Why Asian Doll Getting Signed Matters: An Exploration of Colorism, Success, and Rap

In early April, Cupcakke tweeted “Most of these up & coming rappers only do numbers because they not dark Not because they talented & this is facts”. She’s not lying. Rap has an ugly way of downplaying (or erasing) female artists when they don’t exactly fit the mold. It’s obvious – all you have to do is look at your explore page and see lighter women, who possess little to no talent, going viral. If you just zoned in on these instances, you might miss out on all of the dark women who are putting in work.

Alice Walker, author of The Color Purple, coined the term “colorism” in the early 1980s. The writer described it as “prejudicial or preferential treatment of a same-race people based solely on their color.” Colorism is undoubtedly a major issue in the music industry – but people don’t always speak about it properly.

On June 12th, rapper Asian Doll announced that she had been signed to Gucci Mane’s 1017 Eskimo label. This is monumental because she is not only the first woman to be signed to the label, but she is also a dark skinned woman who was ignored by multiple mainstream outlets (such as Dazed and i-D) and had to work much harder to be heard. Her Fader debut wasn’t really hers, while her sophomore article was a catchall for all of the rapping Dolls. Meanwhile, her tourmate (who is not lightskinned, but white) was interviewed by Billboard days ago.

In addition to less amounts of immediate press, The 21-year-old Dallas native also was signed after rappers like Cuban Da Savage (it’s worth noting that Cuban was once Asian Doll’s “hypeman”) and Saweetie.

Saweetie’s success is particularly interesting because the majority of it was built on the back of a darker skinned Black woman. Her song “Icy Grl” utilizes the same beat as Khia’s “My Neck, My Back (Lick It)”, but Khia did not land a deal with Warner Bros. Records for her raunchy track. The strength of a single song has afforded Swaeetie many chances to shine, including coverage by Harper’s Bazaar and a cosign from Jay Z’s streaming service. I hope the issue has been resolved, since a remix of the song featuring Kehlani was released in late April, but Khia had things to say about sampling her music without permission earlier in the year.

A similar issue arose when Cardi B dropped her debut album Invasion of Privacy in April. It included a song called “Bickenhead” – a rework of Project Pat and La Chat’s 2001 song “Chickenhead”. There was no credit given to La Chat, who had two verses on the original song. La Chat fired back in a steamy statement of grievances and a “Who Run It” freestyle – accusing Cardi of copying her style. Again, a person with lighter skin took advantage of a dark skinned person’s labor and made a living off of it. The worst part was people asking who La Chat was, as if she doesn’t directly influence the Three Six Mafia career remake that’s been happening for several years.

In closing, colorism is a part of rap music that deserves more attention. It affects artists, point blank. Asian Doll getting signed does not mean that it’s over, or that we should stop talking about it. What it does mean is that she’s now in a position to create more of her own success (da doll way), as opposed to watching lighter female artists say and do things she’s done, just with a bigger platform.

Footnote

I couldn’t write about Asian Doll without mentioning her name and the controversy attached to it.

The argument that Asian Doll’s name is a reason why she was underpromoted is invalid. She actually spoke on this via Twitter last October.

I don’t know the details of her family history. Therefore, I’m not in a place to share a well thought out opinion on her name. If she isn’t Asian, then yeah, it’s wrong. But, then I’d have to start a conversation about relations and racism between the Black and Asian communities. What I do know for sure though, is that the masses are picky when it comes to choosing which upholders of cultural appropriation are bad enough to have a serious impact on their career. Bhad Bhabie and Brian (formerly known as Rich Chigga) are examples of this.

Also, be sure to give the following ladies their spins.

DonMonique

 

CupcakKe

 

Dreezy (and Kash Doll)

 

Tierra Whack

 

BbyMutha

 

Chika

 

Ahsh Eff

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