The #MeToo Movement and Women In Rap

Women and rap

My first job was as a high school teacher in inner-city Philadelphia. Fresh out of college, I was eager to teach and dying to make an impact. It was a wonderful time in my career that came with many amazing moments. But it came with some moments that were extraordinarily difficult, as well.

It was fall. Classes were just beginning and a group of my students often walked into school blaring rap and hip-hop.

I was shocked. Not at the genre of music (because I like some rap), but at what was being said. I’m not talking about profanity, which is its own basket of trouble; I’m talking about graphic and sexually degrading lyrics.

And they were really degrading.

I might hear, for example, Dr. Dre, revered by many as a “rap god.” But his lyrics in “Nuthin’ But A ‘G’ Thang” are far from godlike. Here’s a quick sample:

“And before me dig out a b–ch I have to find a contraceptive/You never know, she could be earning her man/And learning her man, and at the same time burning her man.”

Or what about 50 Cent’s “Candy Shop,” where genitals are equated to candy, and the lyrics get extraordinarily raunchy and suggestive. Where did I first hear this song? At a seventh-grade track meet.

Like I say, shocking. It’s not like I had never heard these things, but it was soon clear to me that my educational and life experiences were far different from my students in Philly.

These kids—amazing kids, kids who just needed someone to listen to them—would consume these rap and hip-hop songs as if they were candy themselves, and then they’d go around calling each other “hoes” and “b—-es” and a whole bunch of other names; they’d all say terrible things, right to each other’s faces.

And what I witnessed more than anything was that many of these young men and women had little understanding of, or regard for, what fidelity truly meant. Most came from broken homes. Most truly wanted to find truly loving relationships, but few had any sort of role models for what a real loving, committed relationship looked like. They’d listen to these men rap about how many women they’d use as sex toys, and then go to them for counsel!

It was hard for me to digest. I was in a loving relationship, fully committed to my fiancé, about to get married. But all these kids knew was that when you’re rich and famous you can have anything you want—even if it’s just meaningless, degrading sex.

Now, I’m far from perfect. I’ve listened to my fair share of rap.

But there’s a huge difference when Mario sings:

“You’re the type of woman deserves good things/…You should let me love you, let me be the one to give you everything you want and need.”

Versus  what we hear on “U.O.E.N.O.” featuring Rick Ross and Future:

“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.”

There is a difference in wanting to love someone truly and sincerely, versus drugging and raping a woman and bragging about it. And I find myself asking these artists, did you conjure up these lyrics from firsthand experience? Or are you just rapping about what you think people want to hear, and corrupting an entire generation while you’re at it?

I respect talented musicians and artists. But how far is too far? Because, whether they admit it or not, kids are listening. And they’re taking notes.

An entire generation of children are building their worldview around the way people and groups like Migos and G-Eazy, Dr. Dre and Rick Ross talk about women. It’s a view that suggests it’s OK for men to degrade and use women like nothing more than an object.

In the age of the #MeToo movement, this topic is extremely relevant. Women and girls are being sexually assaulted, abused and harassed on a regular basis, and for years or decades, the perpetrators have gotten away.

I can’t help but wonder if violent and degrading rap plays into this. I wonder why men like Harvey Weinstein get slammed, but rap artists get a pass.

Who wrote this?

Kristin Smith is the most recent addition to the Plugged In team. Formerly a Spanish and English teacher, Kristin loves reading literature and eating authentic Mexican tacos. When she's not writing or editing, she enjoys traveling the world with her husband, Eddy, and running through Colorado Springs’ Garden of the Gods. She loves coffee, music, her dog (Cali) and cat (Aslan), and is eagerly awaiting the birth of her first baby, Judah.

Have something to say? Leave a comment.

Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Thank you for writing about this important cultural influence. I agree that a large majority of rap degrades women and teaches those who listen to it that mistreating women is normal and acceptable. I wish that more attention was paid toward revamping the culture that creates the necessity of the #metoo movement. Thank you for your insight. -Nychele K
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Only rap I ever listened to was Weird Al rapping about how there's nothing on TV, doing nothing but watching TV, or spewing all kinds of tech jargon and other nerdy stuff.
B Evans More than 1 year ago
Very true. But #metoo is hardly a "one issue wonder," as a colleague put it - how many who criticize rap music were applauding Andy Savage during his "confession"?
Nicechamp08 More than 1 year ago
Wow! This is nice. It's almost what I have been talking to a young man on just couple of hours ago. At the wake of the #metoo campaign, my first comment was that we shouldn't expect anything less from the accused since their works depicts it. Obviously, they cannot give what they did not have. 

I totally agree with you that rap singers should as well get their own share of the #metoo. In fact, I think it should precede the current campaign. Someone once said "give me the song of a nation, I don't care who writes it's laws." If those kinds of lyrics still roam our street, we cannot expect otherwise. God bless you ma for this wonderful piece.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
 Rappers like Future have admitted that they rap about drugs and other such things because it's popular and people like to listen to it, not because they take drugs all the time. A lot of rap is bound up in the typical rapper's persona (have lots of sex, glorify violence, take loads of drugs, etc...). If a rapper mocks that lifestyle or criticize it, they are often declared corny or "not real hip-hop."

 Lots of kids listen to music just for the beat or the way the lyrics flow. Eminem, Dr. Dre, and Migos all have disgusting lyrics but people listen to them because of their wordplay, rhymes, or because their tracks have amazing beats. There is a large group of people who couldn't tell you what the Migos track they are listening to is really about but love it because it is a "banger" and has an good beat.

Hip hop has a HUGE problem with abuse. Famous rappers like XXXTENTACION, 6ix9ine, and Kodak Black have all been charged with physical or sexual violence towards women, but that doesn't seem to stop people from listen to them. Rappers who have been charged or put in  prison often take on an "outlaw" persona that seems to boost their popularity. The reason why many of the early rappers where successful is because they were explicit and parents didn't like that. Many early rappers have said that the Parental Advisory: Explicit Content sticker only helped to boost their popularity rather then take it away. 

This is a whole issue you have brought up is one that needs to be addressed. I know many kids, including those in Christian circles, who listen to rap songs with explicit or objectifying lyrics. Most of the biggest hip hop artists right now (Lil Pump, Migos, Post Malone, etc...) say disgusting things in their songs, however they are widely listened to and get millions upon millions of purchases and streams.

However, I think we need to praise the good as well. There are some hip-hop artists that don't objectify women in their songs. Lecrae, Marty, and NF have all made songs about girls that do not objectify them or treat them like trash. Just listen to All I Need Is You by Lecrae or Got You On My Mind by NF. I think we should praise more clean hip hop as well as talk about dealing with trash hip hop. 

I really appreciate the fact that PluggedIn decided to talk about this issue. Hip Hop has become a huge part of our culture and is currently the most consumed type of music in America. All the issues in this article are one's  that need to be discussed.   

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Anonymous More than 1 year ago
All genres have trashy artists. A lot of country music is similar to hip hop, they just don't swear as much and replace drugs with alcohol.