The Vagenda

A Call for Hipper Hip Hop

I have a confession to make.

When the week is done, and I stagger home through half-deserted streets (who am I kidding, I live in London, I elbow my way through the mob) to home, my greatest desire post-Supernoodles is not to go to a literary salon. Or to take MDMA and listen to minimal techno in a warehouse full of sweaty oiks. Nope – all I want to do is go to a grubby bar and listen to hip hop, for 8 hours, until I can’t feel my feet and I think I’m being hit on when actually it’s just the barman saying, ‘Excuse me madam, you cannot have these Jaeger bombs because your card has been declined for the sixth time.’

But here’s the thing: 99% of hip hop is really, reallyreallyreally misogynistic. I used to be able to laugh it off because these men are probably secretly terrified of talking to girls in a non-‘hey bitch, I eat Rolexes for breakfast, hop in my Lamborghini Escalade’ kind of way.

But when Jay-Z became baby daddy recently, he made the profound claim that he was no longer going to call women ‘bitches’ in his songs, because he couldn’t bear the thought of his superhero child Blue Ivy being referred to as such.

And it made me think, actually, there is no fucking excuse whatsoever for these douchebags to be going round and saying things like ‘I’m fucking different bitches every day of the week’ (direct quote from The Game there, GENT).

Because, in the same way that they glorify carrying guns, taking drugs and gangland warfare, they make it totally okay for your average 16 year old boy to think treating women like possessions is A-OK. And it makes your average 16 year old girl think she needs to objectify herself and STFU with her opinions to be found attractive.

So, I have stated the blindingly obvious – what’s the solution? Because I really, really hate techno.

I tried listening to women rappers for a bit, who are fewer in number but equally as good as their male counterparts, naturally. Missy Elliott, Eve, Rah Diggah et al of the noughties when feminism was cool in the USA are fairly good in the sense that they adopt the typical male rap persona of ‘I can fuck who I want bro’.

‘Just because he spent a little dough he think I’m gonna fuck,’ says Rah Diggah, in the Touch It remix. Great! shouts feminism, RIGHT ON! But what’s this? ‘If money ain’t a thing/ I’m saying let a bitch know/ time to empty your account/ how far you willing to go?’

Feminism sits back down in its seat and lights a fag.

And so it goes on. And now we have Nicki Minaj saying things like, ‘He just gotta give me that look/ when he give me that look/ then the panties comin’ off.’

Strong message to young men there, Nicki.

I’m sure there are rappers out there who aren’t misogynistic, but they’re not getting played in my dive bars on a Friday night. And it’s not a case of new stars changing the scene – it won’t happen. We need more Jay-Z lightbulb moments; we need the big names to stop shoving women’s faces into their crotch at gigs (true story at The Game’s UK shows last year).

I’m counting on Jay-Z to pop a memo out to his pals right now, both male and female, to say misogyny in rap ain’t great, so I can go back to dancing the night away badly with a clean conscience. Can you do that for me, Jay? Coz you’ve only got seventeen more years before Blue Ivy will want to dance her socks off to something a little more enlightened.

Thanks for the pic, FDP

14 thoughts on “A Call for Hipper Hip Hop

  1. I’m not sure the line you picked from Nicki Minaj is her worst. I think maybe her use of misogynist slurs like ‘ho’, ‘bitch’ and ‘slut’ that she directs at, like, every other woman is.

  2. ‘He just gotta give me that look/ when he give me that look/ then the panties comin’ off.’

    Don’t worry, I think I’ve seen that look, it’s somewhere between ‘concentrating really hard’ and ‘constipated’. The panties (or knickers) only come off because of the vibrations from all that laughing. If men keep being this cool, imma have to get me some suspenders to keep ‘em up, dawg!

  3. Invincible is very good. But she sort of disappeared for a while. I think she’s releasing something new soon, though. Other than her, I can’t think of anyone else… Sometimes I just give up and listen to hip hop in other languages so I won’t constantly feel insulted. Ana Tijoux and Mala Rodriguez sound superb.

  4. ” ‘Just because he spent a little dough he think I’m gonna fuck,’ says Rah Diggah, in the Touch It remix. Great! shouts feminism, RIGHT ON!”

