Misogyny in Hip Hop

A lotta my girls come up to me sayin’ “Oh I just like the beats. I don’t listen to what they sayin”

Them beats open you up and you just let everything seep in. When you breathing it in—all the language, these words– they creep in like second hand smoke.

One of my favorite artists is Dr Dre and he’s rough on the ladies, man. I swear I don’t even register it.

I’m so like “Ooooh how he get his drums to slap like that?!”

or

“Daaaaayyyyum—the EQ on them overdubs”

— Peep One in HYPE MAN, p. 41

When Peep says Dr. Dre is rough on the ladies, she’s speaking to the issues that Dr. Dre presents in his music and relationships with women, but also to the pervading misogyny in hip hop music and culture more broadly. Not only is this behavior excused and accepted, it also makes navigating the industry exceedingly difficult for women like Peep One who are trying to make a career in music.

“Hip hop has always had a serious problem with the female gender. Most of the time women are viewed solely as a visual accessory or sexual object. This is nothing new, right? I mean, how long has it been since Dr. Dre assaulted Dee Barnes? And the list of incidents in recent memory goes on, including Famous Dex, Ian ConnorKodak Black and let’s not forget Chris Brown, who managed to get off or get over in the court of public opinion, becoming a worldwide icon again thanks to people’s short memories and attention span not to mention their willingness to overlook violence against women.”

(Read the full article here.)

Check out Dr. Dre being “rough on the ladies” in his song “Bitches ain’t shit” below:

 

“Bitches ain’t shit” is only one example of the many songs where male hip hop artists have expressed aggressive sexual and physical violence toward women. Some prominent highlights also include:“Me So Horny” by 2 Live Crew, “Big Pimpin” by Jay-Z f/ UGK, “One More Chance” by The Notorious B.I.G., “Slob on my Knob” by Three 6 Mafia, “Wait (The Whisper Song)” by  The Ying Yang Twins“Who knew” by Eminem, “Culo” by  Pitbull, and, “Bitch Suck Dick” by Tyler, The Creator f/ Jasper, Taco.

All of these artists have been, and continue to be, hugely successful in the hip hop industry, largely because of a die hard fan base that defends them no matter what. And because American society normalizes misogyny and violence against women, especially in pop culture and music,  many fans keep listening and push push past the lyrics to hear only the beat. But, as Peep One says, it doesn’t mean those messages don’t enter our subconscious — they truly do creep in like second hand smoke.

 

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Music Appropriation: White Rappers Respond

The stylistic appropriation of black music by white artists, like Pinnacle, is one of the main thematic threads that weaves throughout Hype Man. Appropriation, as defined by Cambridge English Dictionary, is “the act of taking or using things from a culture that is not your own, especially without showing that you understand or respect this culture.” In the play,  Verb directly challenges Pinnacle on his responsibility to black culture as someone who benefits from their cultural innovations. Rappers in the commercial hip hop scene have wrestled with these same concerns and many have spoken publicly about how they approach the issue as artists. Here’s a selection of some of those comments:

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Mackelmore in Concert

“You need to know your place in the culture. Are you contributing or are you taking? Are you using it for your own advantage or are you contributing? I saw a tweet that said, “Hip hop was birthed out of the civil rights movement.” This is a culture that came from pain and oppression. It was the byproduct [of white oppression]. We can say we’ve come a long way since the late Seventies and early Eighties, but we haven’t. Just because there’s been more successful white rappers, you cannot disregard where this culture came from and our place in it as white people. This is not my culture to begin with. As much as I have honed my craft…I do believe that I need to know my place.” – Macklemore,  Rolling Stone Magazine 

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Yelawolf (Left) and Eminem (Right)

“Eminem: We make jokes about it, but I don’t think we talk about it in depth. As I was listening to his music, I am not even thinking about any of that shit. It’s just the music. That’s one of the things that’s great about it. I’m not even thinking about it when I hear the music.
Yelawolf: We do poke fun of it because it’s funny. Like, he calls me White Dog.
Mikey Fresh:
Oh, you called him that on the BET Awards Cypher. I didn’t realize it was an ongoing joke?
EM: Yeah, or Beige Sheep. [Laughs]
YW: Cracker Nuts. Whatever, I think it’s kinda unspoken.
EM: We deal with it enough as it is. So now, let’s make music.
YW: Let’s make great records. At the end of the day, that’s all there is to do.”

-Eminem and Yelawolf, VIBE interview

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G-Eazy

“At the end of the day, I fell in love with making music at an early age, I’ve been doing this for 10 years and it comes from a genuine place. I didn’t grow up around all white people, I never wanted to gentrify hip-hop, I’ve never wanted to speak to an all-white audience. I’m just making music and I’m paying my bills.”

– G Eazy, The Guardian 

 

 

 

When considering these rappers’ points of view, and Pinnacle’s own point of view throughout the play, it’s clear that white hip hop artists have varying levels of understanding and complicity in the way they handle questions about musical appropriation. Is there a way to borrow from another culture while also respecting the folks who created it? As Pinnacle and Verb grapple with this question in Hype Man, it’s clear that real world rappers also have a lot to consider regarding their place in the industry.

Jay-Z in Conversation

T Magazine, the style magazine for The New York Times, just released an in depth interview with Jay-Z covering a range of topics, including the current state of racial politics in America, what it means to be an aging hip hop icon, and what responsibility black artists have to the larger culture.

