When you’re Black and femme, you need all the anthems you can find.
I currently live in a suburb of the greater Boston area. However, I grew up a working-class child of Jamaican immigrants in both the Wakefield and Willamsbridge sections of the Bronx. I grew up near five beauty supply stores, a few Golden Krusts and a lot of hole-in-the-wall Chinese food restaurants.
Even though I needed to move to Boston, I still think about where I grew up and how that shaped me. Not only the place where I grew up, but also the people I hung out with and the music I listened to.
Here are some of the Black femme anthems that were part of my life growing up. They helped me get through tough times as someone who realized early on that the world would never be a safe place. They helped me understand who I was and be proud of the type of person that I was becoming.
Note: you don’t have to be a femme to appreciate these. And femme has a different definition for everyone.
1. “Queen of the Pack,” Patra (1993)
Murder meh wrote and meh nuh tek back meh chat
Shuffle deh deck meh a deh queen ina deh pack
This song came out the year I was born. But having a Jamaican teenage sibling in the household and Jamaican parents meant I heard this song way into my teens. I re-discovered this gem in my 20s and remembered why I loved it so much.
First of all, Patra is a gorgeous dark-skinned Jamaican woman who’s sure of herself and her sexuality. She took nothing less and didn’t even demand to be known as queen of the pack. To her, she already was — folks just had to listen. Second of all, can we please admire the fashion of 1990s Jamaica? Please.
2. “The Jump Off,” Lil’ Kim feat. Mr. Cheeks (2003)
We the best still there’s room for improvement
Our presence is felt like a Black Panther movement
Of course I was gonna mention fellow New York City native Lil’ Kim (she’s from Brooklyn). Also, I just had to make those the featured lyrics because that was clever as hell. Lil’ Kim has been going through some shit in the media, but to act like she wasn’t being listened to in the early 2000s is a lie. She left for a bit and then came back to produce this song.
Lil’ Kim was raunchy. That was one of the biggest things I appreciated about her. She talked about how could make a Sprite can disappear in her mouth and we all had to cover our ears. Lil’ Kim is still on of my favorites to listen to when I’m feeling like shit and unsure of myself. “The Jump Off” is an instant confidence booster.
Note: Mr. Cheeks does look like 2 Chainz.
3. “Superwoman,” Karyn White (1988)
I’m not your superwoman
I’m not the kind of girl
That you can let down
And think that everything is okay
Boy I am only human
My family put this song on blast at every function we went to. I never appreciated the message until I got older. And when I realized that my labor as a dark-skinned Black person being read a woman was underappreciated, I cried. This song, being sung by a dark skinned woman, definitely confirmed my feelings.
Everyone who needs some form of empowerment should listen to this song at least once in their life.