LittleSister has her game face on. She stands on The Opera House stage, surrounded by dozens of mostly male hip-hop heads as her beat comes across the loud speaker. With a quiet confidence, she nods her head and smiles. She likes what she hears, and by the looks of the faces of Battle of the Beat Makers’ celebrity judges Joell Ortiz, Sonny Digital and Metro Boomin’, so do they. It’s the second round and, one of only two female finalists, LittleSister, is up against Aaron Saunders. The judges raise their cards and the decision is final: LittleSister moves to the quarterfinals.
“Sometimes there are guys who second-guess me,” says 26-year-old LittleSister who has been producing for the last five years ever since she became fed up with producers she was working with as a singer and decided to start making her own beats. “I tell them I know what I’m doing and then they leave me alone. We could do something great, but that’s a loss for them, because if you want to act that way, you are losing out.”
“Sometimes there are guys who second-guess me.” – LittleSister
Just think what would have happened if the industry shut out 17-year-old Mississauga, Ontario producer phenom, WondaGurl, winner of 2012’s Battle of the Beat Makers (BBM). WondaGurl, the second female winner in BBM history, went on to earn production credits on Jay-Z’s Magna Carta Holy Grail, for “Crown”. And though she doesn’t deny sexism exists in the industry, she is determined not to let it hold her back. Instead, she is paving the way for producers like LittleSister.
“It feels really good to be a female producer,” WondaGurl shares, backstage at BBM between rounds. “It seems like people have more respect for me because I’m female.”
Vancouver-native, EveKey, the second female producer in this year’s competition, is striving to achieve a similar confidence as WondaGurl in the male-dominated music business. Particularly early on in her career, EveKey admits to feeling an increased pressure to prove herself as a female producer. This was difficult to deal with, but with time, she grew past these fears. So much so, that she entered this year’s beat battle and flew across the country to compete as a finalist. For her, BBM represents an opportunity to prove she is a talented and dedicated beat maker.
“When I started off, I found it was negative to be a female producer,” says a reserved EveKey, who plays smooth, laidback beats throughout the night. “Now that I have improved my craft, I discovered it is not about my gender, but about my skills.”
And EveKey, along with LittleSister, receives nothing but love during the battle for just that: skills. Despite the fact that neither of them wins, their impression is felt. “EveKey played one of the top three beats tonight,” says ATL super producer Sonny Digital. “In my opinion, [LittleSister] played one of the top beats tonight,” adds Joell Ortiz, one-fourth of Slaughterhouse.
In Ortiz’s opinion there are both positives and negatives to being a female in the game. Most importantly, he stresses the need to be aware. “It’s rough for women in the hip-hop scene,” he says. “Stay away from the [snakes]. Stay true to yourself. The road is gonna be rougher, but you can use that to your advantage because there is less competition and it’s more noticeable.”
Words & Photos By. Kaeleigh Phillips