Growing up a hip-hop fan, it’s nearly impossible to not have been affected by the sexist, hyper-masculine lyrics we heard on the radio. The music we grew up casually singing along to, has affected its audience in the long term. I can see why we were all so influenced, it’s easy to fall for the allure rappers create. Known for flexing their luxurious lifestyles, from their foreign cars to foreign models. Who wouldn’t want their lives to look like that?
The lifestyle is all in good fun, the lyrics are where things get messy. Sexualizing the female body and treating women as an accessory has become a common trope in modern hip hop. When rappers are reinforcing these stereotypes, their audience wants to copy them too. These misogynistic ideas have become normalized through hip-hop culture and trickled down to society.
Megan Thee Stallion touches on this topic in her song “Shots Fired”. She talks about her altercation with Tory Lanez, who ended up shooting her in the foot at a birthday party. Megan addresses this idea of how black women stick up for black men, but it’s never reciprocated. She adds how she protected Tory by not turning him in, but he talked bad about her after. Even in the song, she never says his name, still keeping her promise. Although, she did make some obvious hints that it was Lanez: “You’re not poppin’ you’re just on the remix”.
Megan has always been an advocate for black women, especially in hip hop. When she performed on Saturday Night Live back in December, she had a projection that said, “Protect Black Women”. She used the platform to discuss how Breonna Taylor deserves the justice that Floyd got. From her perspective, it’s hard to fight for Black Lives Matter when black men don’t believe black women are adequate for the same justice.
These are (just a few) of the affects of hypermasculinity and sexism in hip-hop culture. But it’s not too late! If artists can address their wrongdoings or these injustices, their audience will be willing and open to listen as well. I’ve always liked Megan, so when I saw this performance on SNL l decided to look into what she was talking about.
With Megan’s passion for gender equality, she created a scholarship for women of color. The “Don’t Stop Scholarship” awards two women $10,000 for school. Megan has realized women of color receive more loans, so in turn, they are paying more for college. She uses her platform to encourage these women to go to school and allows them to not worry about money.
However, Megan is not the only one and definitely not the first one to speak up about this. In 1993, Queen Latifah came out with her single U.N.I.T.Y., exploring the issues against women in hip hop culture. She talks through the idea that men treat women as if they are objects and nothing more. As if they exist just to please men.
“I walked past these dudes when they passed me / One of ’em felt my booty, he was nasty / I turned around red, somebody was catchin’ the wrath / Then the little one said, “Ha ha, yeah me, bitch,” and laughed / Since he was with his boys, he tried to break fly / Huh, I punched him dead in his eye / And said, “Who you callin’ a bitch?” Yeah!”
Women like me listen to this music and really feel empowered by it. We have all been in a situation like this and Queen Latifah lets us know that just because it’s normalized, doesn’t mean it’s okay.
Through their music and their strong voices, women in hip hop encourage not only me, but so many women of our generation. It’s important that more rappers, especially men, use their voices to influence their audience in a positive way.