Is Misogyny in Rap still OK?
"Beat that pussy up like Emmett Till"
The at times disgusting and violently disparaging way that hip hop deals with women. There is seemingly a disconnect now between what is suitable behaviour for the rest of the world, and what is acceptable in hip hop. Even the most ardent old-schoolers must now realise that the age of treating women as somehow inferior to men is well and truly over, so why does hip hop get a pass? A spirited conversation on the spot for everything Jay-Z related, http://aintnojigga.tumblr.com, set me off on this discussion.
"Snatch the bitch out her car through the window, she screaming
I body slam her on the cement, until the concrete gave
And created a sinkhole, buried this stink ho in it"
Hip hop and misogyny has a past so voluminous that it would fill several city libraries. From the jump, the two seem to go hand in hand. Slick Rick's 'Treat Her Like A Prostitute", which made a joke out of treating women as if their one purpose in life is to sleep with you, N.W.A's revulsion at the thought of a steady relationship with a 'ho' on "I Ain't Tha 1", and even LL Cool J on "This Is Us", going back and forth with himself about the way women are treated before finally settling on a comfortable diet of cheating and debasement. In the late 80s and early 90s, the period where women were truly beginning to push through glass ceilings, misogyny was available on tape and compact disc, but it was tempered. You had artists like Biz Markie, who rapped from a much more humble place on tracks like "Just A Friend", and LL Cool J himself finding new ways to win over hearts with non-threatening rhymes that touched on love, an emotion that was almost taboo. What then slowly emerged was a culture so hell-bent on excess, greed and shock value that the rights and feelings of women as a population were seemingly lost on a few influential purveyors..
"You know I, thug em fuck em love em leave/
Cause I don't fucking need em/
Take em out the hood, keep em looking good/
But I don't fucking feed em"
"Some bitch asked for my autograph
I called her a whore, spit beer in her face and laughed"
Slowly, the 90s bled in to the 00s. Eminem came out, and made everyone forget that Jay-Z was rapping about pimping girls, and that Snoop Dogg was using the word bitch more regularly than he was reaching for his weed sack. But the hysteria around Eminem did eventually die down, and by Encore in 2004,"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", the world began to take stock. Nelly was appearing in videos where the only focal point were thick women in bikinis. Busta Rhymes appeared on a Pussy Cat Dolls song and said he was gonna "Put it on the girl till the pussy's black and bluish". 50 Cent was crooning one minute then chastening the next. As the decade progressed, Lil Wayne came out and set new benchmarks for sexual rhymes. Nothing was changing..
"Now let me get back to her
She call me Dracula, and I'll vacuum her"
When Jay-Z released his lyrical retrospective, Decoded, he went to some pains to describe that the man he was when he wrote Big Pimpin is no longer the man he is, as a father and a husband. His argument was that, through his rhymes, you could see his evolution as a person and an artist. From Ain't No Nigga, to Big Pimpin, then to Song Cry, 03 Bonnie and Clyde and finally Venus vs Mars, he said he had come full circle and now recognised that the way he was rapping about women and treating them was part of some deeper psychological discomfort that he experienced throughout his childhood.
Right. There was also his fabled promise to stop using the word bitch in his songs. On Watch The Throne, he almost reluctantly ends a stanza with 'Get your own dog ya heard? That's my bitch'. Certainly, by his final record, Magna Carta Holy Grail, he takes subliminal shots at his own misogyny on tracks like Beach is Better, but it took almost 20 years of music before he got to the point where he felt comfortable enough as an artist in hip hop to just remove the word from his vernacular. Now hip hop has moved on in many ways. An artist like Drake would have been devoured in the late 90s if he attempted any form of strong-arming, as we saw with R. Kelly and Sisqo. But whilst Drake is credited as being a modern day Romeo, have you taken the time to listen to some of his lyrics?
"I just throw a couple bills and she'll have a new pair of heels/
Oh no, there I go, magic tricking on your ass/
Throwing every president except for Nixon on your ass"
"She came through, she brought food/
She got fucked she knew whats up"
"Aww that looks like whats her name/
Chances are it is whats her name/
Chances are if she was acting up then I fucked her once and never fucked again/
She could have a grammy I still treat her ass like a nominee/
Just need to know what that pussy like so one time is fine with me"
Hip Hop may be more forgiving towards those attempting to woo rather than actively, aggressively pursue, but for an artist like Drake, who is seen as somewhat of a champion amongst a sea of misogyny to rap like that puts a damper on the whole movement.
Why though? Why were people stunned when they realised what Pharrell and Robin Thicke were ACTUALLY saying in Blurred Lines? Why were we so shocked when we saw Chris Brown act so violently towards a woman? Did you know, in a song released not a month ago by The Game, Chris Brown delivers the line "You really care bout this bitch / My dick all up in your feelings"? And his latest record is a tribute to the fact that you can say all you want in the press, you can 'recover' and take a new view of women, but in hip hop, there is still this complete disconnect between the real world and the rap world.
"Pimpin' is pimpin', I make a commission, make that pussy pay
My dick like a chopper, I load it then cock it then bust on your face"
What is the solution? If we view misogyny exclusively in media and public statements made by representatives of companies and corporations, it's really only the last 2 decades that language has been modified in a way that has seen any kind of disparaging remarks towards women be met with incredulity and anger. This is not a discussion on feminism, which has been a movement that has gained and lost ground sporadically throughout the past 50 years. Feminism is separate from overall misogyny in that it has always been of the view that any kind of disparity between the way women and men are treated is unfair. Of course, this is true, but for a large portion of the last century a large portion of males apparently didn't believe it to be so. Feminism waxes and wanes in terms of public perception based on what influential figures back it or don't. Emma Watson, Lady GaGa, Gwyneth Paltrow have all swayed opinion based on their remarks.
No, rather misogyny is now seen as a very dirty habit practised by seedy men in seedy back rooms in mens clubs. When our PM Tony Abbott says something stupid, which he is known to do, it's not just those who associate themselves with feminists who cry foul, it is the Australian people, because it is now unacceptable in the public life to say things like 'Women are not equal with men'.
However, in hip hop, this is still not the case, and it is so far in reverse that seemingly rapping about debasing women procures popularity. How? Do women not realise what they are dancing to? How did it take 12 months of ridiculous popularity for someone to stand up and say hang on, Blurred Lines is NOT ok?
Eminem released a song in 2010, called Syllables with some heavy hitting features.
"Cause nowadays these kids just don't give a shit bout lyrics
All they wanna hear is a beat and that's it
Long as they can go to the club and get blitzed".
On Cold Wind Blows:
"Yeah I laugh when I call you a slut, it's funny
Shorty dance while I diss you to the beat, fuck the words
You don't listen to them anyway, yeah struck a nerve sucker"
Maybe we all just need to open our ears. Robin Thicke's last album sold about 55 copies in Australia. The only people who are going to change this culture is the buying public.
I wonder what your thoughts are.. Is Misogyny in Rap still OK?