by Georgia Kotsinis
Photo Courtesy Of Facebook
Rule number one: don’t get on a rapper’s bad side. Just like many other artists, rappers tend to directly call out the people that wrong them in their music, and hip-hop is one of the angrier genres of music. Over an empowering underlying bass, hip-hop artists spit their rhymes to tell their story, create a catalyst for conversation, or coin the next party anthem for mainstream audiences that don’t just dismiss the explicitness, but embrace it. Rap often comes off as angry, and if not angry, the passion, confidence, and raw emotion are transparent.
Rap is notorious for songs about drugs, violence, and money. Its niche in the music industry is ruled by black artists who have undoubtedly made hip-hop a genre of music that causes conversation. Amidst this conversation, hip-hop/rap is most critiqued for the extremely explicit lyrics that outwardly degrade women. Rap is name-called as the most misogynistic genre, yet millions of women enjoy it nevertheless. It’s an ironic phenomenon in an era of female empowerment and feminism. And women at Boston University are not excluded from this listener-base. One of these women is sophomore Shayna Chernak (CAS ‘19).
“I feel empowered when listening to rap,” she said. “I would be hypocritical if I said I didn't use the same lyrics as rappers.”
Chernak identifies herself as progressive and a feminist, believing in the value of female empowerment. At the same time, she admits her appreciation for the music as a form of expression. She says doesn’t need to be politically correct to be something she loves listening to.
These female students, Chernak included, are walking down Commonwealth Avenue, headphones in, listening to, for example, 21 Savage’s fairly new single “X” as he spits out the lyric, “Hit her with no condom, had to make her eat a Plan B.”
This lyric doesn’t use any slurs or swears, but it exudes disrespect towards women and their autonomy in their sex lives, perpetuating a patriarchal society where men have power over women. If the listener even notices the lyric, she may not realize its gravity or think twice about it, which could be the result of desensitization in our society. For others, this lyric would not go unnoticed.
“I don't listen to that kind of music because it makes me uncomfortable,” Fran Ogilvie (CGS ‘19) says.
Ogilvie is an outspoken feminist and co-founder of BU’s HeForShe gender equality campaign. Although she’s personally not an avid listener of rap, she additionally offers her perspective on those who are.
“I don't think it takes away someone's feminist ways,” she says. Ogilvie may have a point that emphasizes what Chernak represents.
Women can be feminists and still have the freedom to listen to whichever music they like. Rap is just one type of music with songs that have sexist lyrics, but it is certainly not the only type of music with this characteristic, another point Ogilvie makes when she admits that her favorite genre includes sexist lyrics as well. Also, rappers themselves can recognize the sexism in their music.
“To deny misogyny in rap would be stupid,” says Martin Weissgerber (CGS ‘19), an aspiring rapper known online as King Manic.
Weissgerber uses similar language as mainstream rap when writing his own lyrics, which includes explicit language that degrade women, such as the word “bitch.”
“If I use the word bitch, regarding a woman, that could be seen as misogynistic, but is it really that I view all women as bitches, or is it that I view one woman in my life negatively?” he says.
Weissgerber praises rap for being one of the most controversial art forms. He acknowledges that there is mistreatment to women in rap, but that it is important to remember rap lyrics come from an emotional place and are oftentimes penned by people who come from very little.
“I don’t necessarily love that women are referred to as bitches and hoes, but it’s a part of the culture,” says Anesha Jones (CAS ‘17), who listens to rap often and studies it on her own.
The language certainly does upset more women than Jones, but it is essential to recognize this culture. Rap is the reflection of an environment where sexism is the reality, and for an artist to deny that reality would be ungenuine, and maybe even impossible.
Whether rap is a genre of music that stands out on its own as more misogynistic as any other, or is yet another representation of an overarching patriarchal society, Jones leaves one last thought on the matter.
“I think a lot of people fail to find the songs out there that praise women,” she says.