Celebrating 50 years of hip hop, Atlanta’s One Music Fest in Atlanta’s Piedmont Park brought out female artists from the inception of the genre to celebrate their impact on the music industry. The ladies’ first set on Sunday featured three of these rap legends who each have had monumental impacts that have reverberated even into current music. Trina, Yo-Yo, and The Lady of Rage ruled the stage drawing in a crowd of thousands at their 3:15 p.m. set time.
Compared to similar sets at the festival even at later times at larger stages, The Ladies’ First performance outperformed by a large margin. The predominantly female audience ranged from teens to people in their 50s and 60s, all of whom seemed to know the lyrics to the songs.
With the artists all performing within 45 minutes, the three women were pressed for time — only able to perform a few songs each from their vast catalog of music. Regardless, they took full advantage of the time they had, drawing chants from the audience and using backup dancers to keep audience spirits up.
Yo-Yo and The Lady of Rage overlapped their performances slightly, each hyping the other up on stage, re-establishing their significance in the music industry through name drops and frequent hints back to the 1980s and 1990s.
Trina went last. The Billboard Music Award-winning artist came out clad in a hot pink sequined outfit and had backup dancers in a similar, but skimpier getup. Dancers twerked to elicit cheers from each side of the stage (left, middle, right), before finally welcoming Trina in with the first song, “Bitch From Da Souf (Remix)”, which she featured on alongside Latto in 2020. The song is now her number-one hit by a long run, outpacing solo work by 48,000 listeners on Spotify.
Her earlier hits, undoubtedly less popular today, still drew cheers and loud singing from the audience. While she made time to honor her past work in the music industry, Trina reminded the crowd that there’s a new generation of women in rap. She played songs from Sexxy Red and City Girls to drum up the crowd incrementally between hits of her own.
At the tail end of her set, Yo-Yo expressed gratitude for her spot at the festival, thanking her publicist and agent for the chance to perform again. In fact, all three artists were beyond thankful for being able to sing past hits to a lively audience.
For a festival focused on bringing back rap legends, why do female pioneers of the industry have to take the smaller stages at less desirable times? Janet Jackson’s presence as a headliner was a good start, but if artists with less popularity but similar impacts are forced to contend with ill-treatment from festivals, what does that really say about improvements for women in the music industry?
I can only imagine how many more people might have shown up for the set if it had been just an hour or two later. Or how much more enjoyable the performances might have been if the three artists weren’t pressed to share a 45-minute block of time. The interest in female rappers is clear if audiences were willing to head out to the festival around lunchtime to make it to the set, long before most artists were set to go on. To truly give these women their flowers, we have to give them the space and time they need to perform their hits. It’s not enough to just throw three women together on a stage for a few minutes, they need to be given the respect that equals their unparalleled talents and influence.