Saturday, April 28, 2012

Women in Hop-Hop

Hip-hop, and the entertainment industry as a whole, is male dominated. There are definitely successful females in hip-hop, but they are not nearly as prevalent as successful male artists. When one names the most successful rappers, it is unlikely a female would come to mind. Rather, names such as Jay-Z, Biggy Smalls, and Kanye West would most likely be suggested. One could argue that this is because of the masculine nature of hip-hop--violence, drug dealing, and getting girls; at the surface, hip-hop appears to primarily contain lyrics of male interests. Does this then indicate that hip-hop is a male directed genre, majorly by males for males?

Artists such as Lil Kim and Nicky Manaj have seen great success as female rappers, but their names do not hold the esteem of the male rappers of their times respectively. Is this due to sexism as a result of the content of the majority of rap songs? To illustrate this point, in the movie Notorious, Biggy is portrayed as Lil Kim's mentor, where she learns to rap properly with the assistance of a male--Big instructs her on what males want to hear, suggesting that hip-hop is an industry for males. Although this is not an actual occurrence, but rather a fictional portrayal, it demonstrates that this is the mindset of male rappers and the genre as a whole, as viewed by the clip below.

(Begin at 2:25)

Thus, is it just to say that hip-hop is a sexist segment of the music industry, or is it simply a male dominated genre due to its graphic nature that males are generally attracted to? 


  1. The genre of rap in Hip-Hop is definitely male-dominated, but it's not necessarily catered to males. Our American Flow class interestingly enough, has about a 1:3 ratio of females to males, but I have observed from the people I know that there is about an equal number of males and females that listen to rap and hip-hop in general.

    Although violence, drug-dealing and getting girls are subjects that males traditionally rap about, I feel like female rappers aren't that different. Lil Kim rapped about violence and getting guys. I feel like Hip-Hop has some stable subjects such as violence, love, and sex, that both genders rap about, just with a masculine or feminine edge. However, this doesn't make it more catered to one gender over another (in my personal opinion) because I appreciate and listen to Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim as much as I listen to Jay-Z and Drake.

  2. You ask whether sexism due to rap content has resulted in female artists "not holding the esteem of the male rappers of their times." In my opinion this is not the case; rather, the reason behind woman artists not having the same kind of influence is that there simply aren't enough of them out there. Misogynist themes in rap music might discourage female artists from entering the genre at all; once they do break onto the scene, however, they are as well-respected as their male counterparts.

    Although there are currently fewer prominent female artists than there were in the late 1980s and 90s, present-day artists such as Nicki Minaj have risen to fame for embracing not only their gender, but also their individuality. "You could be the king, but watch the queen conquer," Minaj proclaims in "Monster." Meanwhile, her "open[ness] about her bi-curiosity... and challeng[ing of] norms of sexuality" have also gained her national notoriety, as cited in Ofori-Atta's "In Hip-Hop Feminism Alive in 2011?"

  3. Given the two options presented in your question, I would have to choose the second, "that hip-hop is simply a male dominated genre due to its graphic nature that males are generally attracted to." Female artists in hip-hop use female bodies in general as a topic in their tracks to talk about the power they have, and other forewarn the dangers of being a female (as represented in one verse Lauryn Hill's track "That Thing"). Either way, the origin of the issue comes about from the interest of the males: females talk about power of their bodies to be superior to males in that aspect, and talk about the dangers due to the different "exploits" males make of the females, even as simple as sweet-talking a female they find attractive (which brings to mind the song "Long Way to Go" by Cassie). Cassie observes all these guys trying to hit on her, but maintains that they have a "long way to go" in actually gaining her attraction to them.

    However, with the rise of conscious rap, I believe we could divert from the focus of male dominance; one could just view the words of female artists as just wise words of their personal experiences. Yet, with such a strong foundation of male-dominance established in past songs, it seems difficult to stray from such thought when viewing current songs that could have different foundations.

  4. I would have to say that the reason hip-hop has become "a male dominated genre" is because of the nature of the lyric today. Lyrics today, at least as far as main-stream hip-hop goes, can be very violent. A lot of hip-hop has become this extreme type of braggadocio rap, where male rappers boast for the sake of boasting. When people listen to this, they tend to shy away from hip-hop because they feel intimidated by this new sub-genre in hip-hop.

    Being a huge hip-hop fan, I know that most of hip-hop does not contain this overly violent, ridiculously non-informative lyric. But, what does exist makes people intimidated. This is why I feel that the few women who we have seen gain popularity in past year have also tried to adopt this violent persona, for example, Nicki Minaj's verse in "Monster". Women who may have actual talent will probably shy away from a musical genre that many times refers to them as "hoes".

    Everyone should take a listen to Lauryn Hill...

  5. I believe that hip hop is a male dominated industry due to the violent nature of the lyrics rather than being a sexist segment in the music industry. I don't think the industry is sexist per se, I just believe that the main themes of hip hop relate to males more than females.

    Of course there are some females in hip hop that are successful, like Lil Kim, Lauryn Hill, Nicki Minaj, etc, but I agree with Kelvin in saying that it is a male dominated industry due to its themes.

    The major disparity between genders in hip hop also could be from the fact that men can relate to men better than to women, so it would only make sense that male rappers would be more successful or popular. I know in today's hip hop industry there are more female listeners, so perhaps more female hip hop artists will be able to tap into that market and be successful in the coming years.

  6. I think a major point that's being ignored is the fan-base of hip-hop. Rap listeners tend to be male and, for the most part, male listeners want to hear male rappers. It's not a matter of sexism, but rather a subconscious preference. Most guys don't want to be seen by their friends driving down the road bumping Nicki Minaj. Female listeners of rap music, however, tend to like female rappers as they provide a certain femininity that male artists lack.

    If women made up an equal share of listeners, there may be a much larger demand for music from female rappers.

  7. Your point reminds me of something we discussed in class much earlier in the semester- Chris asked us to name famous political females from history, and people were able to spit out a good amount of names. Then he asked us to name famous political males from history and everyone became silent. I think rap encounters the same issue. Of course there are famous females in rap music, but there are so many more famous men.

    I think that this is a result of something I studied in a sociology class earlier this year. A lot of professions are dominated by males, not because males are better at these jobs, but because women choose not to enter them. I think rap music is one of these fields. It isn't that female rappers don't have the opportunity to enter the scene, but more so that they choose not to. More women then men choose to be homemakers, school teachers, nannies, and many other female-dominated professions.

  8. I think that women are discouraged from rapping due to the violent nature the rap industry and many of its lyrics. Although men are naturally more aggressive than women and as a result, can rap about violence more readily than women, I do not think that women are any less capable at rapping than men are. People may argue that because women do not join gangs as often as men, they are not exposed to the same kind of street violence that many male rappers rap about. However, often times, male rappers have not been involved in street violence either. Instead, they create murderous personas that rap about committing crimes, when in reality, these male rappers would never dream of raping or murdering someone. Women can create similar personas that are just as fake as their male counterparts' personas. Yes, there is more of a stigma associated with women discussing rape and murder, however, if a woman were a talented rapper and were willing to rap about the stuff that men rap about, I do not see any reason why she could not be as successful as any male rapper.


Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.