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Hip-Hop Hates Women

There's a new meme that's been bubbling amongst hip-hop blogs this week. The question was posed by Lizelle:

"...on all these hip hop blogs I go to and read, where is the discourse on gender, patriarchy, sexism, etc? Step up dammit!"

Jay Smooth took up her question and challenged us to answer it in his comments section. It's a long read so I suggest you print it out and absorb it all. For you skimmers out there here are some highlights:

Ian said:

"When women stop buying, dancing to and generally supporting sexist hip hop (is that redundant?), I think that'll grab many male hip hoppers' attention and force the issues of sexism and female exploitation & ojectification onto the table for discussion for real"

Later he wrote on his blog:
"In addition though, I think the principle theme expressed in the song "Everyone's a Little Bit Racist" probably applies as an explanation as to why I and other male bloggers don't feel the need to become more invested in discussing or combating the problems of sexism, feminism or patriarchal social systems etc. not just in hip hop but in society in general."

David agreed with Ian and added:

"The question of how and why women like Lil' Kim and her ilk have been forced to participate in their own exploitation is probably the biggest gender issue we've got"

Before this started he had made a post on his own blog about sexism in hip-hop.

Mark clarified that:

"Sexism is in hip-hop but hip-hop is not sexism. Artists like 50 Cent, Lil' Jon, and Wu-Tang are young, sexualized, black men. Knowing that, they would be horrible feminists. Should the reality of their sexism be silenced or even reversed? Is the problem that sexism is in the art? Or is the problem in the saturation of sexist art? Perhaps there's a problem that there's a bunch of counter-sexist/feminist art that doesn't get play/heard/consumed"

There's much more but you just need to read it for yourself.

A few days later Lynne chimed in (by coincidence?) on her blog with a response to an article about the effects of hip-hop's misogynist slant on the kids growing up. She brings up a lot of good points and issues so I won't quote any of it. Just read it all. In her comment section I said:

"Forget what outsiders think of us...where's the voice INSIDE the culture/industry that's keeping us in check? There are too many woman involved in the business side of the music- publicists, journalists, stylists, choreographers, A&R's, managers, promoters, and most importantly the ACTUAL FEMALE BUYERS THEMSELVES for there not to be some sort of awakening concerning the misogyny in hip-hop."

Also, recently Deesha Dyer of Verbalisms wrote about the lack of women at underground hip-hop shows:

"While the females are being fed the 50cent club mixes and remixes, the deep, thought - provoking, true hip-hop is marketed and targeted towards males, as if women don't have the intelligence to be included in this market."

What's my take? I believe that America itself is deeply misogynistic. I could bring up many examples but I'll just stick with this- why was there only one female presidential candidate this year? The Philippines has a female president and we can't even muster two candidates? Hip-hop is a reflection of our flawed values in the U.S., as are other pop culture mediums like movies and magazines. It's just easy for the powers that be to scapegoat rap music.

But that blurs the issue, and I'm not one for letting us off the hook just because we're being attacked from the outside. Like Lizelle, who's complaint started this meme, I think there needs to be more honest critique from the inside, from those who live and love the culture. So here it is and here we are getting the convo started. Hopefully somthing bigger will come from all of this.

The problem is the business of rap music which helps promote not just sexist attitudes, but homophobia, violence, and other ignorant ills. First off, the people who own and control the music have no respect for it. No, I'm not talking about Dame Dash or Dr. Dre. I'm talking about the guy who's two levels above them both, running Universal Music and pushing the green or red button on what gets produced and promoted in hip-hop. If Universal wants to push ant-women type music this year millions of dollars will pumped into the budget of whatever rapper is ignorant enough to write the lyrics. Sure the artists can choose to make something different. They just won't have the backing that others do who agree to play the game.

Let me use movies as an example. When the big studios want to make a White gangster film they get the best in the business- Scorsese directs, DePalma writes, and Pacino stars. It's violent, but it's art. However, when they make a Black gangster film they find the latest hot rappers to play in it, and a music video director to pull it together. More thought goes into the soundtrack than the script.

