MusicSex & Gender

even “conscious” rappers have problematic lyrics about women: it’s time we addressed this pervasive misogynoir

May 1, 2018
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Let’s be clear: misogyny is not exclusive to hip-hop, there are plenty of examples in rock, country, etc. And people who try to claim otherwise are usually anti-Black.
But hip-hop is no exception and is known for its treatment of women as objects. Since we’re Black, we must examine our culture, how we treat women, and more specifically Black women. This is not an “attack” on anyone, it’s about self-reflection, we’re all in this together.

When it comes to misogyny, we often think of ‘gangsta rap’, but in fact, even so-called “conscious rappers” unfortunately have problematic lyrics about women.

For example, we have talked about how the “ride or die” narrative is too often used to expect women to tolerate abuse. Of course this is not to say that a relationship shouldn’t be based on loyalty and commitment to one another. Most couples go through hard times and work through them together. However, commitment doesn’t have to mean having no boundaries and staying when being abused.
An example is Nas’ track ‘One Love’: “Why don’t ya lady write ya? Told her she should visit, that’s when she got hyper, flippin, talking about he acts too rough, he didn’t listen, he be riffin while I’m telling him stuff. I was like yea, shorty don’t care”. In other words, if shorty doesn’t tolerate your abuse, she doesn’t really care about you?

Writer Mychal Denzel Smith wrote in The Nation about “Rap’s Long History of ‘Conscious’ Condescension to Women”, following beloved rapper Lupe Fiasco’s apparent slut-shaming in his track ‘Bitch Bad’ in which the chorus goes “Bitch bad, woman good, lady better”.

Kendrick Lamar’s otherwise great song and video ‘Humble’ also brushed some Black feminists the wrong way by seemingly policing whether or not women should wear their hair natural, among other things. “I’m so fuckin sick and tired of the photoshop. (…) Show me something natural like ass with some stretch marks. Still will take you down right on your mama’s couch in Polo socks.”
In her commentary on the video, writer Sesali Bowen wrote: “To the untrained eye, this might look and sound like an affirmative moment that encourages women to love their own bodies (…) But to those of us who know better, it’s actually just another example of Black men giving women directives on how to present themselves to the world based on what men find attractive.”
“Instead of challenging that system of value, Lamar is prioritizing his preferences in it.” “The point Kendrick missed is that bodies do not exist solely to satisfy whatever version of attractive — natural or airbrushed — men have conceived.” “Men like Kendrick Lamar have built their careers on the pretense of social consciousness. But the reach of that consciousness never seems to go the distance when it comes to gender. Their vision of empowerment for Black women is usually just a different version of sexism and misogyny”.

So, when even the “conscious” rappers have problematic lyrics, we have a long way to go. And the first step is to admit it to ourselves and hold ourselves accountable to take down patriarchal views of women once and for all.

– Words by Nounouche
Banner photos by Christopher Polk & Frederick M. Brown/Getty Images