The reaction to Cardi B’s pregnancy last year highlighted a longstanding debate among some fans about women’s struggle to maintain successful careers in a male-dominated genre. After 40 plus years in existence, women artists in hip hop are still considered a “niche” group in a broad artform where few get recognition for their talent. If you’re a rapper and a mother, the stakes are even higher. Expectations of how to portray yourself are more of a barrier to entry than an opportunity.
Underground hip-hop artist BbyMutha has been fighting this battle for years, but the 28-year-old also represents a shift in how we think about working mothers and women in hip hop. The Chattanooga native, whose real name is Brittnee Moore has been releasing music for five years, but last year, her single “Rules” on EP “Glow Kit: Blk Girl” became a social media crowd favorite. The song garnered buzz that wasn’t life changing, but piqued a lot of interest in a female rap “new comer.” But what makes BbyMutha intriguing isn’t just the racy lyrics, colorful wigs or penchant for the pop culture nerd zeitgeist; It’s her creative decision not to expunge motherhood from her image.
When BbyMutha isn’t posting music updates for her 23k followers on Instagram or recording a new project, she’s a mother of four. Everything from her stage name to the boisterous interludes of her children in her music are inspired by her life as an artist and mother.
Her rise in the underground hip hop scene has also meant dealing with the vitriol and challenges women already face in a male dominated industry. In hip hop, even the way we talk about women artists flattens their content and style.“ Artists like Nicki Minaj or Cardi B are celebrated for their undeniable sex appeal. Other artists like Fatimah Warner, also known as Noname, who don’t fit that mold always have to challenge being called the “Anti-Cardi B” by fans on social media.”
Artists who embraced their sexuality before becoming mothers are expected to tone it down or face backlash in ways that their male peers do not. Critiques about an artist’s music can also quickly devolve into pointed attacks about how child rearing has negatively affected their music. Despite a platinum selling debut album, record breaking singles and a slew of music awards, many still prophesied that Cardi B’s career would be over because she had a baby.
Cardi B. and BbyMutha are by no means similar in their sound or style but are part of a small group of women in hip hop pushing the envelope on what black women who are mothers can accomplish in hip hop music.
BbyMutha got candid with About Us on what it means to rewrite the rules about black motherhood and artistry in her image.
About US: So what has it been like trying to pursue music and raise a family?
BbyMutha: It’s been an adventure. I’ve had children since I was like 17 years old so I have never had the luxury of not being able to do anything without them. I don’t necessarily balance it, they’re just intertwined.
About US: What do you mean by intertwined? Do you often feel like there needs to be a separation between your career and your family?
BbyMutha: Most of the time I don’t really look at them as children. I look at them as people and I look at them as extensions of art. So when it comes to making my music, of course, I include them in that or when it comes to like having to figure out how to get them situated when I go out of town[ for a show]. It’s just a part of the process. It gets so stressful sometimes [but] it’s almost like an adrenaline rush and when I have adrenaline rushes I can make music.
About US: You’ve featured your children on a few tracks. How do you take your day to day and make it part of your creative process?
BbyMutha: It’s kind of like a method that I use to keep from going insane because I’m at home with toddlers all day. What I started doing to remind myself that “Hey, you aren’t a bad parent” because sometimes I’d would start feeling like I’m a bad parent. What I would do is sit with my voice recorder on my phone and I would just record my day. At the end of the day, I’ll just play back what I’ve recorded and enjoy the fact that my kids are smart and interesting and cool. It reminds me that I am the parent that I wish I had. So that’s where my sound bites come from, my daily recordings.
About US: Why the name BbyMutha? Were you ever worried about the negative connotations it often has for black women?
BbyMutha: When you get told so many times in your life after you have kids that it’s all you’re ever going to be. Because you have kids all you ever gonna be is a parent, all you ever going to be is a baby mama, ain’t nobody going to want to marry you because you have four kids. When you get tired of hearing that, you look at it and go “Damn, maybe that’s all that I am.” And I just kind of had to break myself out of that. I knew there were things that I wanted to do with my life and I wasn’t about to let the fact that I had kids stop me from doing it. So that’s why I chose the name.
About US: So many times when a new rapper comes into the picture people have a lot of snap judgments about who they should be compared to. How have you dealt with that and stayed grounded as an artist?
BbyMutha: It’s not fair. it’s not fair to me and it’s not fair to the artist that you’re speaking of. I don’t even actively try to be different from everybody else, but I am different. Why is me sounding like BbyMutha not good enough? Why do I have to be the next CuppcaKKe or the next Cardi B? Or why do I have to be trying to be Nicki Minaj? I’m really just not trying to do any of that. I’m really just trying to make music.
About US: Would you say that your music is for empowering for black women?
BbyMutha: I don’t want to say that because I feel like my music can be used to empower anybody. I am a woman so I can only speak from the perspective of a woman. So when I’m rapping all of these raps are personal, I’m not just making up stories. These are my personal experiences.
About US: How does being a black woman influence your music? Would you characterize some of your lyrics on tracks like “Lilith” or “Rules” as having a feminist undercurrent?
BbyMutha: It sucks that because I’m an artist people feel like I have to. I hate making my personal life about politics. Of course, it’s political. I’m a Black woman in America. But that’s not the primary point of it and it kind of sucks because it has to be so on point and so correct. Because even if you’re not meaning to exclude an entire group of people you’re still doing that in some kind of a way. Everybody’s art is representative of something that has gone on in this country.
About US: So what would you say your music representative of?
BbyMutha: My music is representative of black girls with children in the hood that’s just trying to navigate through life as that. But that’s because that’s where I am. That’s not to say that my music is just only for black girls. But I can only rap about what I am. I’m not one of those people that could just make songs about my car or my shoes. I can, but my music is therapeutic for me. if I can help other people in the meantime then that’s great, that’s amazing. But I really make music for me.