Same thing for hip-hop. They push artists to make a quick hit with salacious lyrics and a video to match. They go platinum, then try to do it again for the second album. After that they're done with the artist. They don't want him to get more creative, more introspective, more worldly. Artists on their third album like to step out of the box they've been given, and the record labels hate that. And don't try to ask for a bigger share of the financial pie- no, no, no!

This doesn't happen to White musicians as much. White pop musicians maybe. And here's the problem- all hip-hop is treated as pop music with no artistic value. There's a lack of respect for for our music. The music industry is deeply racist. And I don't say that lightly.

But am I still letting us off the hook by blaming others for what we say? I don't think so. There are plenty of rappers out there who don't objectify women in thier lyrics. They just can't get a deal. It takes a lot for them to find a label who will stick with them past that first single and album. These artists are out there. However, without a good record deal we consumers don't even get the choice of buying their music.

I'm not saying to get rid of the the club bangers, or even the overly violent gangsta rap. I confess- I like it and I buy it. But as I get older I also look for something a little deeper. Not deeper like "positive" or "conscious." I mean deeper like honest and sincere. I find myself turning to reggae and old soul albums for that.

What I am saying is that we need need to open the idea market up. There's 101 non-sexist untold stories that mainstream hip-hop is not touching on. Thank goodness Kanye West has made an album that explores the anxiety he felt trying to finish college. I can relate, and I love it for that reason alone.

If I am downplaying the issue then let me go even further and say that I believe sexism in hip-hop is getting better. Foxy and Kim are out, Missy and Eve are in. The latter pair are both sexy and powerful at the same time. This is an improvement.

What do you think?

March 20, 2004 in Commentary | Link Me | Related Searches | Related Music

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1. Part of the lower levels of female involvement in politics has to do with the fact that that our current political system is designed in a competitive rather than a consensus building manner. Further, I do not think the U.S. should neccessarily looking at the Phillippines as an example.
2. Unfortunately, violence and misogynist lyrics sell. As long as it sells that is what record companies will sell. Large companies don't like taking risks. If the large companies see an example where certain changes can be profitable they will try it.

3. The movie industry is only racist because of the way it looks at its bottom line; I blame Superfly.

Posted by: Cal Ulmann at Mar 21, 2004 12:06:14 AM

wow, as i go around and read comments to so many of these posts about sexism and about feminism - i'm getting a little angered. i thin i have to put my gauntlet down and come back to all of this at a later date. i just feel so much white male privilege and patriarchy descending and it's making my stomach turn, especially b/c not all of the stuff i'm seeing in various comments is coming from whites or males. i need to meditate on this one madison - and i know i still have to deal with the question that you asked me at my spot.

Posted by: lynne at Mar 25, 2004 1:41:06 AM

I don't think anyone is free from criticism regarding this sorta thing, and I feel like yr sorta passing the buck by suggesting that "if women did this...." I think that it is important to give "the female hip-hop buyer" agency, of course - the story of women in hip-hop is not just one of oppression and exploitation. Women in hip-hop is a story of contradictory one.

I'd like to point out something I don't see anyone having mentioned: MISSY ELLIOT! She PROVES you don't have to be buying into the idea of the unassuming, stereotypically "attractive" female in order to sell. She makes incredibly creative music. She's never obnoxiously psuedo-feminist like the three brats from Northern State. Missy Elliot is the real fucking deal.

Not only that, but she's also a great example of how hip-hop is taking the sexist wrap unfairly! Sure, you've got Lil Jon tracks about the Culo (great fucking production on that track btw) but you've got this contradictory take-no-shit position from artists like missy (and there are others). This sort of dialogue doesn't even exist in rock music!

Posted by: David at Mar 26, 2004 11:48:13 PM

"Women in hip-hop is a story of contradictory one." should read "the story of women in hip-hop is a contradictory one." Sorry I've been drinking a little.

