In a lot of these response songs by women, you'll find
"But, you have Nicki and Rihanna and Beyoncé," they'll say. "Shouldn't you be happy?" What these people are really asking is for women to be happy with the bare minimum as if the Hip Hop industry is not severely lacking representation of women. Yes, we have a few women MCs who get enough airplay to compete with some of these men, thankfully, but these diversity quotas are a starting point, at the very least. Recently, I began listening to SZA and my ears were greatly pleased. She's a talented woman MC who has the potential to break through in this industry.
Most of my favorite Hip Hop artists are men, but that's a given when men dominate our airwaves (generally speaking). This is not to say that we don't have any women competing or that men are at fault, but representation is always important and, although men rappers can make hits, sometimes you want someone who can relate to you on a personal level. I can bump Cole any day, yet he cannot fully speak to me because there are things he fails to understand. What he lacks in empathy for these "hoes," he makes up for in empathy for the streets. I guess.
We are moving to a day when girls who'll eventually become women are taught their worth early on so that they won't be searching for it. To continue to assert that, we should teach our girls that they have as much capability as a man in whatever career they pursue. It just seems like women rappers don't sell like men unless we are talking about sex, drugs, heartbreak, or some combination of the three. However, I wouldn't blame that all on misogyny since society has misplaced its values. We are so disillusioned by reality that we turn to drugs, sex, or shitty relationships because they feel good in the moment. It's an instant gratification we're seeking as opposed to long term satisfaction.
Then again, there are some issues that really hit women close to home, such as the misogyny. There is no denying that misogynistic thought pervades rap music and sometimes women artists, whether knowingly or not, feed into it to when we get on tracks and call men "p*ssy" because they are acting "lesser." By referring to "inferior" men using women's genitalia, we suggest that we see ourselves as lesser too. It's not that we do, but it's become such a norm to use phrases like "p*ssy" and others in that semantic network that in our overuse of these terms, we ignore their implications.
Yet, on a larger scale, in my opinion, it's male rappers who subject women to disempowerment. Notice how I didn't say "all" or "only" in the preceding statement. Hip Hop and rap music are in no way solely responsible for society's problems with women, but it certainly doesn't help when rappers are talking about their sexcapades with women and bragging about how well they play the game. Case in point: pretty much anything Drake or Future puts out.
Won't get a response from me, ain't no confessions
Alas, women rappers can fall victim to this objectification model too and it's typically in one of two ways. Something I've noticed is this tendency for some women MCs to take on the stereotypical "male" persona and brag about the women they have at their mercy. I find this problematic because it firstly makes homosexuality out to be some sort of costume used to rebel against patriarchy, which strips away the significance of LGBT+ issues that would adversely affect rappers like Young M.A., Azealia Banks, Angel Haze, ILoveMakonnen, Frank Ocean and more. That's all number one. Number two is when women MCs objectify men in the same way men have objectified us - as sex toys only there to serve a purpose.
As stated before, society's misplaced values may be responsible for this. We've gotten away from wanting to know more about who someone one is as we're more concerned with what they can do for us. And I think social media plays a role in the misplaced values. For one, the ease of putting a selfie online and the ability to openly share our unsolicited thoughts makes us feel important - oftentimes "more" important than others (I use quotation marks because it's a matter of perspective). Yet, a lot of what musicians talk about reflects their age, class, experiences, and other factors.
For example, Young M.A admitted that she embraces her sexuality in her songs because she wants kids to feel accepted in a society that's still struggling with giving the "okay" on being gay. In her mixtape, Cardi B rapped about her time in the strip club and listeners can understand how it's shaped how she is today, which you can hear in her music. These are both related to experiences that these women went through and how they overcame those trying situations. Instead of letting it overcome them, they left it in the music.
As with other art forms, there is a healing power of music, especially rap music. SZA's "Ctrl" is one of my favorite recent albums because she was telling my whole life on EVERY. SINGLE. TRACK. After hearing "Love Galore" first, I wanted to hear more because I was going through the situation she talked about right when the track came out, so it came at the right time.
The same goes for "Wasted" by Dreezy. As soon as I heard it, I wanted royalties because I felt like she was telling my story. It was so relatable. I think these examples that I've mentioned show why women's representation in Hip Hop is important. I said it before but I'll say it again here. It's about having someone you can relate to. With a lot of these men rappers, we only hear about "hoes" from the perspective of a dude who might be mad because he couldn't get play, so he resorted to the same misogyny that was probably why he couldn't get play.
There's an African proverb that says as long as the hunter is telling the story, the hunter will always look good (to paraphrase). In relation to music, as long as men are telling the story, women look like simple "hoes" and we don't get a chance to tell our sides of the stories. This extends to lesbian rappers because some men think that women "go gay" because they've been hurt by a guy or that they're really bisexual; they just need the "right" man to show them the way. It's disgusting, in my opinion, because it puts men at the center of issues that may, ultimately, have little to do with them and more to do with how a woman is.
Then, sometimes you just get tired of hearing men gripe about how some woman vexed them. Drake is notorious for this. I used to like him more before he was appropriating Jamaican culture and bashing women. Like his buddy Kendall Jenner, Drake has been intersectionally problematic. It's refreshing for women to get on the mic and shut down erroneous assumptions about our supposed (non-existent) inferiority. What women like Queen Latifah, Lil' Kim, Lauryn Hill started, Nicki, Bey, Rih, Young M.A, SZA, Cardi B and more seek to continue and pass on to the next generation of women who will further us in society.
Media lost its exclusivity, but every loss ain't a loss; sometimes it's a lesson (Jay Z voice). So, what has music, namely Hip Hop, learned from social media? For one, it has learned to evolve. This evolution has decreased the barriers to entry to get into the Hip Hop industry but increased the competitiveness. How can this have a domino effect on women? Well, it's simple. With the concrete ceiling even higher for women MCs, we have a chance to unleash our womanpower and become not only competitive but repetitive in that we can and shall dominate the airwaves. Since music is always evolving, I'll revisit this topic at a later date. In the meantime, we as women and people in general should embrace the way women's empowerment is invading our society for the better. Currently, my favorite songs in rotation are Dej Loaf's "No Fear" and SZA's "Broken Clocks."
A diva is a female version of a hustler.
And I push it;
I push it.
Hip Hop stuck out her hand
And I shook it.
I took it to heart - this performance art.
You don't have to love it.
You don't even have to like it.
But you will respect it.
It's the genre y'all love to hate.
Cause of how it'll switch up the bass.
Hip Hop got me
And she's never lost me.
Jay. Tha Poet. "HIP Hop." (2017)
The "Rebellious Woman" blog is a periodic scoop on hair, love, race, politics, and everything in between. Stay tuned for reflections the life of a rebel with a cause!