As the curtain slowly closes on the year of 2019, it’s now time to reflect on all of the remarkable strides made by women dominating the scene. Which scene? Well, all of them! In terms of music, fashion, business and visual arts, young women of colour have been making some serious waves, and we are here to ride it. Although we’ve always known who runs the world (girls!), in particular, there have been several noteworthy figures that rose up and broke through the surface. Although the meaning of a feminist can simply be described as: “person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes,” according to notable Nigerian author, Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (whose speech was sampled on Beyoncé’s “Flawless”), I believe that women have been making bigger splashes than their male counterparts this year. In fact, I have come to the conclusion that girls will continue to call the shots in the new decade as well.
While Cardi B can always be seen collecting her “Money Bag” and “Truth Hurts,” but smack-talking, flute-playing Lizzo has officially been named TIME magazine’s 2019 Entertainer of the year, other female creatives have taken it upon themselves to show us how it’s done. Singers Jorja Smith, Snoh Alegara, SZA, and rappers Doja Cat, Rico Nasty and Megan Thee Stallion are also more than honourable mentions that just narrowly escaped this list; I have been keeping an eye on a few more self-made, prominent personalities. Namely, Canadian rapper Haviah the Mighty, as well as Atlanta native breakout R&B artist of the year Summer Walker. To continue the list, the eccentric lyricist Tierra Whack, and not to mention, the world-renowned multi-talented artist Robyn Fenty, better known by her middle name: Rihanna. Read on to uncover their latest creative exploits and what to expect in the year of 2020.
For starters, Canadian rapper Haviah Mighty (yes, Mighty is her real surname) was raised in a musical family in Brampton, Ontario, and received much encouragement as a young child. This solo artist first began singing at the age of 4, then tried her hand at rapping by 11 years old, and later moved on to start producing her own music at the age of 15! Her musical career began as 1 of 3 members of Toronto hip hop group The Sorority, formed in 2016, then continued on with solo ventures in 2017 when she released her independent project Flower City. This was what ultimately fast-tracked her award-winning music career, and she’s only just begun.
To name just a few of the accolades beneath her belt, Haviah Mighty has been awarded the Polaris Prize for her 2019 album 13th Floor. According to her homepage biography, the album was “her most fully-realized project to date – making history as the first hip hop artist and the first black woman to ever receive the award. Garnering overwhelming praise from the likes of Pitchfork, Billboard, Hot New Hip Hop, and Lyrical Lemonade, Haviah continues to carve out spaces that boldly defy gendered expectations for women in hip hop.”
Additionally, after partnering with big names such as Ice Cube, Snoop Dogg, and Rick Ross, Haviah Mighty can only continue to go up from here.
Next on the list is Atlanta R&B singer, Summer Walker. There has always been an array of young female R&B singers to grace the music scene, however, few have achieved the heights that Summer Walker has in such a short span of time. Granted that her name is not yet a household staple, the 23-year-old has managed to climb to the top of the Billboard charts with her 2019 debut album Over It, launching at the #1 spot on the R&B/Hip-Hop album list, and #2 on the all-genre Billboard 200 with the largest streaming week ever for an R&B album by a woman in terms of U.S. streaming numbers.
The young vocalist began hustling for financial security by starting her own cleaning business, using Instagram to advertise her services under the handle name @summersoclean. Eventually, she took up pole dancing at a strip club in Atlanta. As stated in an October 2019 Los Angeles Times article, writer Gerrick D. Kennedy states, “Walker has been singing since she was at least 15, influenced by straight-talking soul singers like Jazmine Sullivan and the late Amy Winehouse. She taught herself to play the guitar by watching YouTube videos and perfected her honeyed voice on covers she posted online when she wasn’t cleaning houses or dancing.”
Her lucky break finally came about after being discovered by Canadian rap legend Drake when he came across her cover of his song Fake Love. Drake asked to be featured on her latest track at the time, “Girls Need Love,” which can also be heard on her recent album. Collaborating not only with her equally successful boyfriend and producer London On Da Track, but the power couple has also managed to partner with music legends such as Drake, Bryson Tiller, Usher, PARTYNEXTDOOR, Jhené Aiko and more! As a result of all her efforts, on November 17, 2019, Summer won her first BET Soul Train Music Award for Best New Artist.
Incidentally, Summer garnered a large following due to her openness about her eccentricity and social anxiety. Due to her struggles with public speaking and large crowds, she has, unfortunately, had to cancel shows or turn down certain interviews. However, despite a lot of backlashes claiming, “she is just faking it for attention,” she has a special fanbase that adores her on a personal level for spreading awareness and representation of mental illness. In a YouTube interview with Billboard, she expressed that the title of the album and song Over It was inspired by her current mood: she is over the fame touring. Despite subtly hinting that she is leaning more towards quitting music due to stress and social anxiety, Summer and her boo London can constantly be seen on their Instagram page (@summerwalker). Not only making us single people jealous of their lovey-dovey relationship, the duo are also frequently seen cooking up some new musical treats for us in the studio. “Come Thru” and stay tuned, because Summer is sure to continue gracing us with her sultry southern voice in the coming year.
