Feminism In Hip-Hop
This blog is going to be about Hip-Hop. I am going to explore feminism in the Hip-Hop industry. To show that women are treated less than the men and are seen as sexual object to make profit. I will be collecting my evidence from articles, interviews, music videos and song lyrics.
Hip-Hop is a Culture, a movement, and at times can serve as a political outlet. Through all these great things Hip-Hop offers women are usually the ones behind the scenes and hardly ever the vocal point. One of the most common scenes you see women in are dancing in the backgrounds of music videos half naked and shaking their asses. This is not viewing the women in the industry on the same level as men because they are treated like a piece of meat, to make sales because at the end of the day sex sales. In Hip-Hop Honeys and Da Hustlaz: Black Sexualities in the New Hip-Hop Pornography author Mireille Miller-Young compares Hip-Hop music videos to pornography. She states that the rappers, directors, producers, agents, designers, etc all depends on the women to sell sex. (“Video model sometimes known as the “video Ho”. She is the eye candy, that sells the rappers, the products of his supposed “life style” and finally the song, with every wiggle of her body, sway of her lips and glisten of her skin.” Pg 263). These women are essential to the rappers and everyone involved to make money yet they are belittle called “bitches and Ho’s” are looked down upon and once their done are discarded like a used up piece of trash. Hip-Hop normalizes sexist ideas. Makes it okay to call women bitches and HO’s. The younger generations see their role models doing it and they figure it’s okay and it’s normal to talk to and treat women like this.
The next question is why aren’t women getting signed by recorded labels and getting record deals? According to Mc Lyte on an article that was published on npr.org she states that (“it’s far more risky to sign women artists today because of the costs associated with their physical appearance. Hair, make-up and wardrobe all add up, she said, and therefore women — who already face an uphill battle when it comes to selling records — become an even more questionable business proposition.”). This makes sense because it is already hard enough for a male to get signed because once they do and they cut a record before they can see any of the profit they have to begin to pay back the advance that the record label fronted them to get their album rolling. So seeing that it seems more expensive for the label to sign a women, they tend to shy away from them but they should be given an equal opportunity and they might double the profits of the men. The truth of the matter is this is a multi-billion dollar industry so a little make-up and hairstyling is not going to break their pockets, but what this does show is it does not matter how good the women Hip-Hop artist or rapper is the industry goes off of their looks and see if they can exploit that and make a profit off of their body and physical appearance. At the end of the day women carry no power in Hip-Hop, the power belongs to the men in this industry. Its hard for people in our current times to list at least five women Hip-Hop or rappers off the top of their head.
Here are the top five richest Female Rappers In 2016 from the past and present that were able to break through the mainstream become rich and stay relevant in the industry for a very long time. For example some of these artists not only used their talents but also their looks and sexuality, while others did it off of their talent alone and built their own empires by opening up record labels,writing songs,acting, or becoming producers and helping out the up in coming artists. This is a very hard thing to do for women that are in a primarily male driven industry. They were able to do so even with the odds stacked against them.
Niki Minaj when she first came up in the Hip-Hop industry was more masculine but soon realized she had to use her physical assets to come up in the mainstream and become well known. What she did was combine the roles of rapper and video vixen as part of her formula for success, too. (“Professor Tricia Rose argues, has become “almost required” in mainstream Hip-hop. For years, dominant male artists have made a fortune demeaning and degrading women, often portraying them in lyrics and videos as interchangeable objects of sexual pleasure, while increasingly limited radio and television rotations have made alternative representations of women harder to find.”). Women in the Hip-hop industry must stand up for themselves and put an end to this, especially the new up in coming artists so that they can show this is a new generation and they should be seen for their talent and not only as a sexual object to be used to as eye candy so that the industry can exploit them for their looks. There might be some hope for the younger generation of female Hip-Hop and rap artist thanks to the likes of veteran artist for example like Missy Elliott, Lil’ Kim, and others providing mentorship for new female MCs, in defiance of the conventional wisdom that a woman needs a male rapper’s endorsement and support to break into the industry.
This youtube clip shows female rappers speaking about their role in Hip-Hop and how they see themselves as bosses. They go onto explain how they have to be about it and go out and show it. They talk the talk and walk the walk. Some of the women in their music lyrics on these songs sound like the men but instead these roles are switched its the women speaking about guys performing sexual acts on them or vice versa but the difference here is the women is the dominant one taking charge over the men.
