This essay reflects upon Mary J. Blige’s lyrical content as an entry point for delving into the relationship between hip-hop soul and contemporary African American womanhood. Hip hop is often viewed as a music-scape predominated by assertions of African American male identities. Hip-hop soul artists such as Blige created a distinct space for explorations of African American womanhood through their crafting and performing of women-centered hip-hop-era narratives. Mary J. Blige’s discography captures a contemporary African American working-class women’s ethos that pivots around the desire for love. Hip hop soul affords a narrative window into the lives, thoughts, and aspirations, of African American women of the hip hop generation. Moving from close readings of Blige’s lyrics from her debut and sophomore albums to critical considerations of Blige’s collaborations with African American male emcees, I situate this hip hop era songstress’s discography within black feminist oral and narrative traditions. Describing Blige’s lyrics as black feminist narratives further expands the parameters of hip-hop feminism and illuminates a viable and dynamic site for contesting both the primacy of masculinist narratives and the limited visibility of women-authored narratives within hip hop.


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pp. 87-99
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