According to the article “Empowering Self, Making Choices, CreatingSpaces: Black Female Identity via Rap Music Performance“ by Cheryl Keyes, the song “A Fly Girl” by the Boogie Boys influenced the development of the fly girl category in the female hip-hop community. This song describes the fly girl in terms of both her appearance and her personality. The lyrics describe the fly girl’s “gold fingernails,” “big juicy thighs,” and “the voluptuous curves that sway when [she walks].” However, the song also explains how “fly girl is a name that you must earn” and how fly girls “speak their mind” and will “make you choke like you inhale smoke.” While the first set of descriptions focuses on the appearance of the fly girl, the second set seems to contradict these original descriptions by portraying the fly girl as an independent woman rather than a sexual object. In her article, Keyes describes the fly girl as “a party-goer, an independent woman, but, additionally, an erotic subject rather than an objectified one.” Keyes explains how, instead of becoming sexual objects, fly girls use their erotic nature to actually gain respect from others.
The song “Expression” by Salt ‘n’ Pepa is one example of how fly girls represent themselves as both erotic and independent figures. This can be seen in the chorus of the song:
Express yourself, you gotta be you and only you, babe
Express yourself, and let me be me
Express yourself, don’t tell me what I cannot do, baby
Come on and work your body
In the chorus, Salt ‘n’ Pepa emphasize the importance of individuality through their message “express yourself.” They portray themselves as powerful and independent women by using commands such as “let me be me” and “don’t tell me what I cannot do.” These messages show that Salt ‘n’ Pepa are in control of their own lives, and the final message of “come on and work your body” shows that they are in control of their bodies as well. Salt ‘n’ Pepa embrace their sexuality, but instead of letting it objectify them they take control of it and use it to their advantage. In my opinion, this is the main attribute that distinguishes a fly girl. Fly girls own their femininity and erotic nature, thus making them independent women rather than sexual objects.
Here are some questions to think about: How do we differentiate between “an erotic subject rather than an objectified one”? Where do we draw the line when it comes to categorizing female artists as fly girls?