Hip-hop tracks can ooze out hyper-masculinity and individualism. If we take a step back and delve into it, you start to realize hip-hop has an interesting gender identity. But why does it seem like the most misogynistic tracks are the forefront of discussion when the media talks about our beloved genre?
You have the constant themes of individuality, a “bros before hoes” mindset. Individualism creatively is the basis of all hip-hop, MCs are individual characters. It’s not like a band, where the music is released as a whole under one band name, where it can be covered by singer after singer. Covering another rapper’s song is like an actor reading someone else’s lines in a play. It doesn’t work — it’s all about the individual and what they’re doing, authenticity and proving one’s self-follow on from that. Hip-hop oozes this mentality and it shows in almost every lyric. Individualism is the center of hip hop.
Hip-hop has always been supported by the desire to be the best. Where it used to be a war of styles and flows now it’s a battle of proving you’re the biggest man — usually in the most shallow ways possible getting money, getting laid, the ability to dominate another man physically or with weapons. Usually, it’s destructive but most of the time the creativity seen in these boasts trump every argument of the genre “dumbing” down. In very rare circumstances does masculinity not come into the equation at all. Even most females (i.e. Nicki Minaj and Azealia Banks) who also battle for supreme femininity have to assert their masculinity. All the female rappers have to be tough, “boss ass bitches”, butch lesbians or they won’t be taken seriously. Almost no middle ground exists between the scantily clad Iggy for example and Missy Elliott. Why is that?
Hip-hop exists, by and large, within American culture. American culture was shaped, in significant part, by the forced importation and enslavement of African labor. In order to quiet the cognitive dissonance that naturally arises from enslaving and entire group of people, white men, who were writing the overwhelming majority of the books and newspapers in America at the time, came up with number of stereotypes, that which the book “Soul on Ice” goes a lot more in-depth in, to quell the masses things involving black men being naturally suited for labor. This went on for literally hundreds of years. So we have:
- white men who are praised for their intelligence
- black men who are relegated to Feats of Strength and their desire for white women
- white women who are comically Southern “pure” and fear black men
- black women who have it just as bad as black men except they just like to have sex
and we come to the legacy of centuries of this, and the place of women in hip hop, as it was 300 years ago, pretty much sucks. They can walk around acting extremely masculine, or they can use their tits and ass as a crutch, or they can try and break out of this box. You don’t have to be a business, advertising or marketing major to guess which two of those three options sells records after hundreds of years of this garbage.
Hip-hop is a man’s world, not because it has to be or should be, but there’s no denying, on record sales, exposure and top 40 that it is. The men that sell the most records are the ones who are flaunting their strength and sexual prowess, this is not always the case (i.e. Kanye West and Kendrick Lamar) but it is the overwhelming majority. These are the roles US society has been playing for years, and they’re the roles that whites in particular, completely opposite of what fox news will tell you about gangsters and thugs, actually invented and forced on everyone, which makes the outrage that much more pigheaded. Are rappers who play to these types sellouts or modern day “minstrels”? Fuck no, and even if they were, how could you even blame them. You walk up to a 19-year-old kid in a low-income area with a sack of cash and tell him, “Hey you should talk about how you love guns and fucking and how you are the absolute shit” and that kid’s going to say “hell yes”, sign the contract without looking back, and the cycle of misogyny continues. If you want to know who’s perpetuating these things, follow the money and learn the history.
- Cleaver, Eldridge. Soul on Ice. New York: McGraw-Hill, 1967. Print.
- Collins, Gail. “Letter to Young American Women.” CNN. Cable News Network, 2 Nov. 2009. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.
- White, Miles. From Jim Crow to Jay-Z Race, Rap, and the Performance of Masculinity. Urbana: U of Illinois, 2011. Print.
- Hamilton, Laura. “Trading On Heterosexuality.” Trading On Heterosexuality. 1 Apr. 2007. Web. 3 Mar. 2015.