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The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

The Student News Site of St. Joseph's University

The Hawk News

'A voice for the voiceless'
Kiley O’Brien ’25, Assistant Features Editor • July 18, 2024
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Lilli Dellheim '25 M.A., Special to the Hawk • July 13, 2024

From Lil’ Kim to Megan Thee Stallion


Assessing sexism and double standards in the rap industry

Rap music since its inception has either ignored women as a whole or spoken about them, for the most part, as sexual objects for the taking.

To be clear, this is not an article bashing rap music or rappers. I grew up on rap. To remix Renée Descartes, I rap therefore I am. This piece is instead a rebuttal to the recurring argument that women only rap about their bodies and sexuality in order to address the rampant sexism and double standards within the industry.

Most recently during an interview with “People Now,” rapper and So So Def label boss, Jermaine Dupri had a few things to say about the current lady rappers. “I feel like they’re all rapping about the same thing,” Dupri said. “I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper. For me, it’s like strippers rapping.”

This garnered more than a few responses from some ladies in the rap game such as Doja Cat and Cardi B. Both pointed out in Instagram videos that there are plenty of female rappers who don’t in fact rap about sex all the time, citing women like Philadelphia native Tierra Whack, Rapsody, Kamaiyah and Chika.

But unfortunately, Durpi is not alone in this thinking. If you search “female rapper” on Twitter, you will be barraged with plenty of tweets calling female rappers prostitutes, strippers, whores and hoes because of what they choose to rap about.

Moreover, rap veteran, Snoop Dogg said in an August 2019 interview with the “Breakfast Club” that he is tired of seeing half-naked women and provocative dancing, stating, “You can be something different. Use your mind, cover your body up.” This is ironic coming from a man who has appeared in episodes of “Girls Gone Wild” and admitted in a May 2013 issue of “Rolling Stone” that he himself used to be a pimp. Here is another example of the double standards rappers believe. How can you criticize the very people you are profiting off of exploiting?

Men rap about sex all the time and no one is calling them gigolos except for those like Snoop Dogg who self-identify as pimps. My question is, why are men allowed to be sexual in their music, but women cannot? Historically, when female rappers talk about sex, it’s often as a form of empowerment or a form of liberation. When men talk about sex, it’s usually having power over someone or using it to degrade someone else.

For example, Tupac Shakur attacks the Notorious B.I.G. in “Hit ‘Em Up” when he states, “That’s why I f—– your b—-” and, You claim to be a player but I f—– your wife.” Shakur uses these degrading lyrics to embarrass and lessen Biggie’s street credibility by minimizing women to objects for the sexual taking.

It is also necessary to point out the history of female rappers themselves. When female rappers like MC Lyte, Queen Latifah, Da Brat and Monie Love started getting into the rap industry in the ’80s, women were constricted not only in what they could rap about but also how they could dress in order for the male-led agencies to take them seriously.

MC Lyte began her career wearing sweat suits and sneakers so that she came off more masculine in order for people to take her seriously. After she garnered that initial respect, she started dressing more feminine and showing more skin.

ILLUSTRATION: Anissa Wilson ’20

Women still were never really in a place culturally or socially where they could talk about sex. Until the ’90s, that is.

In the ’90s, groups and people like SaltN-Pepa, TLC, Lil’ Kim, Kelis, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliot and Khia exploded onto the rap scene with sexually explicit lyrics. Salt-N-Pepa released “Let’s Talk About Sex” in 1991 and it reached No. 13 on Billboard’s Hot 100 chart. Lil Kim, one of the queens of rap, came onto the scene in 1995 and was overtly sexual from the beginning.

In a 1997 interview with bell hooks for Paper magazine, Lil’ Kim states “We have people like Too Short, Luke Skyywalker, Biggie, Elvis Presley, Prince, who are very, very, very sexual, and they don’t get trashed because they like to do it. But all of a sudden, we have a female who happens to be a rapper, like me, and my doin’ it is wrong. And ’cause I like doin’ it, it’s even more wrong because we’ve fought for years as women to do the same things that men are doing.”

Lil‘ Kim made an extremely valid point: rap highlights the “Madonna-whore” complex. Women are okay when they are quiet, pretty, clean, submissive and complying to the man’s sexual desire—a.k.a. the “Madonna.” However, they immediately are labeled as “prostitutes,” or whores when they enjoy sex and openly express it.

Furthermore, men who think female rappers are rapping like prostitutes only prefer for women to be seen as sexual objects, yet disrespect women who express their sexuality.

These women are expressing their sexuality and making it into an art form that empowers other women to be sexy and feel sexy. These fragile male rappers are upset about it because they no longer hold a monopoly over sex talk in rap.

In the words of Missy Elliot, “Girls girls get that cash, if it’s a nine to five or shaking your…”

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