Misogyny has long been a fortifying brick in the foundation of hip-hop machismo. Misogyny in raps exists in all forms, from objectifying women as non-sentient, purely sexual beings, to blatantly extoling a sense of hostility towards the opposite sex. Going through my mental chronology of the genre, it seems that this pervasive element is here to stay.
My hip hop awakening came even before my feminist awakening, which came in college after several women’s studies classes, and a newly found “self-esteem”, arising despite years of being bludgeoned with overly sexualized music videos featuring “video vixens”, who fawned over even the most un-aesthetically pleasing of rappers. I have been a fan of rap music since the impressionable age of 11. My first love was Ready to Die by Biggie, a masterpiece in all of its masterful lyricism and violent make chauvinism.
After grappling with a way to reconcile this for quite some time, I’ve come to the conclusion that I simply cannot.
Before coming to this conclusion, I asked myself several questions.
Should I silence my concerns just because the hook “I love bad bitches, that’s my fucking problem?” is catchy as hell? Because I don’t want to be “that girl” at the party, shouting the lyrics to “Fuck Bitches, Get Money” while constantly objecting to the use of the word bitch? Has bitch really become a term of endearment in hip-hop, as Kanye argued after lobbing it at Taylor Swift in “Famous”? Taylor certainly did not think so, but does the woman’s reaction to the word have any value?
These are questions that I am still trying to answer.
Tupac made songs to empower women in trying situations, Lupe Fiasco one rhymed that he used to “hate hip hop, because the women degraded”, and Nas showed vulnerability as a concerned father in “Daughters”. However, these are not the songs that we sing along to at parties. These are not the songs that become ingrained in our psychosis. And therefore, the problem continues.
It is clear that there needs to be a stronger female voice in hip-hop to counter the objectification and slander of women. Today, the most heard female voice in hip-hop is that of Nicki Minaj, and while she is fine, Lauryn Hill, she is not. Despite setting women back 100 years with the song “Anaconda”, I do not blame Nicki, as being the feminist voice for all of rap should not fall squarely on one woman’s shoulders alone. But “Anaconda” definitely did not help.
So what can we do?
We need more female, commercially successful voices in hip-hop. The generation of fierce, empowered femcees of the late 80’s and early 90’s (Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, and Queen Lauryn herself) can be born again. We just need to seek them out, bump their Soundclouds, tweet their music, and when they get signed, buy their records. We need more female voices in hip-hop, making catchy songs about their own experiences. We need to bop our own truths, and then we may finally be able to honestly don the labels of both feminists and hip-hop fans.