The Study of Misogyny in Hip-hop and Rap Music

“And all she eat is dick, she’s on a strict diet. That’s my baby,” rapped by Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr., known as Lil Wayne in the hip-hop music industry from the late 90s up until now. He’s a certified platinum and gold artist who’s sold more than 15 million albums, making him one of the best-selling artists of all time. He’s also got a pretty gruesome and demeaning representation of women in his music, but that’s overlooked. Dwayne Michael Carter, Jr. is just one of the many rappers in the music industry whose lyricism is over-looked and instead praised and put on a pedestal through album sales and media for being a quality artist. Women are not made to be demeaned and destructed through music, so why do we still listen to these misogynistic songs? Why is this music still publicized when it disrespects women to such extremes?

Scholars have argued that rappers use misogynistic lyrics as a way to justify their masculinity or validate themselves as rappers in the hip-hop industry. Studies shown by Edward Armstrong in “Gangsta Misogyny: A Content Analysis of the Portrayals of Violence against Women in Rap Music” 22% to 37% rap lyrics express misogyny. Rappers who have distanced themselves from hyper-masculine self-portrayals and antagonistic images of women are considered “fake”. One of the most notable rappers in this industry who has disrespected women to the core through his music is Eminem. In 2000, he released a song called “Kill You”, an opening track to his album that was a lyrical harangue bashing his ex Kim, women rappers, and women in general. In the first verse he raps, “slut, you think I won’t choke no whore til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more”, “I’ma pull you to this bullet and put it through you shut up, slut, you’re causing too much chaos just bend over and take it slut, okay, Ma?” It’s pretty evident how Eminem feels about women in this song, but as a father of two young girls shouldn’t he show some sort of consideration for women? Unfortunately, not. In his song Puke, released in 2004, Eminem bashes the mother of his daughters by rapping, “You’re a fucking coke-head slut, I hope you fucking die I hope you get to hell and Satan sticks a needle in your eye I hate your fucking guts, you fucking slut I hope you die, di-ii-ii-ii-ii-ii-ie”. This song has sold records, it’s listened to by Eminem fans every so frequently and it’s probably something you’ll hear at a college frat party.

Jay Z is another artist who has rapped a number of misogynistic lyrics in his songs. For example in Big Pimpin’ he raps, “I’m a pimp in every sense of the word, bitch better trust and believe em in the cut where I’ll keep em til I need a nut, til I need to beat the guts.” He’s basically saying he keeps girls hidden until he needs to “nut”, meaning ejaculate or have sex. The essence of the entire song is that he is a pimp who not only sells women but has many lovers as well. This song was the most commercially successful single from Jay-Z’s fourth album, it reached #18 on The Billboard Hot 100 and #1 on the Rhythmic Top 40 chart. In addition, it was listed in Rolling Stone’s “The 500 Greatest Songs of All Time.” Jay Z later admitted he regretted the song’s lyrics. He claimed, “Some lyrics become really profound when you see them in writing. Not “Big Pimpin.” That’s the exception. It was like, I can’t believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it is really harsh.” Jay Z clearly shows some sort of remorse for his lyrics. However when Eminem was addressed about his lyricism during an interview with Anderson Cooper in 2010, he stated he was being attacked because he was “white” whereas black rappers weren’t getting any backlash for the lyrics in their music.

In 2009, Ronald Weitzer and Charis Kubrin, both professors at George Washington University who specialize in criminology, law and society, identified five common misogynistic themes in rap lyrics: sexual objectification of women, distrust of women, derogatory naming and shaming of women, legitimization of violence against women and celebration of prostitution and pimping. Not only is misogyny evident in the making of music itself, but women are objectified in many hip-hop and rap music videos as well. In Nelly’s music video Tip Drill, half-naked black women are dancing around being touched all over by men expressing that it is okay for men to judge women on their body and shows that men only want girls for their body. Money is being thrown at these girls, implying that they are prostitutes or strippers and these women are only there to satisfy men. The angles in this music video are from the bottom up pointed towards the girls’ butts and from the top down focusing on girls’ breasts.

In a study I conducted about misogynistic hip hop and rap lyrics, I asked students if they listen to rap/hip-hop music, if they are aware of misogynistic lyrics, if it bothers them and if so why or why not. When asked if they listen to hip-hop/rap music, 94.1% answered yes and 5.9% answered no. Furthermore, 67.6% answered they are aware of the misogynistic lyrics in hip-hop/rap music and 32.4% answered they are not. When asked if it bothers them or not, 64.7% answered yes and 35.3% answered no. Students that were not bothered with misogynistic lyrics responded with reasons like “I don’t take it seriously”, “the artist is expressing themselves through music, I don’t think it’s meant to be offensive in any way”, “music is music”, “anyone can say whatever they want, it’s just entertainment at the end of the day.” Students that were bothered, responded with “it further promotes misogyny and demeans woman to nothing other than something less than something beneath a man”, “it spreads misogynistic propaganda”, “the lyrics subliminally perpetuate gender inequality that manifests in different ways like violence against women”, “not a good representation of men, kinda bundles all rappers together even if some of them don’t have misogynistic views”. Moreover students explained, “some listeners take it literally and eventually become desensitized to those ideas. it wouldn’t bother me if people knew the difference between a rapper taking on a misogynistic character for a song and what’s acceptable in the real world. most of the time misogyny is an easy way out for talentless rappers. artists with talent should be able to find a way to make hip-hop exciting without the misogyny.” In conclusion, students who don’t support misogynistic lyrics believe it diminishes a woman’s worth and influences listeners to think the same way. Those who don’t care for it believe it’s entertainment and it doesn’t mean anything, just a way for artists to express themselves.

Despite whether people support misogynistic lyrics or not, there’s no denying that women are constantly disrespected in the hip-hop and rap industry. They are degraded as sexual beings that are beneficial only for a man’s satisfaction and nothing else. The majority of lyrics in the rap industry dehumanize women through names like “slut”, “bitch” and “hoe” giving the intention that if it’s okay to call a women these names; it’s okay to harass them physically. Despite the huge lack of respect women are given in this industry, this music is still publicized, listened to and gaining popularity as the years go by. Even though the woman is disrespected, why are these songs still promoted? Why do we still listen to them? Some people think it’s entertainment and others think it’s a form of freedom of speech to express themselves however they want. Misogyny in rap lyrics began during the 1980s and since then it has only gotten worse and more acceptable for artists to express themselves however they’d like. It’s become the easy way out for rappers to blow up and make money through some sick beats and lyrics that demean women. Although there is no established answer as to why these kinds of lyrics are okay, this type of music has become so normalized that people don’t question or argue it as much.