Kim Osorio is known being the first female Editor-in-Chief of the “hip hop bible,” the Source. In a time when females weren’t in a position of power in the hip hop, Osorio made tremendous strides in the industry for women. She has and continues to play an influential role for females in the world of hip hop.
In addition to music, the veteran hip hop journalist has written and produced content for media giants like VH1, BET and more.
I was lucky enough have the chance to sit and talk with Kim Osorio to discuss the status of females in hip hop, while being one of the first to get some details about her upcoming projects.
You’ve been in the business a long time; how has the status of women in hip hop changed since you first started in the industry?
Kim Osorio: It’s hard to say whether or not the status of women has changed in this particular industry. As women we are still fighting for things like equal pay and treatment. Sometimes I have to re-examine the way I do things, because I think “Am I being treated a certain way in this business situation because I’m a woman?” I don’t know if that comes from my own hang-ups or if it’s really the truth. When I speak to a lot of women, they feel the same way. I still feel that there’s this uphill battle as women to be respected in the industry.
It’s different; I do feel like the objectification of women, even in entertainment and pop culture hurt us on the business end. A lot of women who have gone that route [objectification] became very successful with it. We’re in the day in age of the “Instagram model” and we can scroll through pictures, and be judgmental in the decisions women are making. At the end of the day if they end up super successful with book and movie deals, and more based on posting naked photos on social media, then it says something to us women who don’t do that.
It creates more of a challenge for us to become successful in our own right. For example, as a writer I look at people and how they get a book deal, you have to weigh all of that. There are so many different factors that we struggle with as women in the industry and these challenges make it harder for us.
So I don’t know if I would say that status of women in hip hop has changed, but I can’t say it’s always been like that, because I wasn’t in the position I’m in now 20-30 years ago. When I came into the industry I definitely dealt with things that I felt challenged me and until this day I’m still dealing with that. I can only hope that it is going to change.
At one time females dominated the hip hop charts. After Salt n Peppa, MC Lyte and Queen Latifah paved the way; hip hop artists like Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Da Brat, Eve and Missy Elliot held it down for women in hip hop. Do you think we will ever get to that point again?
Kim Osorio: I think we will get to that point. It’s going to take more talent from women in hip hop and women who are in the position of power or who want to be in the position of power to help us get back to that point.
There’s a lot of reasons why things have changed. When you look at the business and the money it takes to move females around, it takes a lot more money to develop and put out a female artist than it does a male artist, particularly in hip hop.
You can’t put a female artist out that isn’t fashionable, hair and makeup ready; it’s so costly. You can take a guy off the street with the way he looks at that moment and turn him into a hip hop superstar with that same appearance. You can’t do that with women, so I think that expectation has hurt female artists.
No one wants to invest anymore, the money that was circulating during the hip hop renaissance period isn’t there anymore. At one time there was all of this money coming in and the commercial era was ushered into the industry. There was a lot of money being spent on different things, so it was OK to sign off on budgets for female artists. Now everyone is tight with their budgets and you really have to do it yourself, so no one wants to put a female artist on. I think that is one of the reasons why we don’t see more female rappers in hip hop.
Another reason why is because I think that we are limited in the perspectives that become popular. The popular perspective is this “I look good” female. We don’t have male artists in hip hop who dominate the industry talking about anything other than that one female image. If the most popular male hip hop artist was constantly putting a smart, overweight woman with glasses on and a not-so-fly look in their videos, maybe we would think that is the popular woman and gravitate towards that image. Every time we hear about women in a song it’s always about “This is what we want.” It’s almost as if this certain female perception is programmed into us. It’s a now a norm in our community.
Do you think a female rapper can still succeed without resorting to sex appeal?
Kim Osorio: Yeah, I think she has to be REALLY good. She has to give these dudes a run for their money on a lyrical and songwriting level. Nicki Minaj is one of the best, she’s neck and neck with a lot of the guys and is better than most male rappers that are out now when you look at her talent.
For us to leave that sex appeal behind, that’s going to be hard, she has to be extremely talented. I don’t know if she’s out there, I hope she is. I’ve seen some really good, promising artists, but it has to be the whole package. If it’s not going to be sex appeal, it has to be another image that works for us and that is accepted by our community. It has to be marketed and promoted, there’s a lot that goes into it.
At one time artists and fans felt as if hip hop was dying. Do you think that’s still the case or has hip hop been reincarnated?
Kim Osorio: I think it’s reincarnated, I don’t think hip hop was really ever dying. It was a cool thing to say at one point, because it lost of a lot of the essence it was founded on. I feel like there were moments in the ’90s and over the last couple of years where we saw hip hop going back to its roots, because you get tired of what you’re seeing.
There was a time where the “shiny suit” era was hot and everyone loved it. Then it got to the point where we didn’t want shiny suits anymore. Were shiny suits really that bad? No, they provided a fun, happy feel to hip hop. It was colorful, commercial, but then no one wanted that anymore. Maybe that will happen with sex appeal. I’m hoping eventually we will get sick of it, but that’s a hard battle. I don’t think a lot of men in hip hop want to get rid of sex appeal.
There’s no denying that the South took hip hop by storm and has been for a few years now, do you think the North will ever dominate hip hop charts again the way they used to?
KO: Yeah, I think we have to be comfortable with our own sound. Certain artist were mimicking the Southern sound because it felt good, it was new. It’s been a while since the South has been dominating hip hop. The East and West had its time, the South had/has its time. I think it’s time for a new sound. Hip hop always reinvents itself, for instance now it’s more of a North meets South sound.
There’s been an influx of new artists in hip hop, do you have a favorite new artist?
KO: I love Fetty Wap. I do, I have to admit that. Even though I only heard one song at the time I became a fan I still really like him.
I have seen a lot of new talent online, but nobody that stands out. I saw Fetty Wap on YouTube before he got put on and I was like “Who is this person?” I’m always moved by a story, so all the questions about his eye had me interested. It made me do my research. I like a hot beat and some lyrics, but I’m really into “The Story.”
If I’m going into an app on my phone, I’ll pick old school music and listen to ’90s hip hop all day. Music is my first love, it’s what I started writing about, but I’m more of a TV girl now.
Speaking of TV you have a few upcoming projects. Can you tell us a little bit about what they are?
KO: I’ve been writing a lot so I have a scripted series I’ve been working on. I’ve worked on it for a couple of years and now I’m really at the point where it could go! So we’re shopping it right now. I’ve also written some treatments and I’ve shopped around for other show ideas, and I’m heavily involved with people that have the same vision (so to speak).
You had a lot of success with your book “Straight from the Source,” can we expect another book from Kim Osorio in the near future?
KO: Yes, I’m working in another project, again it’s something that I’ve been working on for a while. It’s a novel. I wanted to be creative, so that’s a really big focus of mine.
I have another project that I’m collaborating with someone on, so we’ll see how things go. No big announcements right now. There are a few things that are coming and I’m excited about them.
Follow Kim Osorio on Twitter