BET Tackles Women in Hip-Hop, And We’re Not Cringing

From craft to technique, the station's new documentary's asking old questions to a new audience.

By Naima Ramos-Chapman Sep 03, 2010

Looks like BET may be turning a new leaf with their new documentary: My Mic is Nice: A Truth About Women in Hip-Hop. Directed by Ava DuVernay, the film is a nice change from the station’s usual line-up of shows

Luckily, this time BET thankfully refocuses their lens on to the female emcee. And they hit all the bases, interviewing legends like MC Lyte and Salt and Pepper, Eve, Missy Elliot, Rah Digga, Trina, and lesser know but still influential artists like Medusa, and Jean Grae, and burgeoning star Nicki Minaj. 

The film’s already gotten a good amount of praise for its content, but its technical feat are also worth mentioning. As DJ Phatrick pointed out on his blog:

The film is BEAUTIFULLY shot. All the women artists are interviewed with the camera directly in front and them looking straight into the camera, which serves to empower and bolden their words (MC Lyte IN YO FACE! Literally!). Men who are interviewed are shot in more traditional "look-at-the-interviewer-not-the-camera" way, but still in interestingly artistic angles and lighting (Questlove has a nice profile shot).

I was also struck with the soft lighting, and warm colors, a markedly different approach to capturing the essence of women in Hip Hop, gone were the purposeful glaring lights, bells and whistles, and TnA that often got first billing even in female rap videos–instead, without distraction, there was a visual depth that allowed for their words to be heard in a delivery truly all their own.

SisterToldja points out on Blind I For The Kids that, technical feats aside, the film does not shy away from from asking the heavy questions:

The filmmaker and her subjects took no shorts and take on some tough questions: why are so many female rappers hypersexualized? Why do women seem to need a crew of men around them to be taken seriously? How is it that the absence of one person had such a tremendous impact on an entire genre of music (and it’s listeners)? Why is it still so hard for women to make it in this game? Make sure you pay particular attention to Trina’s thoughts on her own success at the end of the film. Her astuteness was both remarkable and incredibly depressing.

Sad as it was to hear Trina talk about her coming to terms with her value as an emcee relying heavily on her ability to sell her own sex, she isn’t really the only one to have done so as much as she the only one who admitted it with no if’s and’s or but’s.

Overall, the new BET documentary is a solid one. Even though we’ve been asking these sorts of questions for years, it may be a good sign that finally mainstream media is trying to answer them.