By Mary James
I am constantly listening to music whether it is in the car, working out, or just at my apartment. One thing I’ve noticed is I never listen to certain music around my family, specifically hip hop. There was this time my mom and I were in the car and I found myself jamming out to, “Ain’t No Fun (If the Homies Can’t Have None) feat. Snoop Dogg. This song is so inappropriate and talks about gangbang and referring to women as sexual objects in a very derogatory context. I immediately unplugged the aux cord as soon as I realized what I was singing along to. I never play any hip hop around my mom because of the derogatory content concerning women.
Hip Hop has been around since the 70’s. Clive Campbell also known as DJ Kool Herc is the founding father of hip hop. Herc’s 1973 block party in the Bronx effectively birthed hip-hop as we know it today. Hip hop consists of four elements, DJ’ing, break dancing, an MC, and graffiti. Hip hop went beyond just music; it’s an entire culture. It was created by working-class African-Americans, who, like Herc, took advantage of available tools for example records and turntables, to invent a new form of music that both expressed and shaped the culture of the youth.
From the beginning, hip hop was defined by the artists’ anger. Anger at being stereotyped, abused, blamed, mistreated, and ignored. Of course, hip-hop is not all negative but for thirty plus years, this music has served an important form of expression for poor people of color and anger has been a major contributing factor.
If hip hop appears to be excessively violent when compared to country or rock, it is because rap stems from a culture that has been steeped in a brutal fight against social and economic oppression. For many artists, rapping about guns, police brutality and gang life is a reflection of daily life. Hip hop is a genre of music that showcases self-expression and social reflection.
Women have had a tremendous impact on hip hop yet they are not taken as seriously or shown enough in mainstream media. When rap emerged it intensified in an aspect that continues to draw criticism today – misogyny. Hip hop has been male-dominated from the beginning. Women are often portrayed as objects for male desire in music videos and lyrics.
Since the 1970s, hip hop artists have been accused of objectifying women and promoting violence and sexual abuse towards women. It’s not just hip hop that has a misogyny problem. All music does. Hip hop is not the only genre with degrading lyrics about women. Sexism is rampant in many genres. However hip hop is an easy and constant target for this criticism it is so widely consumed in a way that other genres aren’t.
“Rapper and actress Queen Latifah made history when she won a Grammy for her groundbreaking hit, “U.N.I.T.Y.,” in 1995.” Queen Latifah takes a stand against artists such as Dr. Dre and Ice Cube who rap about derogatory lyrics towards women often referring to them as a bitch or a ho. Queen Latifah encourages women to respect themselves and not accept abuse from men who try and put their image down. U.N.I.T.Y is about women standing up for themselves against domestic violence and being objectified as female sexual desires. This song started a conversation and also established that female rappers had a voice in an industry dominated by men.
Women inside and outside of the industry have pushed against the misogyny in hip-hop, from Queen Latifah’s 1990 single that put “Ladies First.” Many female hip-hop artists have been equivalent to male rappers: Latifah, MC Lyte, Salt-N-Pepa, TLC, Eve, and Missy Elliott for example. Lil Kim and Foxy Brown took the term “bitch” and reclaimed the word to highlight ambition and toughness.
Lil Kim used her lyrics to minimize sexual insecurities. Her sexuality enforced identity and empowerment rather than victim. She said, “I’m not gonna totally change on my next album. I’m gonna still be talking about sexual things but it will be deeper.” She changed the game for women in the industry and radically owned her own sexuality. Hip Hop has been defined by the artist’s anger, now women are taking that movement and empowering other women to stand up for themselves. There have been many talented female rappers in the industry who have changed the game tremendously by speaking up instead of joining the hatred towards women.