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Feminism and Sex in Hip-Hop Music

Introduction

Hip Hop music was introduced with the intention of combating poverty, racism, and violence that were prevalent in lower-income neighborhoods across the United States. The music targeted individuals who hailed from violent backgrounds with no or little education. The objective was to help them to devise survival tactics. With time, hip-hop evolved to cover mainstream society through the exploitation of women.

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It underscores the reason its lyrics constitute a lot of feminist messages. Saunders argues that many people who listen to hip hop are not concerned with its coldness to women (180). In most cases, hip-hop artists objectify women and represent them as fit for sexual relations. Numerous articles on feminism in hip-hop explain how mainstream society and the music industry degrade women. White avers, “In a culture full of disrespect for women, artists have pushed back by using their platform to call out flaws in the system concerning gender roles and standards, making ideas of feminism tangible to all who have access to music” (611). There has been a call to compose powerful feminist lyrics to counter the misogynistic messages that flood hip-hop.

It is high time that artists reclaimed hip-hop in a way that does not degrade women but worships them. This article will analyze how the hip-hop industry perpetuates feminism. It will focus on Drake as one of the artists who identify with women in a degrading way.

Hip Hop Industry

In the hip-hop industry, love and sex continuously compete for a position amid the cultural walls. Cooper posits, “At the heart of this battle are the roles of women and the objectification, exploitation, and the over-sexualization of their bodies” (59). The cultural desire by men to assert their influence in the hip-hop world coupled with the challenges attributed to potential violence and hyper-masculinity exacerbate the problem. Initially, Black men who dominated the hip-hop industry viewed women as commodities. The perception is still alive in modern-day hip-hop music. With its pervasiveness and recognition, hip-hop music illuminate the Black culture and helps to delineate the role of African-American women.

The music serves as the voice of the community. The different incidences of drugs, materialism, misogyny, and crime that are portrayed in the music act as powerful images of society. Cooper states that the picture of loose women and flashy clothes may be the only idea that some people have concerning the Black community and its culture (61). Most hip-hop genres use violent messages and misogynistic lyrics that advocate commodification and contempt of women.

It is imperative to appreciate that hip-hop originated from the Black society and targeted the African-American audience. Thus, the analysis of feminism in hip-hop tends to focus mainly on how the music depicts the Black woman. According to Jeffries, hip-hop culture portrays a Black woman in different lights (281). Some songs describe women in flattering ways. In other cases, the woman is represented as a “big booty ho,” “race-loyal queen,” “baby mama,” “classless ho,” “gold digger,” and in many other insulting ways.

In the hip-hop industry, women are viewed as ill-treated, subservient props and regarded as accessories and objects to their male equals. Despite the presence of a modern trend in the industry that champions the idea of “autonomous woman”, there appear to be conflicting messages regarding what exactly it implies (Roger 1357). On the one hand, some individuals consider an independent woman as one that does not require the help of a man to meet her expenses.

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On the other hand, some people argue that an autonomous woman does not require being praised for accomplishing what mature people ought to achieve. The notion of “autonomous woman” creates a rift between Black men and women. Some Black male artists claim to support the independent woman crusade. Nevertheless, they tend to pay attention to the value that they can derive from such a woman and her physical appearance (Bailey 191). Despite the increase in the number of songs that promote “girl power”, the majority of them do not feature in the hip-hop genre.

There exists an inward conflict in the hip-hop industry, which is based on contradicting views regarding beauty. Saucier and Woods assert, “During and after slavery, many whites thought that mulattos (lighter-skinned or mixed individuals) were intellectually superior to ‘pure’ Blacks, a notion that confirmed white supremacy” (274). The same perception continues to divide the hip-hop industry. Research shows that Black artists prefer to feature light-skinned women who exhibit European qualities in their music videos. The exclusion of dark women in music videos creates tension in hip-hop communities and among African-Americans.

Some critics argue that women have a role in perpetuating a hip-hop culture that promotes feminism. They wonder why women agree to feature in music that comprises explicit sexual acts (Lindsey 61). For a long, women have decided to be used by their male counterparts in videos that contain sexual images. It may either imply that women do not value themselves or they are desperate for recognition. Some women believe that the only way they can come into the limelight is by featuring in such videos and dressing scantily.

Drake’s Depiction of Women

Drake is one of the hip-hop artists whose lyrics constitute misogynistic messages. However, many people tend not to pay attention to the meaning that his songs carry. It is not difficult to find both men and women dancing to songs about “bitches and hoes.” One of Drake’s controversial songs is “Blurred Lines.” The song received massive support despite it promoting an unpopular culture. According to George, the lyrics of the song encourage rape customs.

Rape is not only demeaning to women but also unethical. One wonders why an artist of Drake’s repute would compose a song that goes against social norms. It signifies the level of contempt that the artist has against women. Recently, the rapper released another song dubbed “Hotline Bling.” It is shocking to see that the track is among the songs that receive a lot of airtime across different media. The artist uses some quite offensive terms to disparage women.

