Hip-hop gets a lot of bad press about the prevalence of sexually degrading content in many of its popular songs and music videos, and highly negative portrayal of women. Initially, the purpose of this article was to take a closer look at the degree that these practices are worse in hip-hop relative to other genres. There is certainly enough degradation, womanizing, and flippant sexual content to go around in this day and age, without being limited exclusively to hip-hop. The very terms “jazz” and “rock ‘n roll” are just euphemisms for intercourse, and if you really stop and actually listen to some of the traditional American classics (non hip-hop), you might be surprised at what the lyrics are actually saying. Consider this catchy tune that I grew up listening to on our local Oldies station:
“Oh well I’m the type of guy who will never settle down
Where pretty girls are well, you know that I’m around
I kiss ‘em and I love ‘em cause to me they’re all the same
I hug ‘em and I squeeze ‘em they don’t even know my name
They call me the wanderer yeah the wanderer
I roam around around around...” (“The Wanderer” performed by Dion)
I could literally sit here all day though and find examples of sexually degrading or demeaning content in areas other than hip-hop. But after trying this for a while, I started to ask myself what the point would be? It doesn’t take much effort to quickly realize that some of the most explicit offenders generally tend to come from the rap genre (I mean, the level of objectification in the Dion song above is taken to a whole new level when the women are referred to as “bitches” as they increasingly are these days). To prove that hip-hop isn’t the only culprit of degrading and objectifying lyrics wouldn’t ultimately be very productive in countering the negative elements that are so clearly present in this genre that we love. I decided that it might be more interesting to consider why a genre that was intended to be a source of artistic positivity and communal inspiration has been capable of producing enough offensive content to be labeled in the greater public’s eyes primarily as a platform for violence and the extreme degradation of women. Is it truly that corporate America has bastardized the original genre by accentuating and capitalizing on the sexier and darker elements as many defenders out there seem to claim? Or is there something intrinsic to the nature of hip-hop that has nurtured these darker elements and given them the necessary freedom to grow into the monster they have become?
Before closing this introduction to my series on the degradation of women in hip-hop, I must put the disclaimer on this piece (and the future installments) that it is driven primarily by my own personal experiences, observations, and reasoning abilities… none of which are all-encompassing or entirely reliable. So take this perspective however you like, but it is my hope that it will at least provoke some much needed additional thinking about this very serious issue.
In this four-part series, I will look at a couple of the key reasons that I think hip-hop may have arrived at its current state, as well as consider a few things that I think we can all do to help bring it back to its original grandeur. So stay tuned, and as always, keep us posted with reactions and comments.