On August 11, hip hop celebrated 50 years of existence, and with extra attention on the genre, Netflix is looking at the women who have helped to make it a success. The new four-part docuseries Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop gets its title from the 1989 Queen Latifah anthem and honors women’s crucial role in shaping the popular genre.
In 1973, DJ Kool Herc debuted his “merry-go-round” technique at a party in the Bronx, New York and it is now recognized as the start of hip-hop culture. The industry is known to be dominated by men, but there are many women who helped to elevate the popularity of hip-hop. Ladies First offers a fresh perspective on the issue by highlighting industry trailblazers and incorporating input from top talents through in-depth interviews.
Viewers can expect to hear from Sha-Rock, who became the first woman MC to record on vinyl, and Roxanne Shante, who became popular for her record, “Roxanne’s Revenge.” The single was made as a response track to UTFO’s “Roxanne, Roxanne” and sold over 250,000 copies. MC Lyte serves as an executive producer on the series and a prominent voice within the episodes since she is credited for being the first female rapper to release a full solo album. Rapper-turned-actress and entrepreneur Queen Latifah even contributed her insights to the production.
Ladies First made sure to shine a light on the foremothers of the genre while allowing newer talents an opportunity to be heard. Viewers heard interviews with current rappers, including Chika, Rapsody, Tierra Whack and Kash Doll. In addition to hearing from female artists, viewers were educated by culture historians, journalists and music executives such as Drew Dixon, Syreeta Gates and Maureen Mahon. Over the course of the four episodes, viewers will be immersed in the rich history of hip-hop and be able to unpack prominent topics associated with the genre. The docuseries covers the importance of writing your own raps, cultural appropriation, sexual harassment and violence, and the growing importance of artists using their platforms to speak on issues threatening the Black community.
Ladies First: A Story of Women in Hip-Hop was women-led behind the scenes too. Hannah Beachler and Dream Hampton served as the directors for the project. Interested viewers can stream the series on Netflix. Episodes range from 36 to 48 minutes.