Hip Hop’s Misogyny Problem Keeps Getting Worse
At what point do we draw the line?
Where to start? The anecdotes are too plentiful. How about the day before yesterday, when Rick Ross went on air and said he’d never sign a female rapper because he’d just have to smash—so he’d rather pass instead. Buzzfeed’s investigative piece on the R. Kelly sex cult and its rapid trivialization all happened within the past week. The week before, a video surfaced of VLONE’s A$AP Bari pulling a naked girl out of bed in a room with two other men and forcing her into another room, saying she would have to have sex with him. Days later, Bari and A$AP Rocky were out chilling together at FYF.
Hip hop has always had a serious problem with the female gender. Most of the time women are viewed solely as a visual accessory or sexual object. This is nothing new, right? I mean, how long has it been since Dr. Dre assaulted Dee Barnes? And the list of incidents in recent memory goes on, including Famous Dex,, Ian Connor, Kodak Black and let’s not forget Chris Brown, who managed to get off or get over in the court of public opinion, becoming a worldwide icon again thanks to people’s short memories and attention span not to mention their willingness to overlook violence against women.
R. Kelly is never going to get jail time, the justice system is too busy vibing off of his music pic.twitter.com/4FpEGtXf6n
— Black Queen (@amour_key98) July 17, 2017
While some listeners, DJs and publications have removed these artists from daily rotation, most have not. Aside from all of the similar allegations, what do these artists have in common? Not only what seems to be a hatred for women, unless they offer some sexual benefit, but also a cult-like following that builds a sense of “untouchability” and normalizes their behavior. While criticism of the artists is plentiful, they still have huge followings, regardless of what they do.
Although all of the artists mentioned are still doing well for themselves, there have been some repercussions. When bubbling Chicago rapper Famous Dex was caught beating his girlfriend on camera, he lost his spot on the XXL Freshman list. Rick Ross lost his Reebok deal due to the scandal over lyrics about slipping molly into an unwitting girl’s drink.
But for the most part, these artists see little in the way of repercussions. Rocky not only continued to publicly support Bari, he also keeps Ian Connor at his side, despite multiple rape allegations. Kodak Black not only earned himself a rape charge, but was also seen on Instagram Live receiving oral sex. Regardless of whether that situation was consensual or not, the decisio to broadcast a sex act on social media displays a lack of sensitivity and an unwillingness to learn from one’s mistakes. But he’s still topping the charts.
The most egregious of all these cases may be the rapper XXXTentacion, who blew up while he was in jail for six months after his then ex-girlfriend accused him of brutally beating her to the point where she was blinded. He also bragged about beating up a gay man while locked up. In his case, his predicament actually seems to be part of the reason he’s so popular. His mugshot is actually his cover art.
These men are entertainers. Their purpose is to produce art, not be role models. Still it’s only natural that their followers look up to them. Conversely, this cult-like following enables the artists to engage in further acts of sexual harassment, domestic violence, and rape. Their rise on the charts only reinforces the wider problem of misogyny and rape culture. It also diminishes hope for any help that these victims may receive.
Although they are simply entertainers, everyone should be held to the standard of being a good human. They floss their possessions: money, cars, clothes… and women. They have every thing a boy could ever want. But a human is not property, regardless of gender.
Watching the rise of somebody like XXXTentacion is frightening for me as a woman. The continued support of Kodak Black is no different. Despite all the charges and rape allegations, there was no end in sight for the heavy following that the Tallahassee rapper created. If anything, all we saw was more #FreeKodak tweets.
We live in a society that shrugs off domestic violence and sexual assault with statements like “boys will be boys.” Girls hear it when we’re beginning to interact with different genders in elementary school; we hear it when we’re starting to form more intimate relationships with them. The phrase remains prominent even when these boys should be turning into “men.”
In his latest album, 4:44, JAY-Z opens up to us about his journey to becoming a man. On the brutally honest single, “4:44,” he outright acknowledges his immaturity and battles with infidelity. Aside from admitting to personal struggles and cheating on his wife, “4:44” is a true demonstration of Jay-Z becoming a “man” in his final form. The lyrics are almost completely opposite from some of his earlier work, epitomized by theclassic “Big Pimpin'” cut where he brags “You know I, thug em’, fuck em’, love em’, leave em’, cause’ I don’t fuckin’ need em.”
While it took until he was 47 years old to admit his wrongdoings, JAY-Z offers a great example of how power and enablement go hand in hand. This type of insight from an older, widely respected figure is exactly the type of example many young men need. We teach young girls how to avoid rape and sexual harassment, as opposed to teaching young men the importance of mutual consent. Clearly the enabling begins at a young age for many men, but as power is acquired bad behavior tends to get worse.
Out of every 1000 rapes, it’s estimated that only 310 are reported. If we’ve been shown over and over again that there is no recourse for these actions, pressing charges just seems like more risk—especially when the perpetrators are as powerful as these artists are. It seems as though rappers are held to no standard because of their status.
As an avid hip hop lover who also happens to be a woman, I find myself rapping along to lyrics that are blatantly degrading my own kind. Although I can listen to Cam’rons “Suck It Or Not” without being bothered, it doesn’t mean some songs just don’t make me feel uncomfortable: Eminem’s “Kim” sticks out to me, or Kool G Rap’s “Hey Mister Mister.” Hearing about brutally beating or raping a woman will never sound appealing in any context. Sometimes I’ll pause when it hits me how dehumanizing to women a particular lyric is, and then I’ll turn the music back up and go on with my day. I know I’m not the only one guilty of this—as awful as it is. To love hip hop, I’ve learned to separate the artist from the art. I further separate the lyrics from their actual meaning, rather than taking them at face value. If I thought deeply about every demeaning rap lyric I’d be forced to hate the genre as a whole, and that’s impossible for me.
Though the separation of the art and artist is easily doable, things still can get iffy. Streaming and downloading their music contributes to their success. But I love hip hop, despite its flaws. That doesn’t mean I don’t want it to become better. And being able to love the culture despite its major downfalls comes from a place of privilege. I personally have been fortunate enough to never have been in a situation where some of these foul lyrics really hit home. Many other women, unfortunately, cannot.
We must not deify these artists and give them an even stronger sense of invincibility. We must not shame and blame the women who are brave enough to speak out about the awful things happening to them. Sometimes there are, unfortunately, false accusations, and not all scenarios are black and white. But we need to push for higher standards in those we elevate. We owe it to any and all victims of these life-altering incidents, to ourselves, and to the already stereotyped culture that we love so much.
For hip hop to continue growing, we must be the better example. Listening to any of the above-mentioned artists does not make somebody a bad person. Maybe some of the artists will eventually grow and evolve into better people. Hey, anything is possible. But until that happens we can’t feed into the already counterproductive culture that exists within our broader society. Hip Hop is a beautiful thing with an electric history and global influence. As members of this community, it is our duty to keep it as positive and healthy as possible.