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Women in Rap Music

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To what extent does your chosen subject either perpetuates oppressive gender attitudes/myths, or allows participants involved in it to transcend the limitations imposed by gender/gender myths?

Gender Degradation of Rap and Hip-Hop Music

Dating back to the eras of the Beatles and the Rollingstones, music has always had an affect on the ways that people act, dress, and live their lives. With the arrival of rap and hip-hop music in the mid 1980's, new lyrics and cultural values began to spread throughout the radio frequencies of every household and car in society. Rap provided a new form of music - a music based upon fast and catchy rhythms that could launch an audience off of their seats, forcing them to dance in the isles of a concert or down the halls of their own home. Yet, with this form of entertainment gaining popularity so quickly, its affects gradually began to take a toll on the ways that individuals lived and perceived life. With lyrics promoting anger, violence, and substance abuse, society began to absorb what is sometimes called the "gangster lifestyle." Through lyrics, music videos, and radio airtime, rap and hip-hop music has been able to positively expose the realities of the urban lifestyle, while promoting the degradation of women in a male dominated industry; where female artists are scarce and are nearly forced to appeal lyrically and physically to males.

With the arrival of the music video, rap and hip-hop artists were given the opportunity to express their lyrics in a visual form. Instead of directly relating the videos to some of the lyrics, rap artists decided to film videos that degraded the social and physical status of females in society. In various music videos, it is common for a female to be dressed in merely a bra and panties, dancing around a male for his own entertainment. This nearly nude image, which seems to depict a sense of power among males over females, is highly evident in the music video for the song "The Thong Song" by popular hip-hop artist Sisqo, formerly of the quartet Dru Hill. In this video, Sisqo sings about the thongs of women and how they shake it around for men. Not only are the lyrics to this song primarily about the body parts of females, but the video focuses on women of all different races dancing on the beach. It's not the fact that these women are dancing for fun, but it is the fact that these women are merely wearing a bathing suit top and a thong bottom piece. With their butt cracks revealed, the females in this video dance around Sisqo and other artists in this video. Sisqo is seen walking down the beach in one scene, just viewing a line of females with their rears facing his face. Sisqo seems to have total power over these women, as he does back flips and dances along the sandy beach while grabbing and fondling any females that he chooses. In another particular scene, hip-hop artist Nokio is seen sitting in a hot tub with four other females; with all four females rubbing and touching the body of the sole male in the hot tub. These images in the video alone show that women are merely seen as objects of sexual pleasure in rap and hip-hop music videos. The women nearly seem to look like the slaves of the males, as they provide back rubs and belly dances for the spectators people call men.

Not only are females depicted as sexual objects in music videos, but male rappers tend to express various forms of violence against females and homosexuals in many of their lyrics. In an article focused on the lyrical content of rap music, Victoria A. Brownworth of Curve magazine claims that eighty percent of rap music is being performed by African-American males, yet the same percentage of the lyrical content is primarily discriminating against both females and homosexuals. This statistic researched by Brownworth shows that even though hip-hop and rap music may have high entertainment value in the market, its true lyrical content is degrading to females, homosexuals, and even the buyer of the album. Furthermore, violence against females is evident within the lyrics of the song "Stan" by rap artist Eminem. Eminem's lyrics state "Shut up bitch! I'm tryin to talk! Hey Slim, that's my girlfriend screamin in the trunk

but I didn't slit her throat, I just tied her up, see I ain't like you cause if she suffocates she'll suffer more, and then she'll die too. Well, gotta go, I'm almost at the bridge now

Oh shit, I forgot, how'm I supposed to send this shit out?" Eminem's lyrics depict a disturbing form of violence to society. In the lyrics, the reader can see that the male in the song has tied his girlfriend up, put her in the trunk, and is going to drive the car off of the bridge so that she drowns and suffocates inside the truck (Eminem). These disturbing lyrics are a prime example of how females are beat and thrown around in many other rap lyrics - promoting violence towards females in America's society. Females are seen more as the objects of males, rather than individuals that have emotional and physical feelings of their own. These depictions harm the entire character of females and show the distinct weaknesses of abuse among many males in today's society.

Along with the promotion of female abuse in the rap lyrics of many artists, one must realize that in a field that is primarily dominated by the men, few women seem to slip through the cracks and enter the rap and hip-hop music industry. In this industry very few females are taken seriously, which is obvious as Marla L. Shelton lists the few successful female rap artists in her article in Popular Music and Society. In her article, Shelton can only list the "core" of the artists that include TLC, Salt N Pepa, Queen Latifah, and MC Lyte. Along with those four artists/groups, today there are merely three other famous rap artists, including: Missy Elliott, Lil' Kim, and Eve. In an industry that is filled with sexist lyrics towards women, it is evident that these female artists won't be taken seriously lyrically. With very few females involved in the industry and males entering it nearly everyday, females remain a heavy minority among the hip-hop industry. Since the lyrics that the males rap about seem to express masculinity among these artists, rap music has taken upon the stereotype of being more masculine. Therefore when women enter the industry, it seems to be unacceptable for them to lyrically express feminine



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