Why Is Hip Hop So Misogynistic?
There is a particular genre of music that has gotten a bad rep for its disrespectful portrayal of women. That genre of music is called Hip Hop and although the artists and managers recognizes the problem very few in the industry have been willing to change. They still rap about their sexual conquests, frolic with half naked women in videos, and glorify the Strip Club as the place to have fun. It leaves many people concerned about the decline of morals in society to ask why Hip Hop is so misogynistic. The reason why Hip Hop is so misogynistic can be narrowed down to several key factors. The number one reason is because Hip Hop is male dominated. They also know that sex sells, and lastly from the way White America has accepted it, they know it’s bankable.
Hip Hop started in the mid seventies in the ghettos of New York City by immigrant Black youth who, for the most part were disenfranchised from mainstream life. They had little to live for and not much hope for a prosperous future. They created their own style of dressing and dancing. They sprayed graffiti on building walls and on subway trains. And because they couldn’t get into the Clubs they threw block parties where the DJs and MCs would use the microphone to do shout outs to their friends over the music as it played. Those shout outs developed into clever little rhymes that over time led to marathon rhyming sessions to try to out-do each other. The birth of Rapping saw the beginning of a domino effect that propelled those first rappers to becoming the first ghetto stars.
First the Rappers got all the girls then as they got more popular they began to earn a little pocket money from promoters for showing up at parties. Eventually they started to make records using the B-side tracks of popular Disco singles which became instant hits in the community and on radio for their novelty. At first mainstream record companies wanted no part of what they considered “Ghetto Music” and “Stealing” because of their unauthorized use of the B-tracks. Rappers and their friends who had some experience in producing and pressing records got together, formed their own companies and put out their own records. By the mid 80s the large record companies began to take notice because Rap music was rising fast and was beginning to take over Soul and R&B music on most urban radio stations.
Today, while Hip Hop is fairly new compared to other music genres it has grown to become one of the most popular, expanding to include all races and cultures and generating billions in revenues on a yearly basis. Since its very beginning it has included the raw nature of life in the streets which includes; gun violence, prostitution, and drug dealing. While all three vices still exist around the music it is its portrayal of women that has generated the most backlash. It is also important to note that misogyny and female exploitation exists to varying degrees across most music genres. They all contain questionable lyrics or scenes of nudity. Women have always been portrayed in entertainment as either objects of male sexual desires or as tools to boost interest in a subject.
In the beginning Hip Hop as an art form was able to control its flow of money based on the talent of the artists. Artists became well known based on their skills as MCs because they took time to develop their abilities. Many of the lyrical legends like; Kool Mo Dee, KRS1, Rakim, Curtis Blow, Super Rhymes, and Melle Mel are still well known today because of that fact. Back then the #1 moniker of Hip Hop was “Keep It Real”. It means be true to what you are. If you are a coward do not pretend to be brave. If you can’t pick up a girl, do not pretend to be a “player”, and if you don’t have any money, do not pretend to be a big spender. In that perspective Hip Hop’s aim was to be truthful about life.
Today money controls Hip Hop. Record companies know that sex sells therefore the more sexually suggestive an artist is, it’s the more successful he will be. Capitalism operates on a simple directive, find what makes money and milk it to death. Record companies are no longer a monopoly and are losing money fast due to the dispersing of wealth throughout the industry. They once invested a lot of time and money into developing artists now they don’t. Today they have determined that all an artist needs to be successful is a catchy beet, a crazed persona, misogynistic lyrics, and a lot of money to wave in front of the camera.
Women who participate in Hip Hop culture are not being blind to the misogyny around them. They know full well that they are seen as either trophies or objects for male pleasure. Some women who have accepted it as part of “the game” use their sexuality to make a name for themselves. Others who oppose it have relegated themselves to the fringes of the culture where they work as or with anti misogyny activists. Outsiders wishing that Misogyny in Hip Hop will soon go away maybe sorely disappointed. Hip Hop is a major player in the music industry. Rappers are becoming millionaires in increasing numbers, many of which have done so based on the formula of using misogyny is a tool. So as long as disenfranchised kids and others continue to emulate that formula it is a process that has perpetual motion.