    I think you may be mixing up your opinion with Feminism. It’s a lot more than saying no to sex because someone buys you a drink.

  5. Its not rap but reggae – but you should listen to ‘No Less Than A Woman (infertility)’ by Lady Saw – she has some great lyrics.

  6. If the confusion between Jäger – seriously *manly* drink – and Jaeger – high end *girly* fashion store – was accidental, it was an amusing mistake. Made me giggle! What would a Jaeger Bomb look like? An explosion of KateMiddleton-esque silk and ruffles, perhaps?!

  7. Great post ladies!
    This topic is v close to my heart because i’m a hip hop fan but when I say hip hop, I mean Tribe called Quest, gangstarr, Big Pun, dilated peoples etc etc (early – mid 90′s) and definitely NOT the stuff in the charts (50 cent, the game etc etc). When I was growing up, hip hop was about love, poverty, injustice, family, grief – now it’s about being rich, cars, casual sex, big houses etc etc. And women? well, they used to talk about love and relationships and now it’s about sex and how a woman looks. So when you say “99% of hip hop is really misogynistic” what you actually mean is “99% of commercial/chart hip hop is misogynistic”.
    Regarding the “bitch” issue, it’s all over current hip hop and both men and women are using it. A great song by Jeru the Damaja is called “da bichez” and a line from it states “I’m not talking about the young ladies/but the bitches/they are giving up sex for goods/they only want you ’til someone richer comes along”. Bitch used to be a derogatory term for a woman whereas now, it’s just another name for a woman. Young girls are listening to the stuff they play in the charts and think they need to behave/think a certain way to be with someone – this is the sad side of it. To be honest, female rappers are now just as much to blame as the male rappers and i’m talking about Nicki Minaj et al.
    If you want to listen to positive female rappers, try listening to Queen Latifah. When she was big in the early 90′s, not only was she one of few female rappers but she was one of few female rappers who actually rapped about the way men treated her and encouraged other women not to put up with it. She was wearing whatever she wanted to wear in music videos and up until then, the only women you saw were usually half naked.
    Sadly, sex sells and especially sells to (generally) insecure men – which is what we’re dealing with here. I, too, hope that it will stop.

  8. there is an excellent documentary (to be fair it is a few years old) called Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes. It is directly about this issue, misogyny in hip hop, and why this type of hip hop is more popular than other forms. I would recommend it to all!

  9. I’m amazed no one has brought up Jean Grae yet. One of the greatest MCs ever, and her first album Attack Of The Attacking Things has plenty of strong tracks.

    From a male side, there’s also plenty of rappers who aren’t dropping the b-bomb non-stop. Dead Prez, The Roots, Talib Kwali, Mos Def, Edan and frankly most independent rappers. Same is true for most British rappers.

    As asian84 puts it, we’re actually talking about “99% of commercial/ chart hip hop”. So don’t listen to that stuff, don’t give bars that play that stuff your money and go find better bars!

    • I agree, most British rappers and independent rappers don’t sound like that. Just the commercial stuff, which is sadder. (I have a particular soft spot for Scroobius Pip, I’ve never seen anyone enjoy what they do as much as he does when he’s on stage.)

      Good hip-hop is a form of art – I don’t go to galleries to see ill thought out, commercial crap, so why would I listen to it?

  10. Yes! Queen Latifah, Ana Tijoux, Jean Grae, Invincible. Awesome!!!
    Also Northern State – rapping directly ABOUT feminism in a totally fun, brilliant way. Also Ms Dynamite ain’t quite hip-hop but she got the beats and surely everyone knows It Takes More and Put Him Out? She’s amazing!
    Thanks for the post – I want to love hip-hop too and am too often totally gutted.

  11. You’ve obviously never heard Sage Francis.
    If you want clever, poignant, contrary rap that incisively draws out its amused fury at the lameness and gynophobia of contemporary ‘hip-hop’, reads like poetry but sounds like Mama Said Knock You Out*, go there.

    There are a good few of his label mates you might enjoy too.

    *you know, the one LL wrote about his GRA’MA!

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