I'm a Feminist who Loves Hip-Hop. Rick Ross and Other Misogynists Can't Change That.
Rick Ross in Dallas.
Rick Ross is having a rough week. The Maybach Music Group kingpin is currently being crucified by the media & women's interest groups all over the country, for a guest verse he gave on Atlanta rapper Rocko's new single, U.O.E.N.O. Featuring a hook from autotune boy wonder, Future, the song is perfectly enjoyable for the first two minutes and ten seconds. It's there that things take an unprecedentedly dark turn, and an amusingly boastful and catchy rap tune turns into a major media scandal. With the line, "Put molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it/ I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain't even know it", Ross has put the national spotlight on rap music's misogynistic and predatory relationship with women.
"I definitely believe in challenging [art], and challenging our artists to be more responsible with their lyrics." said New York emcee Talib Kweli, when he called into HuffPostLive this week to discuss the topic, "But too often with hip hop, we have an incredible double standard where we accept [irresponsible lyrics] from rappers we like, and don't accept it from rappers we don't like"
Kweli makes a great point. Ross' date rape braggadocio is an undeniable iniquity, but it is by no means the first depiction or glorification of non-consensual sex in rap music. OFWGTKA's Tyler The Creator for example, who was on Letterman just last night promoting his new album, has heavily illustrated lyrical depictions of rape throughout his young career. Yet for some reason, the critically acclaimed rapper has barely caught a fraction of the public outrage that Ross has currently embroiled- coincidentally at a point in his career where he is undoubtedly past his peak.
For women, the double standard is all the more complicated. As a woman, a feminist and a hip hop fan, I think lyrics that glorify and make light of rape are deplorable and socially dangerous. I also think that misogynistic themes and lyrics in rap music have affected the way that young men of my generation view & treat women, by subscribing them to a distorted guideline of how to measure their masculinity.
But misogyny is not a hip hop problem, it is a societal reality. So is rape culture. In any medium, the art is never the cause of the problem, it is the symptom- the product of it's creator's human experience. Rick Ross might be an asshole, but he's not the reason that society doesn't take rape & violence against women seriously.
In a 2010 interview with the Wall Street Journal, Jay-Z admitted to retrospective feelings of regret about his own chauvinistic lyrical content on the classic, "Big Pimpin."
"It was like, I can't believe I said that. And kept saying it. What kind of animal would say this sort of thing? Reading it [now] is really harsh."
It's arguably one of the rap superstar's single most misogynistic verses, and one of his most popular hits. And when the DJ at my favorite hip hop weekly drops it, I don't feel adversarial towards men in my dating pool when I'm singing along with them. Nor do I get bashful blasting UGK stripclub prostitution anthems in my car. Why? Bun B has been happily married to the same woman for 15 years. Jay-Z is now one of America's archetypes for the dream husband, and revealed to Oprah in 2009 that it wasn't until he repaired his damaged relationship with his estranged father that he was able to open himself up to romantic love. Misogyny in any capacity is a crutch and a device for men to mask their own insecurities by keeping women down.
I am able to resolve being a woman, a feminist, and a hip hop fan by refusing to let rap music's perception & depiction of women define me, exploit me, or dictate my actions. As Eleanor Roosevelt said, no one can make you feel inferior without your consent. The Teflon Don is no exception to that rule. I'll be damned if I'm going to let Rick Ross or any other rapper victimize me out of my place in hip-hop.
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