Lil’ Wayne (shown with fellow rapper Nikki Minaj) is among hip-hop artists cited by many for lyrics that some feel are disrespectful to women.
by Jessica R. Key
“Black girl sippin’ white wine/put my fist in her like a civil rights sign.” “Your bi*** ride me like a go-kart, I play that pu**y like Mozart. I Mozart these hoes’ hearts then after that they worthless.” “Should I call somebody else, cause girl it’s almost 12 and this d**k won’t suck itself.”
As Black Music Month comes to a close, many believe hip-hop is far from its humble roots and includes misogynistic lyrics that are incredibly degrading to women.
Local hip-hop producer Jay Brookinz said reasons why women-hating lyrics are flooding the genre, stems from artists’ financial motivations.
“In rap it pays to be misogynistic. A rapper’s going to court attention at all costs. And to do that, people will say the craziest, most outlandish things,” said Brookinz.
As someone who follows rap trends and who has met a variety of rap of artists, Shadowkat Nightson, CEO of Nightsons LLC, a local music production company, agrees with Brookinz and said many artists who spew hateful lyrics are actually intelligent people and take on edgy personas in order to make money. He calls this strategy the “path of least resistance.”
“You get a catchy beat, you say these lyrics and it takes off. People are responding to these records. Artists are giving the people what they want,” said Nightson. “Music today isn’t very creative, but artists don’t really have to be. They just follow the formula.”
As a hip-hop artist, local rapper MTU said from his perspective, this issue of misogyny is double edged. He said he will always stand behind hip-hop and understands how demeaning lyrics can be, but believes artists’ lack of respect for the art form of hip-hop and the public’s desire for the “shock and awe” also fuels misogynistic songs.
“We’ve become desensitized,” said MTU.
Ann Savage, professor of Critical Media Studies in the Department of Media, Rhetoric and Culture and Affiliate faculty in Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at Butler University said audiences have been conditioned to have expectations about genres. The issue is beyond rap/hip-hop. She said we live in a culture that devalues women and blames victims.
“Hip-hop is too often targeted as being more misogynist – but I would argue this happens because of the racial politics. Hip-hop is the continuation of the stereotype of the ‘Black buck’ since the time of slavery. Sexism and misogyny are in every part of our culture. U.S. culture in general is just more fearful when this misogyny is exerted by Black men,” she said.
She went on to say that everything has an influence. As a culture, we allow some things and disallow others.
For example, Americans have video games where women can be raped but there aren’t any video games of Arab men blowing up Times Square.
Fernando Orejuela of the Department of Folklore and Ethnomusicology at Indiana University cites comedian Daniel Tosh joking about scenarios when it’s OK to physically abuse women and basketball coach, Bobby Knight, who once recommended women who are being raped to “lay back and enjoy it.”
From a historic standpoint, he said misogyny is ever present and has been since the hardcore era of the late 1980s with artists like 2 Live Crew fueling sounds, and most notoriously, videos. He said much of the humorous but degrading rhymes have roots in the blue comedy of Redd Foxx and Richard Pryor, but also the toasting tradition of southern African-American folklore – risqué tales that make fun of the opposite sex.
“We also have signifying traditions and rituals that target our momma’s and other women close to us,” said Orejuela.
Hip-hop music may have always had artists such as Blowfly and Too Short, however, words today are constant, blatant and arguably incredibly disrespectful. Orejuela said lyrics in hip-hop also took a turn for the worse in the late 1980s when the term “b***h” became prevalent and almost synonymous with “woman.”
An example of this is hardcore gangsta rap group N.W.A’s “A B***h Iz a B***h” that says, “There you have it. The description of a b***h. Now ask yourself, are they talking about you? Are you that funky, dirty, money-hungry, scandalous, stuck-up, hair piece, contact wearing b***h? Yep, you probably are.”
He said some women argued these lyrics only referred to certain women. Some women supported that argument, saying when a rapper says negative things about a woman, it is not directed at her.
Sixteen-year-old, Tatyanjia Neal disagrees.
“I feel it is really low class and personally I feel disrespected even though I don’t act that way,” said Neal. “I think it shows how much the artist respects himself, females and even his own mother.”
Brookinz, Nightson and MTU don’t think misogynistic lyrics are OK – even going so far as to work with female artists, not allowing artists to say misogynistic lyrics, simply finding other things to rap about and protecting their children from negative music – but say women must take some responsibility.
“These artists seem to continue to find increasingly high numbers of women who are not adverse to these lyrics. I’ll be in the club and hear songs come on and the loudest, most responsive people to the record are women,” said Nightson.
Indianapolis resident Jarrett Moore said when he worked in commercial radio in St. Louis, he sat in on programming meetings and found that much of the music played on the radio is fueled by women.
“Higher-ups have detailed mathematical research split up by age and gender. What would surprise a lot of people is that research gathered from men a lot of times is all but ignored in these meetings. Women 18 to 34 in most cases determine what gets played on the radio,” said Moore. “So when you hear a Lil’ Wayne record on the radio that has the line ‘These hoes got pu**ies like craters, can’t treat these hoes like ladies,’ in a song called ‘B***hes Love Me’ it’s because women like that song.”
“It’s easier to give in. A lot of women (play a huge role) in sexism,” added Savage.
Nightson said that not only are misogynistic lyrics harmful to women, but it’s harmful to the Black race.
“I’ve met white people that really believe this is how Blacks conduct themselves. It’s just short of a minstrel show,” said Nightson.
MTU said people shouldn’t totally judge women who support misogynistic music and points to lifestyles rife with unemployment, drugs and hard living that make some women oblivious to the harmful effects of music.
“They’re just trying to survive so this stuff doesn’t really affect them,” he said.
People should note that not all hip-hop is degrading. Brookinz said there are artists such as J. Cole and Lupe Fiasco who are successful minus the raunchy language, but ironically these artists were able to gain some notoriety due to widespread approval by artists like Jay-Z and Kanye West, musicians who are known for being misogynistic.
Artists who don’t conform to misogynistic norm take huge risks in not making money, not receiving publicity and may be accused of “not being real” – not representing the language of the streets used by men and women alike.
There’s also rappers such as Lil’ Kim and Nikki Minaj who objectify men.
Although the debate surrounding misogynistic lyrics continue, music lovers do hold hope that this trend could decrease.
Brookinz suggests people simply stop buying degrading music and support artists who have positive messages.
Nightsons points to parents urging them to guard their children from such messages and explain why they are harmful. He also encourages women to take more pride in themselves and boost their self esteem.
“Listeners have begun to take action. In Rocko’s “U.O.E.N.O” (“You ain’t even know”), it was Rick Ross’ lyrical contribution that involves using a date-rape drug to bed an unsuspecting sexual partner: ‘Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it/I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it,’” said Orejuela. “Protest groups collected about 100,000 signatures for an online document that threatened to boycott Reebok, a sponsor of Ross. In less than a month, on April 4, 2013, Reebok dropped the advertisement with Rick Ross and any further support of the artist.”
Reprinted from the Indianapolis Recorder