Music has a way of speaking to us as nothing else can. The songs that touch us become the soundtracks of our lives and nothing can take us back to our yesterday quite the way the right song can. Black women have always had a precarious place in popular music, much of it degrades us, and very little of the music industry is controlled by us. However, there are those few girl power anthems that stands out as songs that uplift and empower (even if not in the way female empowerment is traditionally posited). Here are a few of my favorites.
The first time that I saw Remi Ma was in the “Ante Up” video. Glamorous is definitely not a word that I would have used to describe her. She was straight up New York round the way girl wearing a camouflage jacket looking like she was about to go to combat. Thankfully for us, her lyrics matched the look. She was pure lyrical talent and held her own against the otherwise all male ensemble of rappers on the track.
Fast forward ten years and she hits the scene with Fat Joe’s Terror Squad and we are introduced to a whole new Remi with a fresh makeover that said “look at me bitches!” LOL… It was a magnificent come back that I just marveled at. I’m not sure if this song reached the same popularity as some of the other songs on this list but should have because it was definitely deserving. Remi was like yeah I know all ya’ll jealous, get over it cause I’m not dimming my light for anyone.
The lyrics to that song are a testament to living your best life and loving the skin your in. It was sentiment that resonated deeply with me because I have always felt like I have lived my life with no one to really celebrate me or my accomplishments (well except for my mommy). Being validated in that it’s okay to celebrate yourself is something that my soul much needed. Every time that song played, I was like yes I’m conceited, I got a reason!
I have had periods of extreme poverty as an adult. There were times when I didn’t have secure housing and I knew that if it came to being on the streets I would do whatever it took not to be there. She was in that place and she did was she had to until she could do better. One thing about being female is that it you have nothing else, you always have your body and that is a commodity that is always marketable. I believe that no one had the right to tell anyone else what they can do with their bodies. If you need to be in that strip club to eat, then so be it. If you need to engage in sex work to survive, you should be able to legally and safely do so. I’m not saying that either of these are healthy and should be any girl’s aspiration but in desperate situations people do what they must to survive.
Cardi B. has had no shortage of critics since she exploded on to the music scene with “Bodak Yellow.” This raunchy, no holds barred song was played over and over everywhere. It seemed as if there wasn’t any woman in America who wasn’t “making money moves.” She reminded us that it’s not a game! If you want it, you have to go get it, and don’t be ashamed if your path to getting it isn’t squeaky clean.
Cardi showed the world that she had no shame about having been in a place where she had to use her body to survive, and that despite finding herself there she never stopped pushing forward to have a better life. She said, “I don’t gotta dance. I make money moves.” By the time she hit the music scene, she already had a following because she was a successful club promoter and videocaster. People were drawn to her positive, what you see is what you get, attitude. With “Bodak Yellow,” Cardi B. became the muse for millions of women who were not going to continue to be satisfied with having less.
There is no way you can have a girl power song list with out Beyonce. Beyonce is the very definition of girl power. I remember when she first hit the scene. That poor girl was a teenager and she was getting so much negative backlash about her vocals and her looks. People actually said that she couldn’t sing. People said she was too fat. People sad she couldn’t act. People said she couldn’t dance. I heard so many people criticizing this girl and I felt so sorry for her. It was crazy to see how much hate she got considering she was actually a child but she absolutely didn’t stop anything she was doing. She just kept getting better and better with every project she put out. Now she is indisputably Queen B, the most influential woman in contemporary RnB music. She is completely on top of her game and I love it.
“Feeling Myself” is actually Nicki Minaj’s song, another black girl force in here own right, but I have to admit that it’s Beyonce that I’m most drawn to in that song. Both of these women are rich beyond rich, super talented, and beautiful, of course they are feeling themselves. Why shouldn’t they? This song made no apologies about who they were or how they saw themselves, and it gave all of us who listened a few moments to feel ourselves too. That song makes you ask yourself why shouldn’t I feel good about who I am and my accomplishments. In a world where women are taught to cower and humble themselves as not to offend anyone, especially men, this song is a much needed reminder to celebrate yourself.
Of course, Kelis is on this list twice because she’s just that badass. I remember the first time I heard her. I was still living in Atlanta and I was at my friend, Shawna’s house. This was during a period when I was only dating women and Shawna’s house sort of operated like a lesbian club house. There seemed to never be less than 7 or 8 girls there, all being very polyamorous. It was a cest pool for drama but the love in that house made it all worth while. It was a place where all of us, no matter where we fell on the sexuality spectrum, could just feel free to be ourselves. It was awesome.
Kelis’ video for “I Hate You So Much Right Now” came on the TV and the whole house went wild. This chick came on the tube with short shorts on, thick thighs on display, and the wildest head of half pink, half blonde hair, screaming her frustrations all over the track. We had never seen anything like her and we were all mesmerized.
Who can forget the video for “Milkshake?” Kelis said her Milkshake brought all the boys to the yard and she was definitely showing us all how in that video. The video was spectacular. Sexy Nas was cooking up hotness in the kitchen. Nas was definitely the perfect compliment to her oozing sexuality, that seemed to be dripping melting chocolate all over that diner. But the visuals were just the tip of the iceberg, that hard hitting bass, and those lyrics were the anthem for any woman that wanted to say come and get it on the dance floor. Even to this day, when I hear that song, my hips take on a life of their own. So hard to believe that Pharrell actually wrote it.
Just when we thought Kelis couldn’t give anymore gifts to the girl power repertoire, she hits us with “Bossy.” This is the track for any woman that wants to say I don’t take no mess and I’m here to run this. It’s a slap in the face to anyone who would try to use the fact that a woman is asserting her power against her by calling her bossy. She was like yes I’m bossy and what about it. I loved it. “I’m the one that raised the stakes.” You better recognize. LOL