The purpose of the paper is to emphasize the negative or decadent path taken by hip-hop and rap music in the African American culture. Initially, the music genre was used as an oral tradition and a channel of passing messages, but the contemporary forms of this music promote violence, including sexual assault. Besides, it has taken the route of commercialization, thereby ruining its true meaning and the hip-hop and rap culture as a whole. Hip-hop and rap have a significant effect on gender relations and race. The songs use derogatory terms like “ho” and “bitch,” glorify pimping, objectifying and distrust to women and legitimizing gender violence as some of their main themes.
Violence and Sexual Relations in Hip-Hop
Misogynistic hip-hop uses terms that degrade women, while men are praised for abusing women. It is common to see images of women in bikinis dancing around a rapper as he touches them as he desires (Hunter 1). Moreover, such videos depict violence and rape as the way to handle women who defy male domination. For instance, Eminem, who is one of the most popular rappers, is notoriously known for mentioning violence against women in his songs. In one of his lines in Medicine Man, featuring Dr. Dre, another famous rapper, he directly states: “Ain’t no one safe from, non-believers there ain’t none/I even make the bitches I rape cum” (Dr. Dre). In his defense, he attributes violence, misogyny, and homophobia to his alter ego, but regardless of explanation, he, together with other musicians, are adding to the pool of misogyny that has been in existence. Consequently, some fans are caught in the lyrics and fail to identify satire, taking the message to the extreme and they may engage in violence against women. Other misogynistic rappers perceive women as undeserving of respect and disloyal, portraying them as gold-diggers, promiscuous, and having power over men due to their seductive nature (Flores 2). A song by Tupac Shakur titled Hell for a Hustler questions the logic of giving a woman a child, as she is capable of trickery and dishonesty. Songs of similar nature glorify pimps due to their ability to exploit and control women. Thus, when rappers depict such messages, they instigate a desire for violence and wealth as a way of being influential.
The significant fan-base of modern hip-hop constitutes of young people who are mostly below the age of 30. People in this age demography are prone to influence from music, as the lifestyle depicted in the videos is appealing (Cundiff 2). The messages are likely to desensitize this group with derogatory words that support sexual aggression and violence. Besides, misogynistic songs lessen women to objects of possession for men and are categorized by typecasts of insinuations. For example, Eminem used misogyny in almost all of his fourteen songs in his album titled The Marshall Mathers LP in 2000 (Hunter 3). His album was extremely popular considering the number of sales it recorded and the number of views it has on YouTube. Young people who want to appear “cool” by imitating rappers’ lifestyles are drawn to similar actions and behaviors (Flores 1). Therefore, male consumers are likely to assert dominance over women to portray their gangster facades and authenticity identical to the rappers.
Hip-hop Culture and Masculinity
The African-American community has become the target group of the negative social impacts of hip-hop and rap music. They are now classified as promoters of violence through this music due to their role in destroying the ancient hip-hop. Currently, the music produced is more commercial oriented and does little or nothing to create awareness and it contains a lot of violence, sexism, and egotistical behaviors (Flores 2). The lyrics are violent and explicit about reinforcing the authenticity of rappers as gangsters. According to public speculation, rappers are afraid of being labeled fake or soft hence they are keen to establish a reputation of being hyper masculine and hostile to women. Thus, the disposition of rap and hip-hop music in initiating social oppression of women has become necessary to prove the masculinity of rappers.
Many scholars maintain that the hip-hop culture resulted from misogyny in the whole America. Rappers have coopted the negative gender stereotypes that are prevalent, as they grew up witnessing such vices. In American society, primarily based on traditional roles, there is a rooted behavior of how men should treat women, and it has been internalized in the music videos (Younger). Thereby, it provides an avenue for rappers of color to pursue masculinity status. Explicit misogyny started from the late 1980s and has grown to feature in most hip-hop music that contains more sexual content than any other material, and most people believe that music negatively depicts African women. Furthermore, the music is accessible to the public in different forms, including videos, audios, and radios and it is common for the videos to show murder, rape, and assault against women (Tyree). Other genres of rap, like Chicano, which is performed by the Latinos, also objectify women and depict them as intellectually and morally inferior. Most rap songs topping the charts, such as those by upcoming artists like Dababy and Blueface, subject women to positions of sexual submission in their videos. An example is seen in the video of Blueface titled Thotiana, where women dance around the rapper, and he moves suggestively. Therefore, scrutiny of current videos shows a shift from violence to sexual misogyny.
