The rap industry’s history of infusing misogyny and violent imagery towards women, no matter the artistic liberty offered as rationale, can be unsettling at times. But, how do we tell when the misogyny is just part of the art, and when it bleeds into real life?
Rap and The Mistreatment of Women
In July 2020, Megan Thee Stallion was shot by Tory Lanez after an argument took place in the car they were in. Initially, she attributed her wounded foot to her stepping on glass, but after rumors began to circulate, she revealed that Torey Lanez was the one who shot her. She began being joked about, vilified and some even speculated that she was trans as a justification for the shooting. This is one of many events in the history of rap music where the objectification and vilification of women is not just limited to lyrics, and it causes there to be an uncomfortable edge to their art. Take Kodak Black, a man who was convicted for sexually assaulting a high school girl last year and he was accused of assaulting a woman in a strip club in 2017 was featured on his album. So, his freestyle lyrics (which he later apologized for) stating he would punch Yung Miami in the stomach feel even more uncomfortable.
As Entertainment Attorney David Small states, however, many of the artists he has met and worked with do not present the same tough attitude that’s present in their lyrics.
“Labels, promote what they feel would be the most profitable and I think that labels have convinced a lot of the young artists that they have to play along with that, in order to be successful. Without actually living that lifestyle IRL. I would say the majority, [I represent all kinds of artists] and to tell the trust these artists are no more living a pen [penitentiary] life as they are the private jet life,” Small said.
Walking A Line With Lyrics
This does not mean that every artist who uses less than favorable language to describe women is doing so purely from a place of realism. There in fact been too many cases (cite the recent case with YSL) where lyrics have been used to determine if a rap artist committed a crime, and using that to determine the intent of an artist is, as trial lawyer Tyler Mann points out, complex.
It sets the precedent where [courts] can rely on this case. It’s now law. It can now be cited by other courts, where we have these vague lyrics, and it can now be said, ‘These are admissions. These are a confession.’ And it becomes harder and harder for the defense to refute that,” Mann.
It does however highlight that the lyrics put out can be uncomfortably representative of who these artists are as people. How do you listen to a Kodak Black feature without considering his history of violence towards women? How do you listen to rap by men and not wonder how much unknown reality is behind their words? How do we reconcile a discomfort with how rappers may speak with our desire to be listeners? As Small states, social media is creating an environment where when people cross a line, they will inevitably be called out for their behavior.
“Literally before we got on the phone is on Instagram clip too short, saying something that I thought was socially irresponsible. And I actually met him, I like him. I think he’s a cool person. But, I think the statement was [the way that it was presented in the big clip], it was kind of socially irresponsible. People voiced their concern, then, that happens when people get too far off code, they get canceled,” Small said.
The goal here is not to “cancel,” Black male rappers who implore video vixens or who refer to women as bitches in their songs. It’s more a discussion of how rap as a genre can be difficult to consume when men in the field discuss women in this field as if their objects are violent towards them in real life? Small states that these artists who are heavily misogynistic are not as popular today and that there are (and have been) women in rap to counter the existing misogyny in rap music.
“There’s a Doja Cat, there’s a Nicki, there’s a Cardi B. I mean there’s, these young ladies are holding their own and they are quite retaliatory,” Small said.