Next up, as social media is giving new independent artists unlimited platforms to convey the inner workings of their minds, this also gives way to new trends. Social media have aided many niche creators and performers in reaching fans across the globe in every subculture that may not have been accessible before. In light of this new technologically communicative era, some outlandish and quirky characters have emerged.
Unconventional and unbothered, the peculiar yet undeniably talented Philadelphian rapper Tierra Whack (again, yes, that is her real surname) broke into the music scene with her 15-minute long visual album titled Whack World. Her first freestyle rap was written at the age of 16 to Meek Mill’s hit song: “In My Bag.” Whack told Vice reporter Kristin Corry in June 2018, “me and Meek go way back. He was one of the first people to hit me up like, ‘Yo, you’re crazy.”
The Grammy-nominated artist dropped the iconic video on YouTube on May 30th of 2018, and as of December 2019, now has over 5 million views and counting, which could be considered quite impressive considering its unusual contents. For instance, in her music video for the song “Unemployed,” Whack can be seen chopping little sentient potato creatures into a meal that was ultimately served to a grotesque potato monster – for lack of a better description. Whack has stated that Whack World is meant to be enjoyed as part album, part conceptual art project. As was noted by Fader Magazine writer, Rawiya Kameir, in November 15th of 2018, Tierra reveals, “I just feel like it was a cool idea… It feels good… That’s what art is about: to create dialogue. Everybody deserves to have their own opinion.” Fans have been in search of a hint of a tour in the year 2020, but there hasn’t been word of one just yet.
Without fail, ending the year as one of the most powerful women in the world is Rihanna. If you don’t already know, Rihanna is a Barbadian singer/songwriter, actress, fashion designer, philanthropist, and entrepreneur who is known for many styles of music, as well as for her transformative and extensive career. With the help of rap mogul and now Def Jam Recordings CEO, Jay-Z, Rihanna was able to sign to the label shortly after moving to the United States in 2005, then burst into popularity with her debut album Music of the Sun. She started off with some Pop hits such as “Pon de Replay” and “S.O.S.” then branched off into R&B, Reggae, Dancehall and Hip-Hop. Rihanna has collaborated with countless musical talents, for instance, Eminem, SZA, Drake, Kanye West, Ne-Yo, and of course, Jay-Z.
Despite being the winner of countless awards (a few being Favourite Female R&B/Soul Album for her latest work ANTI for the 2016 American Music Awards and Best Collabo with DJ Khaled and Bryson Tiller on “Wild Thoughts” for the 2017 BET awards), Rihanna had some misgivings. That being said, the songstress expressed in the October 2011 issue of British Vogue, that her performance outfits and appearances are all an act. “That’s not me. That’s a part I play. You know, like it’s a piece of art, with all these toys and textures to play with.” Consequently, she eventually became the creative director of Puma, leading to the release of her first collaboration sneaker, which sold out within 3 HOURS of its launch! This only proved as foreshadowing for the launch of her own businesses: Fenty Beauty and Savage x Fenty.
Then, in September 2017, Rihanna launched her very own pro-diversity cosmetics brand starting with a 40-shade foundation line (now contains 50 shades), unique highlighters, contour sticks, lip glosses, etc. Also, by using herself as a model, Riri can be seen showing her fans, now clients, how to apply each product on her Instagram @balgalriri, educating them on how she creates certain looks. This launch was so successful, that not only was Fenty Beauty named one of Time Magazine’s best inventions of 2017, but also outsold Kylie Jenner’s Kylie Cosmetics with a recorded $72 million in earnings within the brand’s first month of launch!
In the following year of 2018, Rihanna then came out with her inclusive lingerie brand called Savage x Fenty. The concept of inclusivity propagates among all her products, not only with skin tones (ie. an array of nude underwear shades) but also displayed a variety of sizes, from XS to 3XL, during her initial showcase at New York Fashion Week in September of the same year. Surprisingly so, a year later at the same event, Fenty came back even harder and literally shut down the notorious Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show with their lingerie line, ultimately putting the extravagant annual permanently out of business! The Fenty show even saw a performance from the aforementioned Tierra Whack.
All in all, we can all admit that Rihanna is an all-around boss and looks to be neck-and-neck with Beyonce in that department. Boldly, she may be the closest thing we can get to having an ethereal presence here on earth, but what are her plans for the coming year? Rihanna has been hinting at a 9th studio album since just after the debut of ANTI, and also hinted in an interview with Alicia Adejobi from The Metro, in May 2019, that she has the desire to start a family with billionaire boyfriend Hassan Jameel. While we would love to see both of those things happen, you never really know with this bad gal, do you?
In short, it’s easy to see that women in music, art and fashion have been at the forefront of all things creative this year. Feminists around the world are keeping their eyes peeled for more from these gifted and brilliant minds. Since men have always had the limelight shine down on them with not as many feats to accompany their rhythmic prowess, it’s time we give these females the recognition they deserve and a little bit more. Although it would be a best-case scenario to see a couple of collaborations between the indisputably young and successful music moguls, I believe we’ll all feel fortunate enough if we just get to see that new album from Rihanna.
Haviah Mighty wins the 2019 Polaris Music Prize, September 2019, by CBC Music