Twin sisters DJ Big Tootz and DJ Little Tootz braved the stage at Rolling Loud on Saturday, March 4, and when they climbed onto the Culture Kings Stage at the festival, they smiled at each other. Their electric energy sparked excitement from crowds of rap music fans.
In a field that is often male-dominated, Big Tootz and Lil Tootz were some of the few female performers at Rolling Loud this year. In a lineup of more than 110 acts, there were only 20 female acts. As DJs, “The Tootz” may not always be in the spotlight, but their behind-the-scenes work plays a major role in igniting the powerful performances that their performance partner, Duke Deuce, a legendary Memphis-born rap artist, gives his audiences.
“We’ll be setting up … and they’ll look right past us. We got these big GoGo Gadget backpacks with our computers and stuff. People will go, ‘Where’s the DJ?’ We’re like, ‘We’re right here!’ and they still don’t hear us sometimes,” Big Tootz said. They are the official DJs who travel alongside Duke Deuce, who gained fame in the Memphis Jookin dance scene, alongside The Tootz, as an early pioneer of the dance trend.
This March, the duo took on their fifth Rolling Loud set alongside Duke Deuce, and gave a memorable performance filled with creative three-dimensional visuals.
“People [will] look past you … whatever it is you’re doing, stand on it, and let them know “I’m the DJ, hey I’m the emcee, hey I’m the artist, I’m the producer, I’m the engineer,” Lil Tootz said.
In an industry where women have been historically underrepresented, “The Tootz” are a force of nature and a driving force behind rap music shows.
“Women rule the world … we rule the world anyway, so they’re gonna respect it,” Lil Tootz said.
The ladies have been traveling alongside Duke Deuce for more than three years, bringing with them a divine sense of femininity. They met the renowned rapper before he was even a rapper, and they’ve been his official DJs since they DJed his birthday party in 2020.
When it comes to advice, the seasoned veteran DJs have a lot to share with the next generation of female power players in the music business.
“You’re gonna forever be a woman. You’re gonna forever have to prove that you’re a woman and that you can do this — and that’s okay ... you know in your mind and your heart — this is what you love to do, this is what you want to do. Keep pushing,” Lil Tootz said.
When it comes to the hip-hop space, women are not to be left behind in the dust. The successful most recent example of a kickstarter in the drill music genre is Ice Spice, who took the Rolling Loud stage for the first time ever at this year’s 3-day festival, alongside star-studded female performers such as Saweetie, Coi Leray, City Girls, Tay Money and more. At Rolling Loud, she debuted her hit song “Boy’s a Liar Pt. 2″ which features her female counterpart and friend, PinkPantheress.
Rolling Loud has a history of a lack of female artists on their impressive lineups. The festival’s first-ever female headliner, Cardi B, graced the stage at Rolling Loud in 2018. Nicki Minaj soon followed, dominating the stage at New York’s Citi Field venue in 2022, and she returned this year as a surprise guest.
Shyla Silva, a nanny from Los Angeles, attended the festival and was able to catch the performances of Ice Spice, Shenseea, City Girls and Saweetie. She felt inspired by seeing fellow women of color in the spotlight.
“It was nice to see Black women and women of color in general have that stage, especially not just a little stage, it was the main stage,” Silva said.
“As a woman seeing female rappers perform at Rolling Loud, I felt super empowered to just be me, as a woman, and embrace that, and not feel like I should make myself smaller in spaces for men to feel better about themselves,” said Soley Liati, a USC student studying business administration who attended the festival.
Here are some of the highlights of the female artists who took over at Rolling Loud this year.
Cam & China
Cam & China are identical twin sister rap artists from Inglewood. Their celebrated hits include songs like “OFFBRAND,” “Run Up” and “KEEP IT PUSHIN,” and their music has been featured in season two of the hit TV show, “Insecure.” The West Coast girls brought a unique local flair to the show, shedding light on Inglewood’s historical musical roots.
Saweetie, a female rapper from the Bay Area, drew huge crowds as she graced the Levi’s Stage on March 3. Performing hit songs from her past paired with newer songs like those from her recent “THE SINGLE LIFE” EP, Saweetie drew the crowd in with her unique feminine flair and sassy performances of hits like “DON’T SAY NOTHIN’.”
The City Girls, a duo of best friends Yung Miami and JT, brought out swarms of excited fans as they took over the stage with beloved, empowering viral hits including “Act Up.”
Shenseea, a Jamaican dancehall-pop artist, has a stage presence that is hard to beat. Fans showcased their joy at how engaging she was with her audience, as she brought multiple fans up to the stage to compete in a dance-off where winners were determined by the cheers of the audience.
Coi Leray is known for her lyrical rap and hip-hop skills, including her hit song “No More Parties” featuring Lil Durk. Her performance on the GoPuff Stage on Sunday, March 5 was intense, exciting, and included pop hits like “TWINNEM.”
Tay Money, a female rapper from Athens, Texas, said she draws inspiration from rappers Lil’ Kim, Nicki Minaj, Cardi B, GloRilla and Ice Spice. Tay Money is known for her catchy, viral songs including “Bussin” and “The Assignment.”
Five years ago, Tay Money began her venture into the music industry, inspired by hip-hop culture. In a world and an industry that seems to pit women against one another, Tay Money said she believes in sharing the love.
“I don’t feel like you have to pick one [female artist] to be all about it,” she said. “There’s enough love and enough money for all of us.”
Women’s History Month may only be celebrated during the month of March, but women in the music industry are making strides all year long.