Meet the First Ladies of Hip Hop

Saturday: First Ladies of Hip Hop (BBC2, 9.35pm)
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There have been plenty of documentaries about the history of hip hop, which isn’t surprising – it’s arguably the most influential music genre to emerge in the past 50 years and has played a huge role in shaping pop culture as we know it.

However, if you were to watch some of those programmes, you could come away with idea that it’s a very male-dominated world. Female artists from the US are often treated as an afterthought and British women rarely get mentioned at all.

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The BBC is aiming to put that right with the new three-part documentary First Ladies of Hip Hop, which celebrates the women rappers, DJs, producers and industry insiders who played a pivotal role in the music’s evolution and helped to pave the way for future generations.

Debbie DDebbie D
Debbie D

The Beeb has also found the perfect narrator for the documentary in Neneh Cherry. The Swedish-British rapper scored a worldwide hit with her single Buffalo Stance in 1989. She also broke barriers by performing the track on Top of the Pops while seven months pregnant with her second child – if any younger viewers are wondering why that could have possibly been controversial, it stirred up a lot of press coverage, and a journalist reportedly asked her if she was sure it was safe to be on stage in her condition.

We’ll be hearing some more eye-opening stories over the course of the series, which begins tonight with a double bill. It looks at the careers of figures including Eve, Rah Digga, Sha Rock, Debbie D, Deidra Roper (aka DJ Spinderella of Salt-n-Pepa) Yo-Yo (who is well known for her work with N.W.A’s Ice Cube), Millie Jackson, Cheryl the Pearl (The Sequence), JJ Fad, Sheri Sher (The Mercedes Ladies), and the pioneering Roxanne Shanté, who tells viewers about how she was, unfairly in her view, denied the accolade of the greatest rapper on earth because she was a woman.

The spotlight is also shone on homegrown talents, including British hip hop phenomenon Monie Love, and UK acts Estelle, Betty Boo, Cookie Pryce , the Wee Papa Girl Rappers and So Solid Crew’s Lisa Maffia.

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The opening double bill begins though with a look at how women fought to make their voices heard during the early days of the scene, and the key role played by super-producer Sylvia Robinson in creating the 1979 hit Rapper’s Delight by the Sugarhill Gang, which helped to introduce hip hop to the mainstream.

And The hip hop don’t stop (or start) there. BBC2 is getting us hyped for the documentary with Women of Hip Hop & Soul: Later… with Jools Holland (8.35pm), which includes performances from Erykah Badu, Kelis, India Arie, Angie Stone, Ms Dynamite, Stefflon Don, Jorja Smith, Little Simz and Mary J Blige.

Then at 11.35pm, there is another chance to see Lizzo at Glastonbury 2023, as the rapper, singer and flautist performs hits such as Good As Hell, About Damn Time and Juice.

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