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Impact of Hip-Hop
Rap/hip-hop has a significant impact worth considering more than other genres, like country music and EDM. In particular, EDM has gained momentum over the years attracting a huge audience, especially the youthful population. Country music has for a long time been popular among vast listeners in the United States until it was surpassed by rap music. Generally, any music is powerful, but when it comes to gender relations, hip-hop stands out due to the reason that it has become significantly commercialized. Notably, its main selling point is objectifying women of color and using misogynistic lyrics and most of the popular or top rap/hip-hop songs are almost guaranteed to exhibit videos that degrade women. Therefore, rap and hip-hop trigger a lot of debate on such grounds.
Exposure to such content has a considerable effect on listeners. Blanchard has identified a correlation between hip-hop, which is misogynistic, and negative perceptions of women. In this regard, most men who listen to rap music with sexual violence are more likely to express their dominance over women. In another research, it was observed that women who were subjected to sexual abuse increased regarding acceptance of exposure to videos with subordinate roles (Cundiff 2). In contrast, aggression among men was increased, as they watched misogynistic videos. Both genders were more likely to condone demeaning and sexist messages after listening to degrading music. Hip-hop music also has been accepted globally and had significant effects on economies, media, and social trends, while the one with misogyny content have affected sexual relations in society.
Children are introduced to forms of sexual violence and soft-porn at an early stage though hip-hop. Young people who often listen to this genre are likely to engage in early sex compared to those who do not listen to this music. Moreover, girls who regularly listened to misogynistic music expected to be disrespected by their partners and opted for submissive roles (Younger). Children who grow up listening to such kinds of music are likely to be comfortable with interacting with women, as suggested by misogynistic lyrics (Tyree). The youthful demography, mostly made up of individuals between the ages of 18- 24, contributes heavily to hip-hop and it is the most affected by misogynistic content. Most of the youth in this category have admitted that contemporary rap can sensationalize a harmful lifestyle in society. Notably, the younger the people listening to this music are, the more they fail to identify misogyny in the lyrics, but as they mature, they start to notice.
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Artists often overlook misogyny and end up losing essential messages in their music. For example, a song by Kanye West titled New Slaves, which is about racial discrimination, also threatened the wives of corporation owners with sexual assault as a way of liberation. A popular artist Nelly has prompted protests due to misogyny and exploitation of women in his infamous credit card swipe video. Lil Wayne’s music authenticity is questionable as, in some cases, he is seen to poeticize social and political affairs, but partying scenes are also frequent components of the videos. Finally, female rappers like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj air contradictory messages, even though the music provides them with a portfolio to empower and seek equality for marginalized and oppressed groups of women. Consequently, most of these rappers uphold male hegemonic concepts through their messages instead of emphasizing on female empowerment.
Double-consciousness, which was explained by W.E.B. DuBois, is still evident in some of the rap songs by artists like Nas, Akon, and Kanye West. The song “I am not my hair” by Akon and India, who is a female artist, begins by stating how men judge her by appearance, thus breaking double-consciousness. In particular, the female artist gives an insight into her struggles growing up concerning her hair as she tried to make it look like those of white girls to fit as a result of the double-consciousness of African Americans. On the part of Akon, his double-consciousness is clear, as he shows that he benefits from the white’s perception of good hair. He is acting like a black American who is not striving like the rest, and that associating with the white ways made him successful. According to the lyrics of the song, he thrived only after he changed his appearance to appeal to white Americans.
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Contemporary hip-hop and rap music have been characterized by commercialization and desire to amass wealth. The music uses misogyny to gain commercial success and appeal to its global consumers. From the 1990s, producers emphasized on the songs that advocated for offensive and violent lyrics, which began gaining popularity at the time. Moreover, it was during this period that most commercialization targeted white consumers who were associated with the objectification of women in music videos. Women of color were predominant in those videos, especially in strip club scenes. As a result, the vast consumers were attracted to the sexual representation advised by dominant narratives regarding women of color without representation of white women.
Hip-hop and rap music influences a global audience that is mainly made up of youthful population below the age of thirty. Therefore, it is a significant component that affects the economy, politics, and social relationships in the society. Hip-hop, unlike other genres of music, like Country, or EDM, was mainly created to advocate for social justice, but later it lost track and focused on commercialization, whereby its selling point was objectification of women. Thus, as a category of music it provides a rich platform for discussing gender relations and its considerable influence has adverse effects, mainly due to the misogynistic lyrics of modern rap songs. The videos involve themes such as the glorification of female violence, objectification of women, abuse and demeaning women and praising men who oppress and exploit them. As a result of such messages, the music has been criticized due to its influence on its consumers. In contrast, others have blamed the culture in society for the dominance and acceptance in regards to misogyny. All in all, modern hip-hop has transformed from the original rap concept that was characterized by social-political activism to commercialization success guided by misogynistic content.
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