Amidst the recent rape allegations against hip-hop legend Russell Simmons, we must consider the history of hip-hop music promoting rape culture. Throughout the ‘90’s and even today, hip-hop music continues to promote physical abuse towards women, use derogatory terms towards women and encourage the practice of raping women.
As a dedicated hip-hop lover and Black woman, it is difficult for me to dance and sing-a-long to some hip-hop songs that shaped the culture and sound. I often find myself pausing in the middle of a song to think about the meaning of the lyrics. Most of these songs gained popularity from degrading women. Historically in hip-hop, women are sexual objects or mindless accessories to men. As popularized slurs meant to degrade women continue to spread throughout the industry, it’s hard for women to become respected artists. Ava DuVernay, in response to the N.W.A biopic, “Straight Outta Compton” mentioned how these twisted and derogatory values are the foundation of hip-hop. Females in hip-hop – rappers like Eve, Lil Kim, Trina, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B – have tried to take back some of the ownership of women being sexually active. However, their efforts often get overshadowed by their physic or sex appeal.
Hip-hop fans have a history of conveniently forgetting about statutory rape allegations for the sake of hip-hop music and culture. Let’s not forget in 2002, R-Kelly was caught having sex with an underage girl. Even though he clearly urinates in this young girl’s mouth and instructs her on how to receive his “gift,” fans looked past it because he is a legend in the R&B community. If an artist continues to provide us with good music, we tend to “step in the name of love” past acts that suggest predatory behavior and abuse of power. Given the recent allegations against Russell Simmons, we must reflect on our role in nurturing and funding rape culture.
Oxford dictionary defines rape culture as, “a society or environment whose prevailing social attitudes have the effect of normalizing or trivializing sexual assault or rape culture.” Here are five examples of men in hip-hop promoting rape culture:
- Big Daddy Kane – “Cause I Can Do It Right”
“That’s why I say it ain’t easy
But I’ve been able to maintain my status
With ladies macking without if’s, and’s, or maybe’s
And other players just can’t understand it
And couldn’t keep they girls even if they were branded
I always end up with them on my shelf
*SMACK* I gotta jump back and kiss myself”
This ‘90’s classic, boasts about Big Daddy Kane’s ability to persuade women to have sex with him without any regrets. There’s nothing wrong with talking about being a handsome man and using your looks to have consensual sex with women. However, he goes on to explain how these women are now on “his shelf” and how other guys couldn’t get girls if they were branded. This song insinuates that women are merely metals or prizes for men to show off and prove their superiority over other men.
- 2PAC featuring Digital Underground – “I Get Around”
“You don’t know me, you just met me, you won’t let me
Well, if I couldn’t have it (silly rabbit) why you sweatin’ me?
It’s a lot of real G’s doin’ time
Cause a groupie bent the truth and told a lie
You picked the wrong guy, baby, if you’re too fly
You need to hit the door, search for a new guy
Cause I only got one night in town
Break out or be clowned, baby doll, are you down?
I get around”
Even though 2Pac has raised awareness to the war on poverty and the brutal reality of teenage mothers in his music, he still promoted the idea that women are useless to men if they do not have sex with them. Throughout the song, he mentions how he “gets around” and sleeps with different types of women. He mentions different scenarios where women throw themselves at him but he tells them to settle down because it’s too easy. In this particular encounter with a woman, 2Pac becomes angry that she has doubts about having sex with because he doesn’t know her that well. He goes on to tell her that he’s not interested in getting to know her because he’s only in-town for one night. He justifies his thought process by claiming that some “real-g’s” went to jail for false rape allegations by “groupies”. This realization shocked me because I grew up listening to this song at family cook-outs and reunions. I remember impressing my older aunts and uncles by rapping the lyrics to ‘90’s classics and acting like these idolized artists. However, this song only perpetuates the belief that women shouldn’t be heard or taken seriously about rape allegations if they are flirting with a man or seen as a groupie. What’s the difference between me and the women that 2Pac is referring to? How can I justify listening to this song if I understand this situation from a woman’s perspective?
- DMX – “X Is Coming”
“Tryin’ to send the b–ch back to her maker
And if you got a daughter older then 15, I’mma rape her
Take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you
Then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?”
DMX has always been a controversial artist since he gained popularity in the late ‘90’s until the early 2000’s. His aggressive and demonic tone throughout his music, has always pushed the boundaries of the hip-hop genre. Even his role in the 1998 film “Belly”, promotes a sexual relationship with an underage girl. The chorus for this song features DMX with a child singing an adaptation of a children’s nursery rhyme found in the 1984 classic film, “A Nightmare on Elm Street”. Throughout the nursery rhyme, the child replaces Freddie Krueger’s name with DMX. Within the song, he talks about feuding with a guy who apparently told some confidential information and he’s seeking revenge. To “get back” at this guy for spreading this information, he describes breaking into his house and raping his 15-year old daughter in front of him. This savage behavior should not be promoted by any artist who respects hip-hop music.
- Kool G “Hey Mister Mister”
“Now I gotsa to give your mother–kin a– a beatin
I punched her in the ribcage and kicked her in the stomach
Take off all my mother–kin jewelry, b–ch runnin
I stomped her and I kicked her and I punched her in the face
Some people crowded around but nobody got out of place
Don’t want heroics, “Hey buddy” – ayyo money don’t get in this
“Hey miss you alright?” – mother–ker mind your business!
I’m bashin her with the nine, inches away from pullin the trigger”
Even though this album was released in 2012, it still perpetuates the same aspects of rape culture that was found in the ‘90’s. Kool G began his rap career in the mid ‘80’s, which may account for his rough and violent lyrics. The song begins with Kool G using a derogatory term towards women and continues to become more brutal as he describes physically abusing his girlfriend who cheated on him. Throughout the song, he goes through the process of him discovering that she was having an affair with another guy that he knew and him confronting her about it. He talks about how he had to viscously beat her until she became swollen with a pistol and went unconscious, to teach her a lesson. The song often features sound effects of someone getting slapped and stomped on. The chorus is a conversation between a guy who witnessed the abuse and Kool G. The guy tries to stop Kool G from abusing this woman, but Kool G tells him to mind his business. This song isn’t far from the multitude of rap songs in hip-hop that highlight and promote physical abuse towards women who “betray” a man’s trust.
- Future – “Collection”
“Won’t get a lie from me, ain’t no confessions
Before I tell a lie, won’t tell you nothin’
Any time I got you, girl you my possession
Even if I hit you once, you part of my collection”
Future is a young fairly-new artist since 2011. Similar to many young rappers, he often talks about his sexual life and how easy it is for him to get women. This song talks about how this girl claimed to be a virgin but she previously had sex with rappers and singers in the industry. He jokes about her taking him to court for rape allegations because she also knows athletes. He talks about how this girl will always be a part of his collection because they had sex. He talks about how he won’t brag to his friends about them having sex but he always can.
We must hold these rappers and entertainers in the hip-hop community accountable for their actions. As more rape victims step forward and more information on the statutory rape allegations against Russell Simmons come forth, we must reflect on our role in the acceptance and adaptation of these values into our community. Am I condoning rap culture because I dance to a Future or DMX song in the shower? Maybe. Throughout the ‘90’s and still today, hip-hop music promotes physical abuse towards women, uses derogatory terms towards women and encourages the practice of raping women. Hip-hop is known for encouraging the stereotyped culture of Black people in America, we need to have a serious discussion about the social issues that have been accepted by our culture.