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Sexism in rap impedes female empowerment

Sexism in rap impedes female empowerment

Sexism in rap impedes female empowerment
September 19
18:38 2019

From its start in the Bronx, rap music in the ’70s allowed artists to express their ideas and views within their communities. Since then, it has been a uniting entity for all kinds of people and has cultivated a massive impact on culture.

However, it is still plagued with the agonizing issue of sexism.

How can a genre filled with voices against oppression obtain such strong sentiments of misogyny? Why are female rappers pitted against each other while male rappers are encouraged to collaborate? The industry forces female rappers like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B to be enemies, while it praises a male rapper like Drake for his work with fellow rapper Travis Scott, along with any other male rapper that decides to collaborate.

Sexism in rap is not a new thing.

The usage of demeaning messages in songs about women by widely-known artists has remained consistent throughout rap music. The older generations of rappers have passed the torch of misogyny to the newer generation of artists. When critically acclaimed artists make sexists remarks about women in their songs, it is often overlooked by fans who admire them for their outspokenness on social issues.

It is hypocritical for rappers like J.Cole to speak about oppression, only for them to refer to women in derogatory terms in the same breath. Society fails to distinguish the bigotry of certain artists simply because they are their favorite rappers. They choose to overlook their disrespectful lyrics for the sake of an enjoyable song with a “fire beat” or “hard flow.” The ability of such songs to garner great sales despite their bigoted messages is proof that sexism is embedded in the genre.

A tactic used against women in the industry is the push of intense feuds against female rappers from Lil Kim and Foxy Brown in the late ‘90s and to more recently, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B in 2017. These feuds are made to polarize women of the industry as well as tarnish the thought of female empowerment being able to exist in the space of rap music.

Foxy Brown and Lil Kim are two of the most iconic female rappers in history, who both grew up in Brooklyn and eventually rose to fame in the 1990s. Their debut albums were released only a week apart, so fans and the media were quick to compare the two rappers both commercially and musically. According to an article by Ranker, their presence in rap music was seen as a threat because they introduced the “conversation of women dominating,” making it clear to male rappers that they were here to stay.

Despite them being friends prior and during their elevation to fame, their need to reserve a spot for themselves in a male-dominated industry drew a firm wedge between them.

During the late ‘90s, Brown and Kim were offered the opportunity to put their feud to rest by collaborating on an album titled “Thelma and Louise.” However, both artists rejected the deal. This missed opportunity would only allow the industry to further antagonize them in each other’s eyes and erase the possibility of them sharing impeccable success.

Similarly, the thought that more than one female rapper cannot exist in a heavily male-dominated industry brought about the unnecessary feud between Nicki Minaj and Cardi B in 2017.

The conditioned notion that the industry can only have one successful female rapper is a dangerous principle that has served the idea of female unity in rap. Nicki Minaj accelerated to fame with her debut single “Massive Attack” in 2010. Minaj’s animated rapping style, unique wordplay and “barbie” like persona are what set her apart from other artists of her time.

Minaj is commonly known as the “Queen of Rap” because of her significant success as a female rapper. It wasn’t until the emergence of Cardi B in 2017, that her title became challenged. The presence of Cardi B welcomed numerous comparisons between the two rappers by the media and other artists in the industry.

The success of Cardi B’s 2017 hit, “Bodak Yellow,” put her up against Minaj as a strong competitor, enabling a feud between the two to commence. In my eyes, both rappers are incredible musically in their own style and what could have been an iconic female duo, was erased by a conditioned patriarchal concept.

Unlike female rappers, male rappers are not tormented with the pressure of having to work “twice as hard” to get half the success of their counterparts. Furthermore, male artists are not polarized by the media nor by the industry that already overlooks them.

Male rappers are constantly hyped up to collaborate, and when they do, it is always seen as historic. To this day, and despite them not working together anymore, Kanye and Jay-Z’s joint 2011 album “Watch The Throne” is deemed as one of the most iconic albums in rap music. The same response is not given to female rappers, though. Even if they do a collaboration, it won’t be seen as monumental as the work of male collaborations.

The rap industry, as well as the media, needs to eliminate the old patriarchal view that more than one woman cannot possibly coexist with another and succeed in such a male-dominated field. There is no need to pit female rappers against each other when there is plenty of room for all of them to flourish.

Featured Illustration: Jae-Eun Suh

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Michelle Monari

Michelle Monari

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