Firsts are best because they are beginnings― Jenny Han
There’s always a first time for everything. But it is not easy to be the first one to do something new for it requires great courage, faith and determination.
Today, I am going to introduce you to one such person who dared to be different and is an inspiration to everyone, ‘The Hip Hop Culture’s First Female Emcee/Rapper’,‘The Mother of Mic’ and ‘Luminary Icon’- MC Sha-Rock.
Born in a small town in North Carolina in the 1970s, hip hop culture was just beginning when Sha-Rock moved to Bronx, New York with her family. Discovering her passion, she kick-started her career as a b-girl/breakdancer by performing at parties. Later, she joined the all-male rap group ‘The Funky 4+1’, the first hip hop group to sign a legitimate record deal, perform on national television and use the echo chamber. She is so legendary that renowned Rapper DMC lists her as a major influence.
In recent years, Sha Rock has become active in educating the youth about hip-hop culture and preserving its true essence. With a strong desire to bring more awareness to hip hop, she is conducting a free webinar ‘The Role of Hip Hop in Education’ on WizIQ hosted by Fluency MC, the renowned online educator. Recently she spoke to WizIQ in an exclusive interview.
- It’s certainly an honor to interview the First Female of Hip Hop Culture. From a b-girl in the Bronx and international fame with the Funky Four Plus One to the work you do in the community now, how has the journey been for you?
The journey has been a wonderful experience. Growing up in the 70’s in the South Bronx was a cultural experience for any teenager, especially a young woman as myself who was exposed to many obstacles that could have gone either way. The Funky 4+1 More was the first hip hop group to have a female MC/Rapper. The Funky 4+1 More was also the first group to appear on national television (Saturday Night Live, 1982) hosted by Deborah Harry from the legendary rock group, Blondie. My parents were connoisseurs of music. I fell in love with the elements of the culture by loving, listening, and respecting the art of music and its composers. My favorite artist was James Brown. I started out as a b-girl/break dancer, which was the norm for most of my peers who were rocking with me during the inception of the culture. I’m blessed to be able to say that I have lived to see the culture I helped build touch so many lives and entities, internationally and abroad.
- What is one of your favorite memories from the early days of hip hop?
My favorite memory of hip hop culture from that time is the moment when the break beat in a song came in and all b-boys/b-girls hit the floor. The rhythm of the percussion that the b-boy/b-girl waited for. It was music that touched the soul.
- Did you face any major barriers as a woman in an industry dominated by men?
Some but remember, I’m from the era of the inception of the culture. I was not looked upon as a female MC. I earned the right to the title from male peers and party-goers who experienced my contributions as a pioneering MC. Not only did I represent and inspire females, but I was instrumental in inspiring male MCs as well. I am credited with being able to adapt and rhyme to many styles of music.
- Given the negative stereotypes associated with rap music these days – violence, misogyny, narcissism – can it be used in a positive way to educate youth?
All of the above mentioned can be used to enlighten and educate our youth in a positive way. It is true that a lot of the lyrics and music that is associated with rap music these days depicts violence, misogyny and narcissism. However, rap music within the hip hop culture is not solely responsible. These phenomena have plagued our communities for many decades. Many of us MCs are mothers, fathers, sisters and brothers. We are educators who have the opportunity and ability to let our voices be heard. To say that we are not role models is untrue. As MCs, we have a responsibility to educate and also motivate children who may be inspired by listening to our music. We must deliver the pros and cons of the message that is set forth. Furthermore, we must respect life. We must always teach and offer a positive solution at the end our story.
- How have you used your position in the hip hop community to promote education?
I have used my expertise to promote education by delivering a dialog on the importance of understanding the origins of the Hip Hop Culture and its elements. I serve as an advisory member for the Hip Hop Library Collection at Cornell University. I’m also an advisory member of the Universal Hip Hop Museum that will be located in the Bronx, New York. I serve as Quest speaker and attend many college forums around the world.
- If you were a teacher, what rap artists would you bring into the classroom?
Rahiem (a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer (formerly of the Funky 4) and Grandmaster Flash & The Furious 5, DXT, protégé of Herbie Hancock-just to name a few!
- In what direction do you think hip hop is going now? What does the future hold?
Not quite sure what the future holds for hip hop. Hip hop culture is in the eye of the beholder. I choose to behold what it was meant to be:
Peace, unity, respect and having fun!
Much Love and Respect to all of you,
(Hip Hop’s Culture First Female MC).
Don’t miss out on the chance to interact with her in her free webinar ‘The Role of Hip Hop in Education’ on Jan 29, 4pm UTC.