I should start with a disclaimer that I no longer know the hip hop culture first hand. I don’t live the lifestyle, listen to the music, or share much of the values that hip hop portrays. With that being said, I’d like to talk about gender issues in hip hop music. The lifestyle that this genre of music portrays is one of decadence, selfishness, and male chauvinism. I wanted to do an experiment. My goal was to see how many of the most popular hip hop songs had lyrics that disrespect women. I found that four of the top five hip hop/rap songs on the Billboard chart, (http://www.billboard.com/charts/r-b-hip-hop-songs#/charts/r-b-hip-hop-songs) for the week of November 12, 2011 have lyrics that demean or undermine female equality and one of them is found on an album done by a woman. I stopped looking after the top five. As of this writing, the number one hip hop song in the nation is by JayZ and Kanye West titled Ni**as In Paris. The first verse is done by Jay Z and he talks about how amazing he is considering that he came from nothing, how much money he has now, how everyone wants to be him or around him, and how he doesn’t care about what anyone else thinks about him because he’s better than them anyway. He obviously does not have self-esteem issues. The second verse is done by Kanye West. Here are the lyrics:
She said, “‘Ye can we get married at the mall?”
I said, “Look, you need to crawl ‘fore you ball
Come and meet me in the bathroom stall
And show me why you deserve to have it all”
(Ball so hard) That shit cray, ain’t it Jay? What she order, fish filet?
(Ball so hard) “Your whip so cold!” This old thing?
Act like you’ll ever be around mothafuckas like this again
Bougie girl, grab her hand, fuck that bitch she don’t wanna dance
Excuse my French but I’m in France, I’m just sayin’
Prince Williams ain’t do it right if you ask me
Cause if I was him I would have married Kate and Ashley
What’s Gucci, my nigga? What’s Louis, my killa?
What’s drugs, my deala? What’s that jacket, Margiela?
Doctors say I’m the illest, cause I’m suffering from realness
Got my niggas in Paris and they going gorillas, huh!
The way he speaks shows the listener he thinks he’s superior to women. Kanye take a domineering tone whenever he speaks about females. The first four lines state that if this woman wants Kanye to marry her she’ll have to “earn” it by perform sex acts in a mall bathroom stall. Then in line 8 if a girl doesn’t want to dance with him then she is obviously a bougie bitch. Finally, in lines 10 and 11 he says that if he were of royal blood, he would have enough power and influence to marry the Olsen twins so it would be stupid to just marry one woman when you could have had two. The inequality and disrespect is infuriating and is one of the main reasons I have not listened to hip hop for more than ten years.
Every aspect of this music genre is geared toward making the artist more marketable and when that is done successfully, young men looking for role models have that self-proclaimed role model in the hip hop artist. When this artist demeans women, that attitude has a higher chance of getting carried over into the listener’s lifestyle. I used to live in some rough neighborhoods and when a woman got beat, many times people thought she must have done something wrong because her man had to put her back in line. That was the wrong thought process and it happened because there was no respect. Sadly, I see kernels of that same attitude in many of today’s hip hop songs. Hip hop wasn’t always this way. The music used to have meaning and substance. It used to have a soul, but that has given way to lyrical fluff about self-importance and excessive indulgence. I have been waiting for this misdirection of hip hop to run its course and eventually either fade away or change gears but it is taking much longer than I’d like.