Sha-Rock, The First Female Of MC’ing: A Hip-Hop Herstory Lesson

Cindy Campbell, Kool Herc, Sha-Rock, MelLe Mel during MAGIC Marketplace 2005 – Opening Day at The Las Vegas Convention Center in Las Vegas. Photo by Denise Truscello / WireImage

MC Sha-Rock, aka Sharon Green, is a hip-hop pioneer widely considered the first female M.C. As the “Mother of the Mic,” in the late ’70s Sha-Rock joined forces with the Funky 4 + 1 whose seminal jams like “That’s the Joint,” “Rappin’ and Rocking The House” and “Do You Want to Rock” packed-out dance floors across globe. Pollstar caught up with Sha-Rock to get the 411 on her trailblazing career and profound impact on the culture.

Pollstar: When does young Sha-Rock put the young hip-hop world on notice?

Sha-Rock: 1977, toward the holidays, there was an audition that was being held for a group, and the name of the organization was called The Brothers Disco, they were looking for MCs. I had to ask permission: “Mom, can I go back up town after school to audition for this group, The Brothers Disco who’s having auditions for MCs?”

I went up there and did my rhyme, and they were like, “Yo, what’s your name?” I said, “My name is Sharon.” So Jazzy D, one of the managers said , “I’m gonna call you Sha because you rock.” And so right then, I became the first female MC.

When did the Funky 4 + 1 come together?

I became the first female MC as a part of an all-male group. But then in 1978 we took the Bronx by storm. We were the first group to have four MCs. We were also the first group to have a female MC. We had the whole uptown and when I say uptown, anywhere from the 200s to the 241st in the Bronx on lockdown.

How did you spread the word that you were a force?

I am on more flyers than any man or woman put together during that era. And the reason why I was able to be, at least on 500 flyers, like ’78 period through ’83 or ’84, is because my group, we had one of the baddest sound systems in New York City that was called The Mighty, Mighty Sasquatch.

We self-published flyers, sketchbooks, and recorded cassette tapes as a form of communication to spread the word, without the backing of radio or television. We did block parties, we had jams at the schools. We collected $2 or $5 at the door for entry into our jams. We reinvested in our sound system. We became CEOs while we were teenagers. None of this was taught to us by any schools, colleges, or any university course or curriculum. In 1978, there were no other females before me. My cassette tapes along with the Funky 4 + 1 cassette tapes were floating all throughout New York City and across the globe.

Your influence was profound on the Mic.

Let’s talk 1979. For everybody that’s reading right now, 1979 was the critical year of the MC. Yes. I know, y’all know Kool Herc started the first party, 1973, Aug.11, at 1520 Sedgwick Avenue. But 1979 was a pivotal year and the most important year of the MCs. The style and the format of MCs in hip-hop culture took off that year. In September of 1979, the Sugarhill Gang came out with “Rapper’s Delight.” In November of ’79, the Funky 4 + 1 More came out with “Rappin’ And Rocking The House.” We were on the streets of New York pushing the culture forward way before, we had a record. So yes, it was a good feeling, you know, to know that we were able to spread the art of MC’ing around the world.

During that period what were your favorite venues to rock?

My favorite venues to rock were all of them. [laughter]. There were so many, and I’m gonna tell you why. The simple fact that when you’re talking about the venues in hip-hop culture, these are venues that were synonymous with hip-hop culture, that solidified hip-hop culture. We had established ourselves as the Funky Four, and then later in 1979 as the Funky 4 + 1. So we were able to go into any venue that we wanted to. If I have to say one particular venue, it would be the T Connection on the number two train. But it was like the Madison Square Garden of hip-hop culture. You would have a lot of different groups trying to get in to perform at the T Connection. Not on the massive scale of Madison Square Garden, but as young kids growing up in a hip-hop venue.

So the Madison Square Garden of hip-hop [laughter]. Hard Pivot. Do you think the record companies truly believe in Female MC’s?

The establishment and the record companies wouldn’t bet on female MCs. Women have always been on the frontline. The female MC and a lot of female MCs were just as prolific as some of the male MCs who were out there.

You’re talking about Lauryn Hill, when Lauryn Hill came out, she broke records. Lil’ Kim broke records. Foxy Brown broke records. Queen Latifah did. Salt-N-Pepa broke records. It’s 2023, have things changed?

They didn’t believe in all of the elements and aesthetics of hip-hop culture until they saw the dollar signs. They should have bet on women the same way you should have bet on hip-hop. The woman have always been on the front line.

They’re gonna continue to be on the front line and whatever your preference is as a consumer, you know, you may like Megan Thee Stallion, you may like Lil’ Kim more, you may like Queen Latifah more, but the fact of the matter is that all female MCs who are bringing their talents to the table are offering a different type of rapper or MC.

How do you look at the legacy you built?

This is who I am. This is what I did. And I’m not just saying it, I can back it up and I will show you proof. With all of the contributions … there is no doubt that I was that female MC to move this culture forward, in the matter of everything that you see going on today – that came from MC Sha-Rock.