JaiCe Stinton '18
Siena College’s 4th Annual Hip Hop Week, The Blueprint: History, Herstory, Ourstory, invited legendary female icon, Sha-Rock, to campus on Wednesday March 20. The Sarazen Student Union was packed with Siena students, community members and faculty listening to the first female emcee speak about her struggle and success in the hip hop industry.
Sha-Rock appeared very at home behind the mic talking to the audience about her breakout on the hip hop stage as a “B-girl,” also known as a breakdancer, and then climbing the ranks to earn her spot as one of the best emcees to ever live. Sha-Rock didn’t stop there though; she soon became the first female to score a record deal, first female in an all male group, first group to rap on national television and first artist to use the echochamber.
Sha-Rock grew up in the South Bronx and took to the streets because of her passion and love for hip hop. She recalled her parents playing all different types of music and she wanted to include all of the various elements in her own music. Sha-Rock was inspired by many different artists, such as Millie Jackson and James Brown, while producing music. As a B-girl, she would travel to whatever venue she could and help set up, promote the performing group and dance. In 1976, Sha-Rock and other breakdancers began to grow and expand their craft to include emcee. Three years later, Sha-Rock was one of the strongest females emcees who challenged the men in the industry and produced a record with an all men’s group, The Funky Four Plus-One-More. Three more years after that, Funky Four Plus-One-More was the first “street rappers” to earn an appearance on Saturday Night Live, hosted by Deborah Harry.
“One of my proudest moments was being on SNL. We were able to show everyone on national television what the Bronx could do. I was able to show what a female could do. You have to remember that women were always there on the front lines with the men. I was never looked at as a female, I was just another emcee and had to be better than the males.”
Sha-Rock was told as a child by her mother, “You’re only as good as they see you at the moment. You never know who’s watching, you gotta give it your all the first time around.” This philosophy pushed Sha-Rock to perform at every appearance to the best of her ability. Yet, her faith reminded her to remain humble and thankful.
Sasha Bentley ’18 and Elmer Chavez ’18, members on the board for Hip Hop Week, believe “Hip Hop Week promotes inclusivity, diversity and awareness. Events like these aren’t here that often and this untraditional learning experience attracts different cultures to celebrate together. People get to hear these stories first hand and listen to pioneers. We structured this week around Herstory because Sha-Rock is a leader in her field and we are inspired by her story.”