In an age when the leading female hip-hop artist has crossed over to be a pop cultural icon, it may be hard to grasp the significance of one Ramona Scott, aka Ms. Melodie, the old school rapper who died Tuesday. The Flatbush-born artist only had one album, which didn’t sell many units. She wasn’t a sex starlet like Lil’ Kim or a transcendent performer like Queen Latifah.
But in the mid 1980s, when there were only a few female rappers of consistent note not named Salt, Pepper, Lyte or Roxanne Shanté, you can’t help but think of Melodie now as her own kind of hip-hop pioneer who often gets lost in the shuffle. Like other now-forgotten female rappers like Boss and Nikki D (who came along a little later), there were no gimmicks to her game or extra flourishes to try and make her more than what she was: about the rhyme and how to hang with the boys (and perhaps a few fur coats). And she often used her words to challenge what was becoming an increasing trend of violence in urban communities.
Here’s her lick from the 1989 classic, Self Destruction:
I'm Ms. Melodie and I'm a born again rebel
The violence in rap must cease and settle
If we want to develop and grow to another level
We can't be guinea pigs for the devil
The enemy knows, they're no fools
Because everyone knows that hip-hop rules
So we gotta get a grip and grab what's wrong
The opposition is weak and rap is strong
Ms. Melodie, 43, will always be associated with her ex-husband, Kris Parker, KRS-ONE and the power of Boogie Down Productions, which produced all of her singles and her one album. Like most of the artists those days, both male and female, she was trying to figure out how to turn what was then a looked-down-upon talent of self expression into a viable artistic career. And if nothing else, she has to be remembered as one of the first of solo female rappers who trailblazed - and as part of a generation of artists that kicked off the golden age of hip-hop.