Stalking my friends’ SoundClouds has become a guilty hobby of mine. Sometimes I get tired of repeating the same top 40 radio rotation, and I want to shake it up. In the age where everyone wants to be a rapper, singer, or a Drake, I have plenty of talented artists in my circle to shamelessly stalk. After all, I know the importance of having fans. As a spoken word artist, myself, it means the world to me that my friends are never too busy sice me in an open mic. The least I can do is listen to a mixtape every once in a while.
What I listened to made me clutch my pearls.
Amidst the banging beats and clever wordplay, laid raw uncensored unapologetic misogyny. If I were to ignore the sexual objectification, raunchiness, and offensiveness of the content, I have to admit that most of my acquaintances’ music is pretty dope. However, it made me wonder if this was how society perceived women, particularly in my own circle. Do my guy friends who write these lyrics think that it’s okay to dehumanize women and see them as disposable, or are they falling in line with their misogynistic musical counterparts? Is the blame really on me the listener for supporting the perpetuation of sexism being the standard in urban music?
It’s easy to listen to politically incorrect songs when they’re coming from Chris Brown, but it’s another thing to see how the Black men around me start to mirror that culture. I’ll admit some of them I already knew didn’t 100% respect women. Some do (I hope), but their music still reflects their non-committal, single-and-having-fun, locker-room-talk actual life experiences. For others, it was shocking to see their desire to live this other life in their music. In the day, they were boo loving with their girlfriend or too shy to court the girl across the room, but by night they turned into a “these hoes ain’t loyal” kind of artists. For me personally, I find it cringeworthy to see this other side of good wholesome guys I put on a brotherly pedestal.
However, I imagine it’s the same feeling they would feel seeing their “little sister” twerking to a less than angelic Migos song.
As a Black woman, hip hop has always been a hard realm for me to navigate. As a feminist, it’s difficult for me to support music that conveys messages about women I find offensive. As an African American, hip hop is intertwined with Black culture. Hip hop is more than just a beat and a hook, it is powerful. It sparks both large movements and conversations. It allows us to connect with one another. Free from white mainstream approval (debatably), hip hop lets us be ourselves without censorship or diluting our magic. Hip hop is art, poetry, and therapy; I love it with all of my soul.
I just wish that sometimes it loved the Black woman that listen to it every day back with the same fire. The Black women who defend and are often the backbone of Black movements (hip hop included) are often belittled and tossed aside. Will we continue to support this unrequited affection for urban music? Definitely, it’s part of the Black female experience and the songs are amazing. But ethically, should we?
On the flip side, I’m not trying to shame my friends or anyone for making less the PC music. I think that art is best when it’s uncontainable. Music is a space to say whatever our heart desires without rules or stipulations. It utilizes our freedom of speech to artistically convey the hard truths and unpopular opinions in a creative way. I am by no means advertising censorship. Free expression allows us to tell our stories whether they are intelligent, humorous, sexual, grotesque, enlightening, realistic, calming, a fantasy, or well…just sound really good at parties. However, I think it’s time to see how hip hop is shaping our everyday lives.
Disclaimer: I know that this is kind of an oversimplification, but this topic is so intricate it needs multiple posts to dissect. What do you think? Do you agree with me or think I’m wrong? Ready for part 2? Comment your thoughts below.