Sad news today as I’ve learned that Boss (Bo$$), real name Lichelle Marie Laws, passed away yesterday. The former Def Jam rapper was only 54 years old. Many have called her “the first female rapper signed to Def Jam” and barring any evidence to the contrary that sounds right to me. I don’t recall any others before her and someone can correct me if that’s not the case. She was a Detroit, Michigan native who made national headlines and hit No. 3 on the Billboard charts with her debut album “Born Gangstaz,” which resulted in one of my favorite songs and videos of 1993 – “Deeper.” Other than Yo-Yo few female rappers came this hard.

Unfortunately this also became a source of controversy as Laws was subsequently accused of perpetrating a fraud on the rap community because she came from a middle class background. Let’s face facts — a lot of gangster rappers are only gangsters in the studio and everyone knows this. The backlash seemed misogynistic both then and now, as though a bunch of insecure assholes couldn’t stand that a woman spit with more bravado than them. It also ignores the fact that Laws went through some genuine hardship when she moved from Michigan to California, garnering real life experiences that shaped her perspective and gave her the chip on her shoulder heard in songs like “I Don’t Give a Fuck.”

Unfortunately due to the backlash her career floundered after that. She had a few cameos on albums by Spice 1 and South Central Cartel (reflecting her Cali friendships), and a pair of mixtapes surfaced in 2004 and ’08 which regrettably I’ve never come across nor heard about before writing this obituary. Laws faced a series of health problems including kidney failure in 2011 and suffering both a stroke and a seizure in 2017, so while her death is not a surprise it’s still not pleasant news to share with you all. My condolences to her family, friends and fans. Maybe at long last Bo$$ will get the credit she deserves as a pioneering female emcee who paved the way for many more harder edged rappers who didn’t have to rely on their sex appeal alone to sell records. Rest In Power Lichelle.