I’m Tired Of Misogyny (In Rap Lyrics)

I’m tired of cringing at misogynistic lyrics, so I know women are.

Photo Credit: Brittany Williams

I made a friend a playlist on Tidal earlier this year. She wanted songs that primed her on hip-hop that she wasn’t familiar with. So I chose a bunch of my favorite songs. And then I had to whittle a lot of them down. 

One of my primary objectives during the selection process was not sending anything with lyrics I wouldn’t feel comfortable saying or playing around her. Obviously, extremely dehumanizing Death Row and Too Short content was out from the rip (not that I listen to those songs much anyway).

But I realized that even songs that I thought were tame (by rap standards) had the errant slur, or dehumanization or (physical and sexual) assault reference. Even “real hip-hop” songs about how dope a rapper is threw a woman or two under the bus. I’m tired of cringing at misogynistic lyrics, so I know women are. At this point, women’s hip-hop listening experience probably elicits deeper pain.

Obviously there’s nothing wrong with music that celebrates women, especially Black women. But the celebratory songs can be marketed and discussed so exceptionally that it makes one realize they’re the exception to hip-hop’s rule of misogynoir. And then you ponder the rule. Why can’t more male artists always think like this? Why can’t it reflect in the rest of your music?

Most artists blatantly dehumanize women as a mere accouterment of success. Their obsession with phallic culture strips cis women, and their genitalia, into an affirmation of their manhood. Their inability to understand and quell their hypermasculinity puts women in the crosshairs of their aggression. Even the men who reflect kindness to the women they admire condemn the ones they don’t through respectability politics. It’s hard to find a male artist with a solid grasp or even appreciation for womanhood. But of course, that reflects the society the art is mirroring. 

One of the first pieces in this newsletter was about how references to gun violence in music, that mirror real-life violence, can make for an uneasy listening experience. But Black women have a violent experience all their own that plays out in the music. There was a time when I was younger and accepted the slurs and troubling content as it being “the way it is.” But imagine how infuriated I’d be if a white person said this about racism. Nowadays, I listen to certain records and wonder how women stomach them. 

As a writer, I hear flagrant records and think about the women tasked to promote it, or the writers who have a jingle about their inhumanity pop up in their inbox. I think about the times a woman vibes with a new record then had their mood changed by lyrics about assaulting or drugging them. I think about terms like “femcee,” and the inability for men to respect the artistry of artists like Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion. I also think about colorism, body shaming, and their treacherous effects. The misogyny is inescapable. So many of the world’s biggest artists litter their music with troubling lines. There are so many ways that misogyny muddies the music listening experience that I wonder how certain artists even have women fans. Even the ones who’ve left rap behind are inundated with misogynistic music that blares out of passing cars, in nightspots, and just about any function. 

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Perhaps this all sounds painfully obvious to the point where you’re wondering why I’m writing about it. But if that’s the case, my question is what we plan to individually or collectively do about misogyny in rap? I think we’re better than accepting this problem. And I think we owe women more than to expect them to sit silently with the hurt of being objectified and minimized by misogynistic rappers who go unchallenged. 

De-normalizing these dynamics begins with challenging the real-life experience that they reflect. Men in general are conditioned to view women the women they know as superheroes and everyone else as objects. That reflects in the way certain artists rhyme about “money, cars, and h*es” or variant phrases that parallel women with mere material. But it’s specifically on men to challenge other men’s patriarchal pathology, which leads to the ease in which rhymers can rap so flagrantly about women. It’s not about censoring artists, it’s about changing their worldview. Undoing misogyny in rap means dismantling misogyny in real life. What role do you, especially male listeners, believe you have in this dynamic?

There are more independent, self-assured women in rap than ever. What many male artists might not realize is that women hip-hop heads no longer have to support men in order to get their fix, as was the case in the past. It’s time to do the work to uproot patriarchy reflected in woman-hating lyrics, whatever that may look like. 

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