In the song, Drake criticizes her former girlfriend for wearing scantily, indulging in alcohol, and being outgoing. The song proposes that a degree of politeness is needed for a woman to be “good.” According to Drake, women are only useful when they submit to their husbands or fiancés. His disrespect for women for being scantily dressed or demonstrating blatant sexual behavior is the epitome of misogynist thoughts.

Drake’s lyrics in the song dubbed “No Lie,” featuring 2 Chainz reflect his chauvinistic way of viewing women. The woman featured in the song is regarded as undeserving respect and humiliated for her behavior. Drake uses women as conduits to his stardom. He understands the language and images that the majority of the hip-hop fans prefer. Therefore, he endeavors to give them what they want at the expense of women. The depiction of women as objects meant for fulfilling men’s sexual desires is undignified. It is unfortunate that he views it a publicity stunt intended to connect him with his audience. In some instances, Drake sends mixed signals.

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He criticizes ladies for their sexuality and then goes on to brag about the sexual encounters that he has had with women. To him, women must avoid sleeping around or indulging in parties if they wish to live a life that is free of judgment or to command respect.

Recently, Drake released a song titled “Nice for What” that seemed different from all his other songs. The lyrics of the song are feminist-friendly, leading to many people doubting if he composed the song alone. The song is directed by a female artist, which explains why it appears to celebrate women. O’Neil avers, “You can tell that this video was directed by a woman because when was the last time you saw such an unabashed celebration of multiple facets of womanhood that was not overtly sexual?” The sentiments reflect the opinion that many people have about Drake. He is renowned for treating women as sexual objects to be sold or regarded as another item for men to collect.

Stafford argues that in this song, Drake acts as a fake feminist. Listening to the song, one cannot escape hearing words such as “ho”, which are humiliating to women. It shows that Drake has not abandoned his past tendency of objectifying and commoditizing women. It is a matter of time before he goes back to producing songs that degrade women. The artist must understand that being pro-women requires more than just releasing a single track. Wearing clothes that support women rights is not sufficient to prove that one has changed. Instead, they must demonstrate consistent attempt to transform the hip-hop artists and to encourage them to abandon the culture of violence against women and sexism.

Conclusion

Hip-hop music influences people’s opinion regarding the role of women in society. The portrayal of women as sexual objects results in individuals, particularly men developing a degrading outlook towards female. Since inception, hip-hop industry has objectified and commodified women, representing them in a negative light. The industry regards women as immature, dependent on men, and sexually available. On the other hand, men are portrayed as dominant, productive, and independent. Media continues to play songs that use degrading names to refer to women. One may argue that women encourage hip-hop artists to depict them in demeaning ways since they accept to dress provocatively in videos.

Today, many women are not opposed to featuring in songs that comprise striking sexual acts. They have developed a perception that the only way that they can draw the attention of men and be seen as women is by embracing behaviors that are blatantly sexual. One wonders why women are not hesitant to feature in Drake’s songs despite him using offensive terms to describe them. The only explanation is that they have developed a thick skin and adapted to hip-hop culture. They no longer care about what society says about them.

Works Cited

Bailey, Moya. “Homolatent Masculinity & Hip Hop Culture.” Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, vol. 2, no. 2, 2013, pp. 187-199.

Cooper, Brittney. “”Maybe I’ll be a Poet, Rapper”: Hip-Hop Feminism and Literary Aesthetics in Push.” African American Review, vol. 46, no. 1, 2013, pp. 55-69.

George, Kat. “6 Drake Lyrics that are Actually Super Sexist.”. 2015. Web.

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Jeffries, Michael. “Hip Hop Feminism and failure.” Palimpsest: A Journal on Women, Gender, and the Black International, vol. 1, no. 2, 2012, pp. 277-284.

Lindsey, Treva. “Let Me Blow your Mind: Hip Hop Feminist Futures in Theory and Praxis.” Urban Education, vol. 50, no. 1, 2014, pp. 52-77.

O’Neil, Lauren. “Drake Hailed as a Feminist Hero Over New Single Nice for What.“. 2018. Web.

Roger, Jo. “Where are the Leaders? Music, Culture, and Contemporary Feminism.” American Behavioral Scientist, vol. 50, no. 10, 2007, pp. 1350-1369.

Saucier, Khalil, and Tryon Woods. “Hip Hop Studies in Black.” Journal of Popular Music Studies, vol. 26, no. 2, pp. 268-294.

Saunders, Tanya. “Towards a Transnational Hip-Hop Feminist Liberatory Praxis: A View from the Americans.” Journal for the Study of Race, Nation and Culture, vol. 22, no. 2, 2016, pp. 178-194.

Stafford, Tom. “Drake’s Feminism is Just as Flawed as Beyonce’s, and that’s Okay.”. 2016. Web.

White, Theresa Renee. “Missy “Misdemeanor” Elliot and Nick Minaj: Fashionistin’ Black Female Sexuality in Hip Hop Culture – Girl Power or Overpowered?” Journal of Black Studies, vol. 44, no. 6, 2013, pp. 607-626.

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