Kadahj Bennett, who plays Verb in Hype Man, sent along the video of the interview below — we’ve been talking a lot about Verb’s emotional journey, his response to court-mandated therapy, and the way his relationship to music and his role within the group shifts over the course of the play. Some of Jay-Z’s statements here seem like they would resonate with Verb, and it’s interesting to think about how an icon like Jay-Z might serve as a model to younger artists grappling with questions about their place in the industry.

The feature on the NYT website has the full transcript and also includes some cool visual art and annotations — a few excerpted questions from NYT Executive Editor Dean Baquet and Jay-Z’s responses are below, but it’s worth checking out the entire interview.

BAQUET: …Do you expect black people and white people and young people and old people to hear different things in your music? I’m sure I heard some things in that song that you may not even have thought of ’cause I’m a different generation. What do you want a young white kid to hear in that song that maybe a young black kid would not hear?
JAY-Z: That’s a great question. I think when you make music, you want people to hear different things, and then you want it to start a dialogue. Because that’s how we get to understanding. “Oh, you felt that way about it.” “This is actually what I meant, because this happened, and these things happened, that led to me saying this specific thing.”

BAQUET: What was that like, being in therapy? What did you talk about that you had never acknowledged to yourself or talked about?
JAY-Z: I grew so much from the experience. But I think the most important thing I got is that everything is connected. Every emotion is connected and it comes from somewhere. And just being aware of it. Being aware of it in everyday life puts you at such a … you’re at such an advantage. You know, you realize that if someone’s racist toward you, it ain’t about you. It’s about their upbringing and what happened to them, and how that led them to this point. You know, most bullies bully. It just happen. Oh, you got bullied as a kid so you trying to bully me. I understand. And once I understand that, instead of reacting to that with anger, I can provide a softer landing and maybe, “Aw, man, is you O.K.?” I was just saying there was a lot of fights in our neighborhood that started with “What you looking at? Why you looking at me? You looking at me?” And then you realize: “Oh, you think I see you. You’re in this space where you’re hurting, and you think I see you, so you don’t want me to look at you. And you don’t want me to see you.”

BAQUET: Do black artists have a different obligation than white artists? Do you feel you have a different kind of obligation to the people who listen to you than if you were a white musician?

JAY-Z: …I have an obligation to further the conversation and always, you know, our stature in America. Our emotional maturity. And so on and so forth. It’s humbling; at the same time it’s like, you know, it’s what you’ve been charged with in life. And I believe since the beginning of time the poets have been charged with that. Like it was the poets that’s explaining the emotions and making these songs that people like, “Oh, that’s what I feel.”

21 Rappers Explain What Hip-Hop Means to Them

As we dive into table work this week, we’re exploring each character’s relationship to hip hop and asking questions about how they all fell in love with music, what made them want to work and perform in the industry, and what motivates each of them to keep pursuing success (however they may define it). This XXL Magazine piece featuring 21 rappers responding to the question “What does hip-hop mean to you?” is an interesting snap shot of how some current artists think about their own relationship to the genre.

We’ve excerpted a few of the XXL interview responses below — how do these answers align with the way Verb, Pinnacle, and Peep One might answer the question?

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Hip-hop, to me, is definitely a lifestyle. It’s definitely more than just a genre of music. I think every genre of music has a lifestyle, but it’s more. It’s really a culture, man. It’s more than a lifestyle, it’s culture. It gives people a way of life. I think why a lot of conscious artists are cherished these days is because it’s so much commercial. It’s not even what it’s about, it’s just because there’s so much of it. You know when you see a video, you know it’s gonna have cars and hoes in it. You know somebody is gonna be talking about the same ol’ shit, but it’s about balance. It’s not bad to talk about it, it’s about the balance. I’m not always in the club and I’m not always hanging out with model bitches in front of a car. But I do it. I’m also into other shit as well. I kind of give the people the best of both worlds.  — B.o.B

 

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Like anything else, it grows and evolves and changes. Any art form never stays in one place. To me, it started out as a way to express myself, a way to turn ideas into something tangible. And as a vehicle; a vehicle to make something out of nothing. I never knew what the fuck I wanted to do with my life. I didn’t wanna go to school, I just wanted to stay in Oakland and just figure it out. And when I got a scholarship to go to school in New Orleans and my mom pushed me to go, I got down there and was even more convinced that I didn’t know what the fuck I wanted to do with my life. I definitely knew I didn’t want to work a regular-ass job and I didn’t want to be miserable forever. Music became the vehicle to, like I said, make something out of nothing and make a living doing something I loved to do so much. And to talk to people and tell my story and to watch that impact people, and just connect to people through music. This is the best fuckin’ job in the world.  — G-Eazy

 

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Hip-hop means progression to me. Life—everything for me. It’s a way I support my family. It’s the way I escape reality when shit gets too rough. It’s a way for me instead of going and getting mad or doing something dumb, I can just go write a song about it. It’s a way of refuge. It’s brought on a bigger meaning these last couple of years just because of the impact it has on my life and how I can affect others. I loved that. I loved the fact that I can make somebody who is having a bad day listen to one of my jams and now they not tripping no more. That’s a lot on it, dog.  — Problem

 

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It means everything in a sense. It means the outlet, the voice. It means the voice, especially coming from the environment that I come from. It’s almost like our guidance. It’s our school. It’s our news channel. It’s our everything. So for me, hip-hop is basically a way of life.  — Young Buck

Read the full list of responses on XXL’s website.