Posted by: David at Mar 26, 2004 11:50:26 PM

I think that anyone who loves hip hop knows that you can't generalize like this- especially generalize every artist's style as being "sexist". You can't generalize what sort of taste an entire sex has either. There are the girls who bump 50 Cent in their car and then those that love the more underground stuff. Even if you look outside of the genre of hip-hop there is the trendy stuff and then the lesser-known and sometimes,(in my opinion) more real artists. One thing that I have noticed recently is that if you ask a lot of girls who their favorite rapper is, they will say Atmosphere. Personally, I think that this is because he is a rapper that is easy to relate to for anyone and in his songs he has friendships with and appreciates women in a way that I feel my guy friends and other men in my life do. Basically my point is- STOP generalizing everything! Nothing is that simple, not people, artists, or even genres of music.

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Posted by: matt at Apr 11, 2004 10:17:01 AM

Of course hip hop in itself is not sexist - it's just gotten to be that way. Grandmaster Flash actually reckons there were more females than men involved way back in the day. Trouble is the machismo and standing up and chatting about yourself aspect pushes women out of it. Mainly for their own reasons. Most women don't want to come across as mouthy and bragadocious cos it's not very feminine. There's a whole heap of reasons like that why women stay less involved. My theory is tho...that women need to pick up a mic, or get behind some decks because if they don't then ain't nothin' gonna change! We can only say what we want and get the guys to listen thru the music we all love.

Posted by: diss miss at Apr 16, 2004 11:28:11 AM

I'm a white male fan of hip hop but I have to say its poor treatment of women is disappointing. And why can't we generalise about that? So many artists, and especially the dominant artists - Em, Nas, Biggie, Dr Dre, the Wu, even Gang Starr - have put out comments about women that are pretty unenlightened at best.

It's not good enough to blame the labels - they choose who to sign, but it's the artists that write the lyrics. That's where the ultimate responsibility lies.

Posted by: grover at May 10, 2004 3:36:17 AM

Whats going on, listen i'm a hip hop artist and have been for a while...but what your sayin is not true...sexism is barly ever used in underground hip hop...you do not have a good enough grasp of hip hop...all you hear is whats on the radio and selling in stores...now underground might not be as famous..but its a completly different thing than mainstream hip hop (which is all you hear). So i would just like to say that your so called "views" on hip hop...are only partially true, because not once have I even used the word "bitch" in my rhyming, or displayed sexism towards women, or even made derogitory comments about anything...so I just thought id let you know, because being an underground hip hop artist myself, I take offense when people sayin all hip hop consists of is puttin down women, talking about "busting caps" and other related topics to that...when it really is not...you need to listen to all ranges of hip hop before you make snap judgements.
E mail me at the address given is you would like to contact me.

Posted by: Doktor Chaos at May 31, 2004 1:27:15 PM

[email protected]

Posted by: Doktor Chaos at May 31, 2004 6:43:47 PM

i dont have your homepage...you have to give me it first...lmao

Posted by: Doktor Chaos at Jul 31, 2004 9:52:32 AM

I respect underground hiphop because of its stimulating lyrics. But the issue of sexism and misogyny in hip-hop is worrying to me (and others here) because this is the stuff that the masses hear.

At least where I live, you have to actively search out underground hiphop. The stuff with the positive, or at least stimulating messages isn't very accessible. Most kids just turn on MuchMusic (our version of MTV) and watch whatever's playing on the screen. THe other day I watched 50 Cent's PIMP video and wanted to throw up.
If you turn on the radio, it's more of the same. It's become so commonplace to glorify guys as pimps, I even saw a t-shirt for little girls with a cartoon of a scantily-clad girl sprawled out on bubble letters saying "PIMPIN'." At the skateboard shop I work at, we sell stickers that say "I love bitches and sake." All this sexism is just being embraced by the mainstream, and all the kids are buying into it.
My problem is everyone's acceptance of it. I can't believe there are male rappers out there rapping about their hardships, but no females out there rapping about how hard life is as a woman. You can't deny there are girls who would have something to rap about.

