these other bad bitches out here killing it,” Awful Records’ Abra wrote via email, while in the midst of touring the European festival circuit doing shows in Denmark, France, and the United Kingdom earlier this summer. “If men want to deprive themselves of the goodness of women to ride each other’s dicks it really is their loss.”
Echoing Abra’s for-us sentiment, Stylez emphasized that as much as they are able women need to control their own destinies, by building strong teams and supporting each other. “In commenting on Remy Ma’s Summer Jam appearance, Stlez said, “Remy not only embraced young artists like Cardi B and Young M.A., but she also brought out legends, Queen Latifah, Lil Kim, Lady of Rage. I hope it creates a ripple effect, but you can’t just leave it on Remy, it should be all women looking to collaborate with each other.”
Princess Nokia in Seattle; image via Luis Vela
I’m Standing Outside Trying to Sing My Way In…
Still, in a male-dominated business, women can only do so much on their own, and when there is a blatant disregard for women artists being booked it not only underserves the culture, it cuts females out of a platform critical to their development both as artists and financially. “You see artists that can create a cool little buzz on social media, but when you see the way they perform and you see the way they interact with an audience and the attraction they get that they can actually sell tickets, that’s game changer. That makes or breaks an artist,” Stylez offered.
“Most artists don’t just tour for the fun of it. This is how they put food on the table and a roof over their heads. Touring helps with track and album sales. If a fan is satisfied after a great performance, they are likely to go support that artist monetarily,” Angelique added.
Freelance programmer and producer Lori Trigonis, who’s working with House of Vans and this year’s iii Points festival (also in Miami) explained the benefits of including lesser known acts, “You have festivals who really care about the talent they’re presenting and bookers who have personal relationships with the artists and have grown with them. This comes from years of having good taste, taking risks, and really loving the music.”
Stylez also went on to add, “It’s really special when you see artists from the very beginning. A lot of artists are really thankful and they’ll remember that.”
At a time when wokeness might as well be currency and social awareness is opening doors and creating opportunities, inclusivity should be a deciding factor in creating lineups, especially in a new festival that has such a great opportunity to really move the needle culturally.
You Need Us More than We Need You
Although artists like Abra make it clear they’re going to do it with or without hip hop festivals like Rolling Loud, she would like to see change. “What I would love to see is more events that give platform to women that doesn’t solely revolve around us being women and our struggle for equality, because that’s once again making the focal point about where we stand in relationship to men. It’s making it about them and essentially admitting that they are something and hold a position that we strive to achieve.”
Hip hop is already starting to combat its extremely misogynistic and even homophobic undertones, but booking a 95 percent male lineup and offering an excuse that there isn’t a demand for female artists shows a clear lack in investment in artists, music, and building something long-lasting to benefit more than the pockets of the event producers.
By Rae Witte