Goldee the Murderess sits primly on a swivel chair at East Oakland's Peekaboo Studios, squinting into a gold-plated pocket mirror as she reapplies her glittery gold eyeliner. The West Oakland-born rapper favors one color: big gold hoop earrings, a gold headband, a gold Marilyn Monroe stud, a gold barbell in her tongue, bell-bottom pants slung low to reveal the lace edge of her gold leopard-print panties, a gold coiled belt, a gold suede coat with faux-fur lining, gold high-heeled sandals, two gold chain necklaces (the one inherited from her deceased father bears a gold crucified Jesus), and, to top it all off, two gorgeous gold teeth. She has pieces of a five-dollar bill enameled on her fingernails and toenails -- she saw it done with a one-dollar bill, decided to step it up to five, and says she'll eventually do twenty. She has a tattoo of a CD on her left bicep, with the words "Goldee the Murderess" scrolled across the middle in cursive. On her right bicep, a music staff with a treble clef and three notes, to symbolize her father. On her right forearm, three Chinese characters, which stand for "Love," "Luck," and "Trust no one."
With a few clicks of his computer's mouse, Goldee's producer, Fred White, aka Fred Funk, cranks up a crusty boom-and-slap track that sounds as stark and naked as any beat from Run DMC or T La Rock. When she hears the beat reverberate off the walls in Fred's tiny studio, Goldee's face melts into a look of sheer homicidal glee. In a voice so cruel and jagged it sounds as though the MC spent most of her life swallowing knives, she raps: The left trigger muscle has never lost in a tussle, so put the fuckin' cash in that bag/I'll put yo' self in a titanium body bag/So choke on that thought/I'm Goldee the Murderess leavin' my enemies outlined in chalk -- so dig that.
Granted, the 35-year-old has plenty to be angry about. When Goldie was eighteen, a man murdered her sister in the culmination of an abusive relationship. Her ex-boyfriend -- who fathered her eleven-year-old daughter, Andreanna -- is serving an indefinite jail sentence for a violent crime that "he says he didn't do, and I don't want to get in no more shit with his ass," the MC hisses. At a recent Hittaz on the Payroll concert in downtown Oakland, a friend of seven years told her he couldn't talk to her anymore, because he's a pimp now. "I ain't never written a nice song for a gentleman, because ain't no man ever given me a reason to, and that's the truth," Goldee claims resolutely.
Thus, Goldee's raps consistently involve taking revenge and turning the tables on men through violence. Yet there's a discord between Goldee the person -- who wears all gold, enjoys working at a retirement center, and loves shopping -- and Goldee the rapper, who makes more death threats, and sounds more convincingly menacing, than many of her male gangsta counterparts.
In fact, the divide between the two Goldees is so pronounced that the MC habitually refers to her alter ego in the third person: "People think that because I wear gold and got gold teeth, I'm gonna be this sweet-ass woman, and talk about how everything is beautiful in my fucking life," she says. "But don't let the smooth look fool you: Goldee the Murderess is all about pain. Goldee is the truth like a motherfucker." Via hip-hop, Goldee revisits her relationships with the men who've abused her, yet she keeps bumping up against the limits of a medium that is misogynist at its core. It's difficult to cultivate a flamboyant, ghetto-Nefertiti personality in a scene populated by pimps, dickslingers, and barrio Lotharios.
After all, gangsta rap is notorious for defiling women. Yet, it's also a space where women such as Goldee, San Francisco MC Mak Diddy, and the older and more experienced Conscious Daughters are struggling to represent themselves. Understandably, it's hard for them to resist indulging in a little defiling themselves.
"Female rappers are virtually extinct," says Special One the Mic Strangler, one-half of the group Conscious Daughters. "I'll meet female MCs who can rap tight, but then they quit because their boyfriends get jealous when they go to the studio to work with male producers, or because they have to raise families."
On a recent Wednesday, Special One drives down the I-880 freeway toward downtown Oakland, on her way to record a promotional snippet for The Block Report, a program on hip-hop station Power 92.7. She's wearing sagging shorts, impeccable black tennis shoes, and a long jacket with the Guerrilla Funk Recordings logo printed across the back. She turns her head toward a car rolling up beside her, driven by a young platinum blonde with two poodles leaning out the passenger-side window. "Hi, beautiful," Special One flirts. When the woman looks over and smiles back, the MC snaps, "I was talking to the dogs."
"Man, I love bitches," the rapper chuckles as the other car jets off. "They're so cute."
Conscious Daughters launched their rap career in the '80s, around the same time as female hip-hop outfits such as Female Fonk, Marvaless, Oaktown 357, Suga T, and Sonia C. Although female DJs had little presence in the scene back then -- Female Fonk's Pam the Funkstress was a glowing exception -- many crews kept a token woman around to hype the crowd before shows.
While aspiring female rappers faced fewer technological obstacles than their peers in the DJ scene, it was difficult for them to get on the radar solo. Dovanna Dean, cofounder of the woman-owned production company UMA, says the demands of family often prevented female rappers from hanging out in the studio until 3 a.m., when lots of recording gets done. And frankly, it was hard for a female MC to front like a mack daddy in a room full of rapping misogynists. Granted, there were a few exceptions -- rare female ballers like Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Salt-N-Pepa, who acted macho enough to convince audiences that they weren't covering up an inner soft side. Yet none of those women seemed to usher younger female MCs up through the ranks. In fact, it served women better to be individual and not invite competition from their peers. As Special One's musical partner CMG remembers, "Women just really didn't sell back then -- you had to have something that really stood out about you. For us, it was the gangsta thing."