Hip hop started from a post-civil rights era subjugated African American culture and has morphed throughout the years. Hip hop is a music genre developed by African American in the 70s which consist of rapping (Keyes, 2000). There are four elements to hip hop: MC, DJing, breakdancing and graffiti. The genre started out in the Bronx in New York City by a group named the Zulu Nation. It was a way for young people to channel the anger of young people. It help them stay away from gang or getting arrested. It became so popular that rappers started to use it to communicate their feelings about the bad parts of society and sometimes the good. This paper will discuss the intersectionality among gender and sexuality from males and females rapper and also the listeners.
Hip hop became dominated by men and their lyrics represent women as an object and degrade them (Morgan, 2004). They give women bad images by called them names such as bitches, sluts and whore and in videos they portray women as sex objects. The women are usually in bikinis and the cameras focus more on certain part of their bodies such as boobs or butts (Keyes, 2000). They do not really care about their intelligence or minds. This type of rappers have guys listening to their music and influencing their views of women.
Just like men rappers, some females wanted to be rappers. They also appeared in 1970, female rappers had to fight in order to be noticed because a lot of people did not believe that females could rap or be as good lyrically like some rappers such as Tupac. When female rappers finally got recognized by their talents, they won sold many albums and singles. Female rappers such Queen Latifah, Lauryn Hill and others represented feminism; they gave women a voice through their lyrics. Another point is that they also showed that women are more than objects but at the same time they can be sexual.
Rap became so mainstream in the 70s that it still exist in the 21st century. It is the most successful music style; when women are rapping they represent the importance of the female voice, freedom of sexuality and viewed as feminists. As hip hop developed women had to copy the aggressiveness of men for people to take them seriously. They had to be loved yet feared, masculine but also girly. In their songs they had to address the issue of sexism for example, we have Queen Latifah, she was something new to the public because she showed women as being strong and intelligent; she allowed women that were far more outspoken and progressive.
Furthermore, the hip-hop industry is not only shameful to women of color but the African American community as a whole. It is molding into the ugly stereotypes of African American women as inferior and blacks as ‘angry, violent people.’ Women have always been oppressed for instance they were not allowed to vote or work, and the hip hop culture is not helping that much since men exploit women sexually in their music. Women have less access to power and have used sex as a bartending ship to gain access to this culture. (Morgan, 2004). Not all rappers degrade women. We have some rappers who talked about oppression and police violence for example Tupac, N.W.A with their song “F— the Police”, LL Cool J, Ludacris and others.
Sadly those female rappers that used to be around in the 70s just stopped rapping. Today, in the 21st century, we have new female rappers such as Nicki Minaj, Cardi B and there might be other ones but I do not know them. She appeared in 2010 with her album named Pink Friday (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017). Men like her because she is like another Missy Elliot, her raps are about sex, power and money (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017). Although Nicki Minaj is sexualized, she is more than an object as she writes her own lyrics and is appreciated for her rapping and empowerment to women in a genre dominated by men.
Nicki Minaj as many personalities and changes through persona by using colored wigs (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017). She doesn’t only change wigs, she also changes her tone of voice and dresses in different costumes for instance there is Nicki Lewinsky, Harajuku Barbie (a Japanese doll), Roman and others. For female artists having an additional personality is not a rare thing for example, both Beyoncé and Lady Gaga developed their alter-egos called Sasha Fierce and Joe Calderon respectively (Hunter ; Cuenca, 2017). In an interview, I believe Minaj explained the reason why she has so many alter egos and it was because of how her family life became terrible so to survive, she created those characters.
