August 2023 marks the 50th anniversary of hip-hop — a genre that has since become a billion-dollar industry beloved by people across the globe.
While there are forefathers of the genre, it is equally as important to note the women who have pioneered spaces within the industry –those like Free Marie, a former artist and renowned host of BET’s “106 & Park.”
Her Love For Hip-Hop
“I always look at it like I’m this little Black girl from Boston who got plucked out of Boston and put in the middle of hip-hop,” Marie told AfroTech following her panel to celebrate hip-hop through Amazon Music’s “50 & Forever” campaign during the second annual Strength of A Woman Festival & Summit in Atlanta, GA. “I love hip-hop and I love music, so it actually makes a lot of sense. Hip-hop’s legacy is strong and long and I’m just literally happy to be a part of it.”
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Previously, AfroTech reported on another industry Marie is familiar with — technology.
However, during our interview with her, she opened up about how the evolution of hip-hop helped to pull her out of a place in the technology industry where she felt alone.
Unfortunately, feelings of being the “lonely only” is not uncommon in the tech industry.
Connecting Technology And The Music
“It goes hand in hand so much,” she noted when asked about the evolution of both technology and the music genre. “At the time, when I was doing tech, I was an admin for a law foundation that was an environmental law foundation, and I was going to school and I’m in these classes and this woman that looks like me is teaching, I went to Boston University, and I’m teaching people computers and I’m doing classes in it, but I felt very alone, right?”
She continued: “When hip-hop started evolving past just like CDs, they began to tell us like, ‘Oh, this runs off of it. Everything about hip-hop is digital now, so it’s interesting to see. Some people like it, some people don’t, but it’s interesting to see the growth and how we keep leveraging some type of digital space for hip-hop.”
Highlighting Boss Women In The Space
What’s more, she says just like the genre has been enhanced by technology, it has also received major upgrades thanks to the women who are pioneering various digital avenues in the hip-hop space that we all love and know today.
“There are so many women that run these businesses. We’ve got Sylvia Rhone — we’ve got Mona Scott, who’s running her own thing, but I think women have always been hired to do the work and now they’re pretty much doing the work and getting paid for it,” Marie recalled.
She added, “And starting new things. So, I think women have been given some strong positions in hip-hop, whether that’s as the vice president — or in marketing or anything, and that has always helped to get the genre where it is today.”
Overall, Marie aims to use her platform to continue to uplift women.
As she continues to lean into her contributions to hip-hop, Free Marie is ensuring that generations of women past, present, and future know and recognize the worth and value that they bring to male-dominated spaces.
Championing Women In Hip-Hop
“We are focused on unity across the world and hip-hop to lift up our women. I think there’s been years and years where women haven’t been lifted up specifically and intentionally, so that’s why I was here today,” she said during Strength of A Woman in May 2023. “Just to lift this one person up, lift myself up, and be in a room that lifts me up. And that’s what the Strength of A Woman is… being around people you can learn from. Being around people you can talk to and get ideas and can learn about entrepreneurship.”
Marie continued: “If people understood how many women are behind the scenes at SiriusXM and Amazon Music and all of these places — they’re running the boards and running the technology behind the scenes and so that’s what today was about, showing off our women and recognizing how strong they are.”
Next up, Marie is lending her voice to the culture yet again as the host of Rap Rotation Rewind in DJ Mode, a new listening experience curated by Amazon Music.