Witch Prophet lists 30 women leading the Toronto rap game

"I wanted people to be excited about the homegrown talent and abundance of women in our scene."

LAL, WITCH PROPHET, OBUXUM and FANNY GALORE at the Rivoli (334 Queen West), Friday (January 26), 9 pm. $10-$15. ticketfly.com. See listing.

When a local performance by Brooklyn rapper Young M.A was announced earlier this month, Ayo Leilani noticed a ton of enthusiasm on social media. Leilani, better known as the experimental performer/organizer Witch Prophet, was as excited as anyone, but started to wonder why such a moment of communal celebration felt so rare. 

“It made me wonder if Toronto even realizes that we also have really great women leading the rap game,” she explains. “So I decided to post about everyone I knew of, to share that knowledge. I wanted the same people who were very excited for Young M.A to be just as excited about the homegrown talent and abundance of women in our rap scene.”

Over the next five hours she name-checked over 30 different artists: foundational figures like Michie Mee, nascent superstar Tasha the Amazon, fellow 88 Days of Fortune crew members like Yasmine, our own One To Watch Layla Hendrix and many others from all over the GTA. 

The response was immediate and effusive. As messages poured in to thank her for the education and enlightenment, she realized that she wasn’t exactly surprised to learn that some of these artists are underexposed. 

“If you look at the hip-hop scene today you can find and read about hundreds of mediocre cis male rappers, yet when it comes to womxn/LGBTQ2/non-binary artists, we have to be exceptional, and god forbid there be more than one at a time in the spotlight.” 

What is she hoping the list accomplishes? 

“The responses made me realize just how important and needed my work with 88 Days of Fortune is,” she says, referring to the promotional collective and record label she founded almost a decade ago. “We need more organizations/labels/booking agencies to step up and shake their rosters up. There is more than enough room for everyone.”

When asked about what form some of this activism could take, she replies without hesitation, and her response is worthy of another tweet stream. 

“Pay attention to the scenes. Support us by writing about us. Pay us properly for our time and talents. Give us better set times. Respect our expertise and lived experiences. Drop your notions of what a female hip-hop artist must be/look like/ sound like/rap about. Recognize that this isn’t a fad, and that there is a genuine market that wants to see many different representations of ‘womxn’ in music/rap.”

To this we’d like to add one other piece of advice: listen to Witch Prophet when she talks about music and community. 

See Witch Prophet’s recommendations here: 

music@nowtoronto.com | @streetsbag

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