Cookie was the very first alter-ego that the artist created because of family problems; it is followed by Onica, one of Nicki’s normal characters. Then, she developed a Female Weezy, presented as a female version of Lil Wayne, and Harajuku Barbie, especially known for its soft voice. Roman Zolansky is portrayed as a blond boy who is homosexual, characterised as frank and wild .Nicki Lewinsky, a sexy alter-ego representing an underground artist who is a master of harsh lyrics, is an opposite version of Nicki Teresa that makes everything for good only. Also, Nicki the Boss refers to a strong businesswoman who knows how to deal with anything on her way. Then in 2010, Nicki introduced her next alter-ego called Nicki Teresa with a red scarf on her head as a healer for her fans. Recently she just created another alter ego named Chun Li, a recently developed bad version of Nicki.
However, Nicki Minaj still encourage the objectifying image of women. The problem is not only with male rappers, female rappers, models in music videos contribute in this negative views of women of color in hip hop. She let herself be objectify whether its on stage or not (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017). Being a feminist mean embracing your body, sexuality and all but most of the time Nicki shames other women by calling them names for instance, in her video “Stupid Hoe” where she constantly keep on repeating the word “hoe” and on top of that the way she uses her body to sell albums.
Nicki Minaj came out at a time where hip hop changed the role of women as video ho, which sexualizes black female. She participate in the role of sexualizing black women. One would say that before black women were sexualized as model videos while now Nicki as a rapper does it. She promotes her body but there is a big difference, she is in control of it all. She is the center attraction which shows that men are not objectifying her but mostly accepting that is how she is going to make her money (by displaying her breasts, butts etc…), she is not a side character in the video.
Even when she is sexualized in her videos that does not stop Nicki Minaj from being outspoken on what is good for her youth fans. She is an activist in education by telling her fans to stay in school even when they want to be rappers, singers etc. She always tell them that they can pursue both music and education; sometimes she even stop her concerts just to tell fans to stay in school (LaVoulle & Ellison, 2017). In addition, she also collaborates with organizations like Get Schooled (LaVoulle & Ellison, 2017) and there was this time when she funded students loan which shows that she cares about her fan base and knows that education is important and not cheap even when one wants to become a rapper.
Nicki Minaj loves autographing females breasts. Now famous for autographing the breasts of female fans, she says, “I think boobs are very empowering—and signing them is even more empowering” (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017). This shows that she is defending her open performances of sexuality as female empowerment. By doing this, she is proving to male rappers that her action is about personal power rather than trying to appeal to the norm of female being seen as an objects. Even though, her body looks amazing but her rapping skills are also incredible which gave legitimacy in the hypermasculine world of hip hop (Hunter & Cuenca, 2017).
When talking about women’s role in music, we have to talk about Beyoncé because as a female figure she talks about female empowerment. According to the article, The Bad Bitch Barbie Craze and Beyonce African American Women’s Bodies as Commodities in Hip Hop Culture,Images, and Media, Beyonce talks about many social issues in her album “Lemonade”. She talks about the treatment African Americans endure, infidelity, faith and African American ancestors. It includes slavery, what African American went through on their way to America. There are a numbers of examples made in the songs. She talks about what is going on now too such as female empowerment, the Black Lives Matter and more.
Right now most females rappers, singers are all about female empowerment. Sadly, people just started to actually pay attention to those themes. Beyonce always did it efffortlessly because she does not write feminism songs to be trendy but she does it in way that is powerful and genuine. She does not shame women; it rare for her to actually use the word “bitch” and also she does shame women about their body types. Instead in “Lemonade”, she talks about the difficulties a black women goes through such as misogyny and how a men might be unconfortable with a female who has more money than him.
In one of her songs “Don’t Hurt Yourself”, she said :
“And keep your money, I got my own
Get a bigger smile on my face, being alone”
She is basically saying that if her and her husband Jay-Z ever get divorce, she would be well off financially without his money. Women have been paid less than men and also they should make themselves inferior and not show their accomplishment to not draw attention on how powerful and equal they are to men. To conclude, in the 21st century, women are not afraid to speak up and admit that they make more than their husband. These feminists, Beyoncé, Nicki Minaj gave women a voice to express themselves, for men to see women as more a home wife or sex object and if a men does not appreciate you for being more wealthy than him; like Beyoncé said “tell the boy bye”.

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