From the very beginnings of the now-global movement that is hip hop culture back in the 1970s, women played a role. And even if hip hop’s historiography has for the most part centred near-exclusively on men, figures such as Silvia Robinson, Roxanne Shanté, Salt N Peppa, Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, Missy Elliot, Nicky Minaj, and Cardi B. (to mention just a very few) demonstrate how female hip hop artists have always played an important role in this culture’s development.
The situation in the Austrian hip hop scene is no exception, for which reason the following lines will provide an overview of Austria’s women rappers and their history. In Austria, it was at the beginning of the 1990s that an independent hip hop scene first developed. That decade, however, saw the release of a mere two numbers featuring women rappers (Speedy B and Nora MC, respectively, as members of a group) on the first and third volumes of a series of samplers entitled Das Gelbe vom Ei that were put out by Duck Squad Label (associated with the group Schönheitsfehler). Semmerl MC, who was featured on the fourth volume of this sampler series in 2001, was the first female solo rapper to release a song of her own on an Austrian record.
It was in 2004, with Basslast Alltag meets the Unfunk Side of Hiphop, that Mieze Medusa & tenderboy finally released the very first record by a woman rapper from Austria. And in 2007, Mieze Medusa also became the first rapper to win the Protest Song Contest run by alternative radio station FM4, doing so with her song Nicht meine Revolution featuring Violetta Parisini. The emergence of women rappers during this period was associated above all with the establishment of the country’s first “all-female MCs” rap group MTS (Multitasking Sistas) in 2008. Rappers BaghiRah, Oh’laek, Mag-D, Miss Def (now Ms Def), and Nora MC (now Nora Mazu) together with her DJ, Amin M, viewed themselves not only as a hip hop collective but also as a “network where all women who identify with hip hop can contribute” (BaghiRah, quoted in Moser 2009: 17).
It was thus that the following years saw rappers such as Bella Diablo, Yasmo, Queeen, and Mavi Phoenix (who has since come out as a transgender male) draw attention to themselves and their music, causing the share of women in Austrian hip hop to grow apace. The next important step in this direction was the establishment of the label and event series Femme DMC, associated with the producer and rapper Dacid Go8lin, in 2015. This event series offered women from the various realms of hip hop culture (rap, DJ, breakdance, graffiti) a stage in order to “develop and express themselves in a safe space, grow stronger, and support each other” (Femme DMC, year unknown). The establishment of Femme DMC was also intended to break up the “male-dominated hip hop scene”, for which reason the following years saw rappers such as Lady Ill-Ya, Zion Flex, and Xena N.C. given performance opportunities and accorded a greater amount of attention. What’s more, 2018 saw the establishment of Beatzarilla, Austria’s first women-only label, on which artists such as Miss BunPun (formerly Misses U) released music ranging from rap to soul.
2018 saw the rapper and poetry slammer Yasmo—together with her band Die Klangkantine—become the first woman to be nominated in the HipHop/Urban category at the Austrian Music Awards. There, she not only performed her song “Girls Just Wanna Have Fun”—which, like many of her songs, features a strong feminist message—but also brought all of that evening’s female nominees onto the stage following her performance in order to make a statement (FM4 2018).
In 2019, Yasmo went on to take part in the largest collaboration of Austrian female rappers to date. For the song “Mehr” (2019), the artist Ms Def brought together her colleagues Mag-D, Yasmo, Lady Ill-Ya, and Bella Diablo on a single track—which netted them second place at that year’s FM4 Protest Song Contest.
Today, new rap by women in Austria is more diverse and successful than ever before. And in all hip hop subgenres, one finds women with widely divergent styles and content. Sibling-duo EsRap (consisting of rapper Esra and singer Esmen) and the women rappers Ms Def and Ebow stand out above all for their political tracks. And in subgenres such as battle rap, as well, where misogynous expressions are still part of the standard repertoire (cf. Volkman 2021), women rappers such as Queeen, Lady Ill-Ya, AliceD, and Samira Dezaki have succeeded in making names for themselves in Austria. On the other hand, Spilif and Yasmo would be examples of women who aim for the exact opposite, producing a frequently relaxed-sounding and more sensitive hip hop variant. KeKe, Eli Preiss, Hunney Pimp, and the duo Klitclique, on the other hand, take highly divergent approaches to the cloud rap and trap aesthetics in order to realise their very independent forms of hip hop in which singing and rapping are intertwined.
What unites practically all of the artists mentioned here is that their output exhibits an increased focus on topics such as feminism, homosexuality, transgender issues, and/or equality in general. There are also individual male rappers and/or groups such as Austria’s Def Ill or Germany’s Antilopen Gang that address such themes in their songs, but never anywhere near as prominently as do their female colleagues. And due to the presence of artists from the LGBTQ community such as Kerosin95 and Mavi Phoenix, these thematic areas (which had been more negatively connoted or avoided altogether in hip hop) are now even more strongly in the foreground. A more detailed discussion of this be worth its own article—and would certainly exceed the scope of this one.
As this overview of women rappers from Austria has shown, their output is diverse and introduces new accents to the hip hop scene—such as in its focus on feminism and gender—and their number is constantly growing:
If it has to be, I’ll fight more than a thousand days and thousand nights For fairer conditions and women’s rights Well, I don’t want to say that it’s because of my sex But so much is unjust, and what I want are other images in people’s minds Of women who earn just as much respect and money Because something’s still missing for a fair world And there’s only one bar-room cliché I’ve ever hurled: At fault are not men, but the patriarchy.
We want more, because so much is still going wrong We are more, and we’re not giving up (Ms Def – “Mehr” feat. Mag-D, Lady Ill-Ya, Missses U, Bella Diablo, 2019)
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Mag-D x Ms Def x Lady Ill-Ya x Yasmo x Misses U x Bella Diablo (2019). “Mehr.” Video single, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-zALFuVSbeY (Version of 18 Jan. 2019, accessed on: 1 Aug. 2021).