Women in hip-hop have always had to fight twice as hard to be heard, and it all started with the first female rapper in hip-hop history, MC Sha-Rock.
Sha-Rock, whose real name is Lolita Shanté Gooden, was born and raised in the Bronx, New York. She grew up in the midst of the burgeoning hip-hop scene of the 1970s, where she became known for her dynamic and energetic performances as a dancer.
“I didn’t get my start until 1976,” she recalled in an interview. “I started out as a B-girl. I used to travel all over the Bronx just to hear those breakbeats and wait for the DJ, along with other B-girls and B-boys, that would play those breakbeats that would just have us just rocking and jumping all up and down and hitting the floors.”
She quickly gained a reputation for her showmanship, and it wasn’t long before she was discovered by one of the early pioneers of hip-hop, DJ Kool Herc, and shortly after became the first female rapper in hp hop history.
In 1979, Sha-Rock joined the Funky Four + One, a groundbreaking rap group that also included KK Rockwell, DJ Jazzy Jay, Sha-Rock, and DJ Charlie Chase. They were one of the first groups to incorporate rapping into their performances, and Sha-Rock quickly became a standout member of the group.
Sha-Rock made her debut on the group’s first single, “Rappin’ and Rockin’ the House,” which became an underground hit. Her dynamic flow and powerful stage presence quickly made her a fan favorite, and she continued to impress audiences with her energetic performances.
Sha-Rock: The Funky 4 was very instrumental in being able to create different avenues of what made hip hop culture today. We were the first group to have a female MC, which was myself. We were the first group to wear graffiti on our clothing. We were the first group along with Grandmaster Flash and The Furious Five at that time to create the MC rap battles. Meaning that we were rhyming against each other, we would do dance routines, we would have smoke machines. Whoever show was better than the next show or their rhyming skills and routines were better than the next group, we would allow the crowd to be able to judge who would win. I also was the first female MC with an all-female security and the first all-female hype crew. What they would do is that if I would say a rhyme and my all female-security would go out in the crowd and get people to sing along with me and repeat what I say.MC Sha-Rock : “We, as women, helped build hip hop culture” | Madame Rap
Despite her contributions to the genre, Sha-Rock has never received the recognition she deserves, and is rarely mentioned in conversations about the greatest female MCs in history. She is often overlooked in discussions of hip-hop history, even though she was the first woman to break through the glass ceiling and pave the way for other female rappers.