An interesting story regarding the acceptance of this in mainsteam is about Sarah Jones. Her commentary on the sexism in hip hop was banned for being to sexually explicit. The ironic bit? What was deemed to explicit was her quoting LL Cool J.


THanks for letting me rant and ramble,

Posted by: Erin at Aug 13, 2004 10:50:05 PM

The only thing I can say to women who feel that they are disrespected by hip-hop artists, is don't support it. The last part of my previous statement (don't support it) is hard for me to say being an artist myself. But sometimes you get more out of addition by subtraction. It is a total disgrace how we treat our women. And if a man treats one well he is looked at as some type of savior. The praise isn't what gets to me. It's more or less the fact that it is now so far from the norm it's virtually a spectacle. I can't speak for women but a word of advice I can give is: look at the music as a whole. Even if the beat sounds good but the messsage is destructive by buying it or using similar language when reffering to one another, essentially you are indirectly supporting it. We (black people) won't truly understand the meaning of the word genocide, until we witness how our words and actions affect the lives of our kids as they grow. Usually the hope would be for them to surpass our achievements. But right now just reaching our status would be a work with-in itself, and that's a crying shame.


Posted by: Maynard Morgan at Aug 26, 2004 3:13:54 PM

Wick diddy, Sexism ? Why worry about sexism, Only reason some of the biggest hip hop legends are about are because of it. It will not be beaten.. 2 Bullets in the chest, By a female hip hop fan, Then maybe..

Death is the only way to be heard.....


Posted by: DJ Slip`n`Slide at Jul 2, 2005 9:48:35 AM

I feel that some women put them selves in that posistion. But those who have respect for self will recieve respect from others.

Posted by: Tiara at Feb 1, 2006 4:33:12 PM

i have lyrics that i can mail to you,if you want it mail me back,am one of your fans out there

Posted by: femi taye at Jan 12, 2007 9:25:25 PM

i have lyrics that i can mail to you,if you want it mail me back,am one of your fans out there

Posted by: femi taye at Jan 12, 2007 9:26:51 PM

I have a unique perspective on why Hip Hop is so misogynistic. I believe that many of these rappers have had very bad experiences with women in their lifetimes. Many of these rappers didn't receive much attention from women until they became famous. This is due to the fact that most of these rappers were broke before until their rap hustles began paying off. Many rappers have voiced this in their rhymes. Mike Jone's irritating 2005 anthem "Back Then" paints a narrative tale of how the rapper was treatly poorly by women before he became rich and famous. In American society, most women only want a man who is financially stable. Rappers are more likely to hold misogynistic views of women because they feel like the only reason women want them is because of their new money. In addition, social disorganization associated with impoverished upbringings plays a heavy role in the rampant sexist views in rap music.

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i do think that hip hop is gone to far with the slang interpertation now a days with us "ladys."

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Women are fans of HipHop music. Period. I can dance to "Oh Keisha" by the Hot Boys and still recognize that in time and place those dudes were wak. Lil Wayne practiced on us for 10-15 years before he got hot. Women are loyal. Period. We stand by those foul mouth rappers (not emcees but rappers) the same way we stand by these raggedy baby daddies but don't get it twisted. Don't think my dropping it like its hot and bending it low, low, low and us following all those other dumb directions male rappers put in their song is an indication of our support for its perpuatuation. QUIT THE OPPOSITE! We are doing it to show our support of their growth potential. Women all over the world stick it out with no count men IN HOPE that one day they will get the big picture. We know that men aren't incapable of intellect and using their powers for good but we also know that they mature at slower rates and are slowing gaining perspectives in life. Look at Jay Z for instance "truthfully" he wants to rap like Common Sense "but did 5 mill, and" he hasn't rapped like Common since...now look at him all conscious and hiphop and what not...took a lot less time than Wayne didn't it? He was a lot older than Wayne though wasn't he?

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