I’m Gauthier, I’ve always been passionate about fashion and hip hop culture. In 2003 I launched the Hold Up Wear clothing brand with a friend. I was surrounded by artist friends, and I was in the field of events communication. They were not into selling and promoting themselves so I naturally became the manager – I say “manager” now, but at the time I was just the friend who helped. So we created the Hold Up Team collective with a friend who’s a MC ( Maxwell MC) and a female DJ (S’one). The collective was made up of rappers, beatmakers, graffiti artists, and UK rappers Icykal, Laayie and Oracy. Then later, the association Rencontres Urbaines was born and I launched Call Me Femcee, a project that aims to showcase female talents from the international underground hip-hop scene. This project with female rap is really close to my heart. At the time we were talking to a lot of people about it and we were told “pfff, let it go already”, and for the last 2 years all the rappers with a Reverie-like style have been emerging in underground rap or even mainstream rap. A female rap scene is really developing.
We organized our first events with Hold Up Team. We did a lot of open mics with Parisian structures, as well as writing and graffiti workshops. As we had female artists in the collective we did a lot of female rap festivals. We were invited on dates in England, Switzerland, France… We did the Femcee Fest in Saint-Etienne, where we met a lot of artists there who loved our team. We kept in touch with some rappers we had met, like Comagatte, KT gorique, Tina Mweni…
With the clothing brand I was brought to be a partner of Reverie’s first European tours. We dressed her in her videos and on stage and helped her to find dates in France. With the association Hold Up Team we co-produced the event L.A in Paris at Pan Piper. It was a date with Reverie and Aelpeacha, but it was also a concept, we did a radio show on Generation, we did street promotion in low-rider in Paris, concept videos… Participants were offered a bandana, a poster and goodies. There was a west coast exhibition by the artist Versil, clothing, low-riders bicycles, talk box, dance, and Reverie and Aelpeacha shows... The concept was really to bring Los Angeles back to Paris. It’s one of the most accomplished events I’ve ever done.
We were contacted by a lot of people in female rap, and then we realized that there wasn’t really a mixtape of several female artists, not necessarily big headliners but rather underground artists. Yet, a lot of them were really active in hip hop culture and in the women’s movement for some. In France, some female rappers were a little reluctant, they didn’t want to be assimilated to a female thing because they had struggled to find a place in rap. Some French women did not want to get mixed up with this. Maybe because girls really wanted to get into the rap game and since there were only guys they had to make it without assimilating themselves to women’s movements. While in all the other countries, especially in Latin America, Africa or Asia, they still struggle as women so they are proud to share a project like this. The approach is different, they are proud to claim their femininity and in our culture, there is an awkwardness.
The Call Me Femcee project brings together 15 female rappers from all over the world. It was released in 2017 in digital but we had been working on it for 5 years. We really wanted all continents to be represented. The idea was that every rapper on the compilation should be involved in hip hop culture in her country, proud to be a woman in hip hop, and active, with projects and ambitions in music. It takes time to get everything together, to get the rappers to come and record in the studio. We wanted to release the project with beautiful visuals, we wanted the budget to do communication and to press a physical CD to give the professionals, so we waited until we could do it clean and square. Our main goal was to hit the stage so as soon as the project was released, we immediately focused our communication on live shows. Indeed, it is where artists show their talent the most and nothing is better than live. We therefore offer Call Me Femcee sets that bring together several artists each time. We put foreign artists on stage, one French, one European and one more international. The idea is to have a discovery scene to introduce people to different styles, different cultures. We also offer conferences on women’s hip hop, exhibitions, and since the beginning of the school year we have been booking and accompanying artists on their solo projects such as Medusa TN and Kwezi Kimosi.
Last year we attended the End Of The Weak finale at La Place in Paris with Comagatte, the Italian and Medusa, the Tunisian. At one point there’s a little problem with the jury’s deliberations and this guy takes the microphone and says, “Oh, I think we have international rappers in the room”. Comagatte is screaming, she runs through the whole crowd, she goes on stage, she takes the mic and one of the guys on the jury starts provoking her like “you know how to rap, are you sure?” and then she starts kicking and she’s the fastest rapping chick in Italy, she killed it and people were shocked. With the team we were in the crowd, and there was a group of guys in the back, Comagatte hadn’t even started rapping and they were already saying, “Oh, come on, it’s chicks, it’s shit, let’s get out of here”. There were ten of them leaving without even listening. That’s when we thought, people think that since we see a lot more female rap, the fight is over and the girls have made it, but in the industry it’s very different. People will be getting at women for the slightest mistake while the guys will make 10 without any problem. When it’s English or foreigners female rappers, guys will take pictures and find them cool, but when it’s French artists… Guys put a lot more pressure on girls.
In my experience, as soon as they have a minimum of talent, guys will immediately think they’re the best. They will be stubborn, with the pride of always having the last word, of always being right. Women are more involved in listening and thinking, even if they do their own thing, they are in a more rigorous process. The path that the girl may have had in rap is totally different from the guy. While the guy was surrounded by people who told him he was the shit, she was doing her thing in her bathroom without confronting others, and was not necessarily accepted by guys. There are girls who do a lot of open mics and do live shows, and on the other hand there are girls who have been enjoying rap for years, who write a lot but who rap at home and who have never gone on stage. It’s funny that there are so many girls who don’t want to confront an audience even though they’ve been writing and rapping for 10 years. There’s really something we must do to change that. The fight will be over when you no longer make the difference between female rapper and rapper, and especially when there is a real mixed audience at female rapper concerts.
Cover © Ly Visuals