In the song, I am your Leader Minaj writes:
Look sucker, this my gun butter
Street fighter bitches, this Is the up cutter
Nunchucka,’ no time to ducka’
Sign of the cross, cause this is her last suppa’
Play with me, check who came with me
I brought a couple 9’s, plus the k’s with me
I breeze through Queens to check some bad bitches
I stunt so hard, assess the damage
Cause this that aw, this is that aw
And yes I body bitches go get the bandages
I hate a phony bitch that front that chunk chummy
I’m the top shotta’ drop the top toppa
Big fat pussy with a icy watch (2012).
The aforementioned lyrics demonstrate how female rappers have perpetuated the repressive and oppressive nature of women in hip hop. It is important to note that the usage of negatively degrading words against women by women carries more weight and meaning. Within the subcultural context of rap, women disrespecting other women in the same manner as men solidify their “street” credibility therefore perpetuating the cultural acceptance of misogynistic lyrics, regardless of the gender of the artist.
In Freeman’s The Bitch Manifesto, the word is used to describe a woman who “rudely violates conceptions of proper sex role behavior” (Buchanan, p.12). Among Generation Y, this word has been enhanced to compliment women who are sexy, smart and independent, thus justifying and perpetuating the commodification of the Black female body.
Buchanan, P. (2011). Radical Feminists: A Guide to an American Subculture. ABC-CLIO. Santa Barbara, California.
For example, in Queen Latifah’s U.N.I.T.Y., she writes:
But I don’t want to see my kids getting beat down
By daddy smacking mommy all around
You say I’m nothing without ya, but I’m nothing with ya
This is my notice to the door, I’m not taking it no more
I’m not your personal whore, that’s not what I’m here for
And nothing good gonna come to ya til you do right by me
Brother you wait and see, who you calling a bitch (1994)!!
The commodification of the Black female body has changed to meet the needs of the political economy in a particular society. “The “bitch phenomenon” in rap culture is no different because it has been integrated into forms of the dominant culture to serve the needs of the dominant and ruling class.” (Collins,P.(2000).
Women rappers who’ve found mainstream success have adapted to these narrow confines: Queen Latifah did it by projecting regality, playing into the idea that respect from men can only be command through one’s carriage. Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown coupled menace with public performance of sexuality, reclaiming the word “bitch,” recasting it as an affirmation of ambition and toughness. And many of the best-known women in hip-hop, from MC Lyte to Eve, benefitted from early associations with with male emcees and producers. The word “bitch” is in so many ways a double edge sword women use it for empowerment and to show that they are powerful and can take care of themselves but the men use it more in a degrading term. For there to be a change the women will have to stop using it as well because if the men here women talking to their friends saying “hey bitch” they will think it’s also okay and will continue to do it themselves.
Women also feel in the Hip-Hop industry that it is so competitive and what men want are for them to show a little more skin so that they can get an edge over their competition and catch the attention or the male rappers, producers, etc so that they can land the job.They are seen as walking jewelry, just to be out there and look good use their beauty and body parts to help sell, because sex sells. When they asked a male producer that casts these females for music videos if he would let his daughter do this you can tell he would not and that question made him a little uncomfortable. So these producers and artist should see these women models as their daughters and not as just a piece of meat to help sell their products or albums. Hip-Hop is a male phenomenon and women artists in a way are the after thoughts their albums constantly get pushed back. They say even though a lot of the times they know women have more talent then the male Emcee’s, they usually need to be accompanied by a male counterpart to get put on. In order for this to change in my opinion there has to be more female executives because if they are at the top the thought is hopefully they look out for each other and help there female counterparts strive and capture success. With this the women have to respect themselves, be educated, smart and not get manipulated into things they do not feel comfortable doing. Change is a gradual thing and takes time but I believe if a group captures success with these characteristics we’ll see a lot more women following that blue print to success. Lots of blogs, articles and producers are stating that 2016 is the year for the female rappers to blow up and be given the same opportunities to succeed as the males. We must wait and see because that was the same thing being said for female artists in the years of 2014 and 2015. If these women have the talent I believe they should be given every opportunity to do so with their musical talent alone if a producer or record label tells them they need to use their sex appeal in order to get signed or blow up they should say no and stand their ground, unless that is something they really want to do and feel comfortable doing. They should also try and make their break through alone without a male artist being featured or by their side.