(A number of the comments on my article about “Hot Nigga” by Bobby Shmurda questioned whether I really listened to hip-hop based on the fact that I was “surprised” at the content of Shmurda’s song. These comments implied or explicitly stated that ALL HIP-HOP was the same. Well, I wrote this piece to debunk that claim, so please read and read to the end of this piece.)
As a purveyor of Hip-Hop and a part-time lyricist myself, it would be impossible for me to rock my head to the beats and booms of modern rhythm and poetry without noticing the tendency of many rappers to bolster their characters by destroying the character of some woman, or women, in general. To love both Hip-Hop and women is a struggle that could be described as having a musical double-consciousness. The art form that can literally take control of your body with its relatable vibes and inspire you to argue incessantly about whether Biggie is better than Tupac versus your innate love for the mothers, sisters, daughters, queens, and princesses of our society. I worded that statement this way because it often seems that way.
Hip-Hop vs. Women.
For instance, I heard a song not too long ago that would eventually invoke my musical double-consciousness. It was arrogant and boastful, as Hip-Hop often is and should be. I couldn’t help but do a little jig to the melody of the hook. Initially, I let the misogyny of the hook pass through one ear and out the other without much criticism or thought (that may very well be an issue, but I cut myself some slack. I often groove to the music, then consider the words.) It wasn’t until I searched for the video on youtube that I really began to see this song as the Howitzer in contemporary mainstream Hip-Hop’s war on women. Yes, I will finally tell you the song. It was K-Camp’s “Cut Her Off”:
This is the most notable portion of the hook. Repeated constantly throughout the song (at least sixteen times), it’s an honest appraisal of the ease with which K-Camp can end relations with a woman. The use of the word “bitch” aside, there isn’t too much wrong with this refrain as it stands. We need context to really understand if I should feel my two identities warring against one another. He provided that along with the assistance of 2Chainz:
Again, away from the beat, I can truly see the simplicity of the lyrics and their lack of cohesiveness. I find it interesting that a song could be so popular even with lyrics devoid of the rhetorical devices and thematic complexity that make rap the most intricate and sophisticated of musical forms. K-Camp, with his simple rhyme scheme and disjointed words, boasts about a woman’s apparent low standards and the ease with which he can conquer this woman who, as he makes obvious, has low standards. Ironic. Then, 2Chainz manages to use a metaphor in his verse, but again, the simplicity is startling. He’ll turn her into a frisbee. Deep. His verse, along with K-Camp’s last verse literally objectify women in that they make them possessions to be tossed (as he would toss a wack rapper’s mixtape) or to be passed to the homies. While I don’t see anything wrong with the creation of this song, as I am a staunch anti-censorist, I do see a problem in its popularity… It’s just not good. In fact, it made me momentarily question my affinity for hip-hop, in general, and my abhorrence for ridiculous misogyny. But this article is subtitled “A Tale of Two Tracks.”
You see, Hip-Hop really ain’t gotta hate the ladies. One of my favorite hip-hop songs regarding women actually utilizes complex rhyme schemes, metaphor, simile, and tackles a complex theme prevalent in our society. In Ab-Soul’s “Double Standards,” off of his 2012 album “Control System,” the California native ponders over the difference in societal perception of the sexual lives of men and women.
Immediately, it’s evident that an actual, coherent story is being told through poetry. Soul uses an intricate rhyme scheme full of internal rhymes for complexity to tap into the mind of young males today. The pressure of being a poacher of women even when in a committed relationship. The use of double entendre at the end of the verse brings to light how the societal view of males regarding sex extends to both men and women, with the girl pressuring him into sex.
The second verse mirrors the first acoustically to amplify the message that the different standards applied to males and females are BOTH damaging. Now, Soul delves into the mind of the girl from the first verse. Because males are often led to see “choppin’ it up” as a means to sex rather than developing relationships, this girl can’t find sexual or romantic satisfaction without sacrificing her own morals. Eventually, she gives in, not understanding that both she and the young male were pushed into this situation.
The first line of this verse both sums up the song and explains exactly why this is a beautiful example of hip-hop. That this song truly has a “moral to the story” shows how the verses are connected thematically. You can’t understand the song without listening to it in its entirety.
Young woman are often discouraged from exercising sexual freedom and not because of reasons like safety and avoiding children. It’s typically done to avoid being seen as a “hoe” or “slut.” Young men are encouraged to engage in it with reckless abandon, sometimes being admirably called a “pimp.” Soul explores the roots of these double-standards, noting that they can often be hand downs from older generations. They are then amplified in the echo chamber that is our modern society. He sums it all up with a well placed anecdote. He notes how sex scandals, such as the Amber Cole video fiasco, typically focus entirely on the woman involved, placing all of the shame on her. Everyone knows the girl’s name and can humiliate her, but no one knows who the male in the video was.
I say all of this to highlight the sometimes unfortunate, but always important diversity of hip-hop. In the media, the worst segments of the hip-hop spectrum are highlighted and subsequently allow pundits to shift blame on to Hip-Hop culture (often perceived as African-American culture). My musical double-consciousness will always bother me if I allow music like “Cut Her Off” to define the identity of hip-hop for me. Once I remember that BET, MTV, and FM radio do not define the genre for me, I can easily see that hip-hop may have issues with misogyny, but there is a place for discussion and ideas that can fill our societal deficits in the realm of our treatment of our queens.
In essence, hip-hop is like literature, you have your Great Expectations and Beloveds, then you have your 50 Shades of Grey and One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish. You have your beautifully complex and your primally simple.
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