I think everyone knows that the rap and hip hop industry is very misogynistic in regards to lyrics and music videos and the way that they glorify and justify the objectification and exploitation of women. Sometimes I really do miss the visuals of just the rap artist(s) in rap videos. For quite a while these rap videos have only been a show of women and alcohol to show a good time. There are a couple of female rappers that changed around the game for me especially whilst growing; up they were empowering, fun and something different to what I had heard before. Come to think of it, they are what attracted me to rap music even more. These rappers made me adopt a certain sense of “girl power” in a scene that was male dominated and it was great. The rappers that come to mind are Queen Latifah, Salt-n-Pepa, MC Lyte, Missy Elliott and Lauryn Hill. Salt-n-Pepa were actually the first female rap duo to challenge double standards and degrading images of women in rap and hip hop and they were also the first to spread pro-woman messages to their audiences. Part of Queen Latifah’s lyrics in her well-known song “U.N.I.T.Y” also challenged male rappers who used the derogatory terms “bitch” and “hoe” to refer to women:
Since he was with his boys he tried to break fly
Huh, I punched him dead in his eye and said “Who you calling a bitch?”
With rap and hip hop being a male dominated genre of music, I found that female rappers at that time had to adopt a boyish or masculine demeanor in the ways that they dressed, spoke and acted in order to be taken seriously by other male rappers or to establish credibility.
Slowly, I began to see a change in this kind of behaviour and these kind of female rappers; female rappers such as Lil’ Kim, Trina and Foxy Brown emerged and were nothing like any female rappers I’d heard of beforehand. They referring themselves as bitches and golddiggers and they no longer had this masculine demeanor in regards to dressing and acting. They were now seductive, sexy and explicit with their lyrics, in my opinion it was a new age of rap music where the female rappers were kind of looking the same as the video vixens or dancers in male rap videos, but lets not miss credit where it is due, Lil Kim was great and she was outrageous and different. Taken from the song Magic Stick with 50 Cent:
I got the magic clit
I know if I get licked once, I get licked twice
I am the baddest chick
Shorty you don’t believe me, then come with me tonight
Definitely a turn on the tables compared to Queen Latifah’s lyrics above. But this was a new time. Female rappers like Lil Kim and Trina made women feel okay with being more open with sex and promiscuity, almost as open as male rappers are in the rap industry. But unfortunately that is something that women are still looked down on for and there are still a lot of double standards on things men can do and females can’t. On that note, let me stop talking about women who rap and move on to the topic of women in rap videos.
I remember when I was quite young and I would have to sneak a peek to watch music channels such as MTV to see all the rap music videos full of money, diamonds, chains, alcohol and clubs or houses crawling with half naked attractive women like the ones above. I mean, heck, it looked bloody fun, sitting around doing nothing apart from looking sexy and seductive on camera, maybe a little ass shake here and there.. looked like a cool, quick, fast way to make some money if you were pretty and had an ass or boobs the size of Jupiter I suppose. I then began to notice, in all these music videos, the women in them were portrayed exactly the same or similar. They are portrayed as submissive, naive and subordinate while the male rapper is portrayed in a position of power. Video models are usually portrayed as sexual objects or property of the rapper which is quite annoying. Negative images of women are used all the time in music videos to attract more attention to video. Although the female body is valuable, they are also very sexual attractive to men which the rap industry is full of as well as the target audience of rap and hip hop mainly being male. Negative representation of women in music videos is something that I feel the industry has definitely glamorised by an association with materialism and success in the form of dressing in designer clothes, money and luxury cars. There is also this fake notion or fake advertisement of beauty used in rap videos, of how a woman should look and how men see or portray women. There is this perfect idea of beauty: light-skinned or tanned, big breasts, wide hips, big bum, perfect legs, long hair.. an ideal woman that men could constantly lust over and dream of having. On paper, women are seen as equals; however, the rap industry especially has continued to work against this idea of equality through music. Hip-hop has changed the faces of women in the community from a more positive image to a more negative one and has been doing so for a very long time unfortunately.
But with all this being said, I don’t want to forget a few stars that rap videos have made, who have gone on to many other lines of work with greater success. Melyssa Ford being pictured on the far left is now a well-known model and actress, having previously starred in the film Think Like a Man and TV shows such as The Game and Entourage. Lauren London pictured in the middle, who is currently a series regular on the TV show The Game as well as having starred in other well known TV shows such as Entourage, 90210 and Everybody Hates Chris and films such as ATL and Baggage Claim. Lastly pictured is K.D. (Karen Denise) Aubert who is a high fashion model who has previously modelled for Victoria’s Secret and actress.