A Musing On Misogyny In Rap Music
November 2, 2011 3 Comments
Earlier this morning, Think Progress’ Alyssa Rosenberg posted an article accusing rapper Childish Gambino (Donald Glover) of blatant misogyny. In the piece, Ms. Rosenberg goes to great lengths to illustrate her point, citing several different songs and outlining the specific lines in those songs that she found most offensive. The evidence is all there, and yet I couldn’t help but disagree with the thesis of her piece.
Misogyny is a subjective word, one with a wide range of connotations. But, if you look misogyny up in the dictionary, which I felt compelled to do after reading Alyssa’s piece, you’ll find that it is succinctly defined as a “hatred of women.” Some of America’s biggest rap acts have built careers around their hatred of women. Odd Future, who Alyssa also cites in her piece, are a prime example of this. Tyler the Creator, the group’s founder and figurehead, thrives on misogyny. His latest single, “Bitch Suck Dick,” includes lines like “By the way, we do punch bitches” and “Gun to her head make your bitch massage my shoulders.” But, he is hardly the first of his kind. Eminem, who was the highest selling artist of the last decade mind you, has frequently alluded to beating and killing women in his lyrics.
Artists like Childish Gambino and Drake, who was mentioned in the comment section of Alyssa’s article, are reflective of an entirely different trend. Sure, they objectify women and, at times, they get angry with them. But, there is nary an indication in their music that they hate the opposite gender, which to me is a pretty big distinction.
Many of the examples that Alyssa provided in her piece point to the word “bitch” as, perhaps, an indication of misogyny. To me, this is an absurd notion. While certainly a derogatory word, “bitch” is in no way representative of hatred for an entire gender. I pointed Alyssa to a lyric from the Drake record “Paris Morton Music” that I think does a terrific job explaining the prominence of the word in hip hop music. “I hate callin’ the women bitches, but the bitches love it. I took some sense and made a nickel of it.”
The vast majority of music consumers today are in fact young women. They are not only complicit in the process but they fuel it. Artists like Drake, and more recently Big Sean and J. Cole have seen their albums debut to spectacular numbers in spite of the liberal use of the word “bitch,” while female rapper Nicki Minaj has chosen to identify with the word. “So I got a bad bitch mentality, cuz I just came from another galaxy” Minaj spits on “I Get Crazy.” Like it or not, “bitch” is simply a part of rap not an indication of misogyny.
Bringing the discussion back to Gambino, in the comments section of her piece Alyssa acknowledges that “Glover has long-standing professional relationships with women who are more powerful than he is and have helped him tremendously.” She specifically references Tina Fey questioning whether we should assume Glover also views her as a “gold-digger.” Those wondering need only listen to “The Last,” in which Gambino raps “But I swear to God, Tina Fey gave me confidence. Taught me everything that is good comes from honesty. Everybody’s got a voice, you just gotta follow it. She on her role model shit.” Donald doesn’t hate women. He’s not a misogynist. He’s just a conflicted twenty-something, and that’s why he resonates with people like myself. To close out this piece, I leave you with his track “So Fly,” a musical love letter to a woman who captured his heart.