T.I. Says His Oxygen Docuseries 'Sisterhood of Hip Hop' Breaks Barriers
The rapper says his female-centered docuseries shows there are "doors that must be kicked opened"
T.I. has advanced from being in front of the reality TV cameras to going completely behind the scenes, as executive producer of Sisterhood of Hip Hop, which debuted Aug. 12 on Oxygen. The eight-episode docuseries produced by 51 Minds (T.I. & Tiny: The Family Hustle, Below Deck) follows five female rappers, Bia, Siya, Nyemiah Supreme, Brianna Perry and Diamond, navigating through personal and professional obstacles, hoping for stardom.
In a climate where Love & Hip Hop dominates thanks to portioned helpings of relationship drama, girl fights and very little music, Sisterhood of Hip Hop hopes to deliver a story that hasn't yet been represented on television. "I felt like there was an opportunity to document something that was very noteworthy," Tip tells Billboard. "We have had women in hip-hop but I don't think we had it documented. If you ask any of the best, even moderately best, female hip-hop artists, they would tell you that the things they experienced in trying to be accepted and gain respect in this male-dominated industry, it's worth documenting."
"And not just hip-hop, any male-dominated industry," he continues. "The game was made to accommodate a man. For instance, take [NASCAR driver] Danica Patrick, if you were to take her journey and document it, I'm sure that would be an interesting story. There are barriers that must be broken down, doors that must be kicked open."
With Sisterhood of Hip Hop, viewers will get to see the good and bad sides of the fame game. The women, hailing from New York, Miami and Atlanta, are dubbed the next generation of female emcees. Throughout the season, they will be guided by hip-hop icons, mentors and friends like Pharrell Williams, Eve, Tank, and Rick Ross.
As for the scarce number of female emcees putting up the same numbers as men, the drought isn't just a sign of the times, it's deepened the need for more variety, which is where the show comes in. "It was one period in hip-hop when females were almost as common as males, back in the Salt-N-Pepa period," T.I. says. "Then there was a period when they were damn near nonexistent, with the exception of Da Brat and Queen Latifah every so often. Years later, you had Lil' Kim, Foxy Brown, and after that females went away again. And then Nicki [Minaj] came out, Iggy [Azalea] came out. So now there feels as though there is a hunger, there is a thirst for females. The female demographic is growing and asking for representation."
One of Tip's primary tasks was putting together the Sisterhood of Hip Hop cast. However, choosing the rappers wasn't broken down to a science; he essentially went with his gut. He was drawn to those able to "make the best argument" for why they belong next in line "to be the female representative of hip-hop." Getting the women for the show is only half the battle; where they take the platform is up to them. "In life opportunities come to the people who show that they deserve them the most," T.I. says. "I think that Iggy has worked tirelessly. I've seen Iggy go from Australia, to China, to Paris, to London, to Atlanta, to L.A., in like a two-week period. Everybody ain't gon' do that. Some people are gonna say 'no I can't do that, that's too much.' But you're investing, putting in the sacrifice. If you put the sacrifice in, it rewards you."
There is another small — or maybe huge — problem in hip-hop right now that could impede the advancement of female rappers as a whole. Gone are the days of mega-collaborations like 1997's "Not Tonight (Ladies Night)"; now it's all about competition. "The bitter cold truth is most women don't like to be around other women, period," he explains. "And if they do like to be around the women, the women they like to be around are probably not the women that are the most suitable for the job. Either they're gonna force someone they like into a position they don't belong in, or they're going to not like someone who belongs in the position."
This story first appeared on Billboard.com.