Ivorian Doll has been a rising star in the UK rap scene and now may even be set for transnational success, but where would she fare better?
During an Instagram Live back in August, New York rapper DreamDoll revealed she would be collaborating with London’s very own Ivorian Doll in the near future. Whether the plans are still in motion due to Covid-19, I don’t know, but an opportunity like this would be a great move for the UK artist who has consistently been met with criticism surrounding her brand, more specifically the message conveyed in her first single “Rumours”. At face value, people interpret it as an embarrassing admission of Ivorian Doll’s sexual activity but the lyrics address the fact that these are all, as the title says, just rumours. These rumours that “she banged half the block” however concern a deeper theme around Black women and sexuality in music.
The Jezebel, Sapphire, and Baby Mama have all been common portrayals of Black women in rap. But these portrayals often come from a male perspective, a man who is applauded for the number of girls he’s slept with and who reaps the benefits of being associated with “hoes, bitches and thots”. What is considered acceptable for a man is translated as hyper-sexualised for a Black woman, they are labelled as lascivious beings who are promiscuous or have “been around the block”. This is why I don’t and won’t blame IVD for capitalising on the rumours circulating about her.
For me, Rumours has enabled IVD to simultaneously silence the lies AND secure the bag. Rumours became records and records became royalties. The video itself now has over 5 million views on Youtube. So, the question is, can IVD’s success continue? The star has had multiple successes since including her own single Body Bag and her various features with artists such as RAY BLK and Br3nya. But still, I believe her music will have a better reception in America and here’s why: The UK music scene hasn’t evolved to the inclusive and sexually liberated space that the US has.
Whenever I see an instagram post of an up and coming female rapper’s music, it is usually followed by a comment about how she should rap about Fenty, or how she has no self-respect, or how she should be in the kitchen or how they hope they never have a daughter. The list goes on but these are just a few examples of the misogyny in UK music. American artists have this “ratchet” aesthetic that is acceptable to the UK consumer but once it’s one of their own, it’s considered a deviancy, something inappropriate or crude and a reason to slut-shame. DreamDoll herself is known for her time on VH1’s 16th season of Bad Girls Club, it was her behaviour and personality on the reality show and social media that made her marketable. Yet IVD’s various viral beefs before she was even in the industry have led some to completely disregard her work as an artist.
In all honesty, I consider overt sexual behaviour as still relatively taboo in the UK. Female artists in the US dominate their sexual agency by narrating their own sexual endeavours, rather than allowing the male myopic viewpoint to speak autonomously on sex and the female body. This display of sexual dominance can be recognised in the works of Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, Nicki Minaj and the City Girls. But the real turning point in music was the notorious single “WAP” by artists Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. The song's lyrics and message sparked heated debates around female sexuality both in music and society. Yet, despite all its controversy, the general consensus seems to be that it promotes female independence and empowerment, a mindset the UK rap scene just hasn’t reached yet and I don’t think it will for a while.
UK rap is still characterised by chiefly male consumers who don’t particularly want to hear about sex from the female viewpoint or hear from them at all. A song with DreamDoll would be a great feat for IVD’s first transnational collaboration, she fits the niche that Americans can get on board with more so than UK consumers. For many UK artists, they never achieve stardom and rarely garner recognition in the US, however, IVD has the drill sound and the personality that Americans appreciate.