Photo: Jati Lindsay

HERstory Presents a Love Letter to Women in Hip-Hop

The culture of hip-hop has made it difficult for women to be respected the same way male artists are with its vulgar and misogynistic lyrics. Playwright Goldie E. Patrick’s “HERstory: Love Forever, Hip Hop” paints a picture of struggles women in the industry have experienced over time, while celebrating the legacies and trailblazers that have contributed to hip-hop culture. 

As the audience walked in and found their seats, a DJ played classic tracks, which brought people to their feet. WPGC 95.5 radio host Poet also walked around and asked the audience what hip-hop album or song made them fall in love with the genre. 

After seeing the production in its entirety, it’s easy to understand why that question was important. The atmosphere with classic hip-hop tracks playing brought people to their feet and set the stage for what the audience was going to learn. While a fun performance, it sparked an ongoing conversation on how the genre has positively and negatively connected people in various ways.

The production, performed on June 14-15, at the Kennedy Center pulls its inspiration from Common’s 1994 song “I use to Love H.E.R.” The narrative portrays hip-hop as a woman named H.E.R. who is in the hospital and in critical condition. The audience is introduced to four characters who all have some connection to the music, but through very different lenses. 

“HERstory” begins prologue by Ya girl, KK, played by Heather Gibson, who “spills the tea” on her social media about H.E.R. being in critical condition. As a former gossip columnist, Gibson’s character serves as a sort of female version of Perez Hilton. Her opening prologue proves how gossip on social media can negatively impact the public’s misconceptions on the personal lives of an artist, and how the media pits female artists against each other. 

Later on the audience is introduced to the four characters; Maxine, a die-hard fan; Eve, a passionate graduate student who has been in contact with H.E.R.; Lele, a music producer who’s worked with H.E.R.; and Isys, a former performer that has been H.E.R.’S life for some time.

The whole cast is successful on shedding light on issues, while still depicting the positive impact hip-hop culture has on female artists. Eve, played by Billie Krishawn, portrays an outsider and the youngest character. Unlike the other three, she is not in the industry, so all she knows is information filtered through the media or through her studies as a grad student. As the youngest and most optimistic character, through her the audience is reminded of how and why they first fell in love with the genre.

For more on playwright Goldie E. Patrick, visit www.goldiepatrick.com.

The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts: 2700 F St. NW, DC; 202-467-4600; www.kennedy-center.org