Not Just Another Rant About Rap

A fan of the music but not the misogyny, Xanthe Hunt takes a look at the hypocrisy of hip hop loving women    

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I’m proposing a hip hop boycott. There is no good reason why I should find myself, as I treadmill merrily along, aurally assailed by the following chorus:

“Just by the way that you keep lickin’ them dick suckin’ lips, I’m agitated / Aggravated to the point you don’t suck my dick, then you’re gonna get decapitated / Other words, you don’t fuckin’ give me head, then I’m a have to take it.”

To say the least, this disturbs my concentration, which on a treadmill seldom ends well. But the issue is bigger than an undignified fall: These words are repugnant.

They are vile.

And worst of all, they are on my iPod.

How did this come to pass you ask? The answer is simple: I love hip hop. The lyrical mastery is captivating,and the thumping beats irresistible. I’m well aware that isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but taste is taste, and mine is “urban”.

For critics, though, the matter isn’t one of taste. On moral grounds, hip hop is widely chastised: “Rapped” on the knuckles, as it were.

From the parents of saggy-jeaned teens, to feminists and lobbyists, just about everyone with a social conscience has at some point faulted it.
How can one forget the numerous court-cases brought against my old favourite, Eminem, for – amongst other things – explicitly depicting heterosexual rape, homosexual rape, pedophilia, homicide, matricide, suicide, violence, drug abuse… The list is exhaustive.

If it would make you cringe to think of in Church, Eminem had a song about it.

And a pending trial.

But he is not alone. As Jackson Katz of the Huffington Post put it; “Misogyny (the hatred of women) in rap preceded Eminem and has thrived even in his absence.” From Akon to X-zibit, rappers have made news for their lascivious lyrics.

The issue riling the majority of critics is the derogatory treatment of women: “Bitches”, “ho’s”, “whores” and “sluts” abound in hip hop. If these slurs aren’t bad enough, the woman in question is inevitably derided in some additional way. Or physically abused.

Or raped.

The latter surprised even my veteran ear. But it’s true: Eminem, Obie Trice and Bizarre are only a sample of rappers who lyricize rape. I isn’t worth reprinting what I found when I googled “rap rape mp3”.

I have long called myself a feminist. I have done the title an injustice: Feminism implies empowerment and the freedom to choose with whom, how and where women conduct themselves. That this choice should find me bobbing my head to Eminem as he “puts anthrax on that tampax and slaps that bitch till she can’t stand,” is reprehensible.

I don’t think such statements even make the grade for humanist.

How did my blindness continue so long? Denial – and a little help from friends.

For as long as I have had my hip hop habit, I have been aware of those preaching its evils. I have ignored them.

“I don’t listen to the lyrics. It’s all about the beat – the words don’t matter.”

I’ve said it a thousand times. And I’ve heard other women join in chorus.

But now I realize the flaw in our convenient self-deception: lyrics will affect listeners.

I don’t propose that everyone who listens to “Bitch” by D12 – which, incidentally, contains the word “bitch” 61 times – is going to go forth and rape, pillage, and abuse as the song proposes.

But one gets desensitized to the vernacular and the imagery to a point where it is somehow acceptable. I can no longer kid myself that musicality and content are separable.

I realize I’m a belated stowaway aboard the hip-hop rejection train (and I’m appropriately ashamed). But I intend to make right,and here’s how: By fuelling the fire of outrage, and by adding my voice to those who’ve spoken out against this blatant hate- speech.

Ultimately: By being rational, and as rationality (and humanity) dictates, forego hip hop that degrades women.

I’ll do this because there are more like me.

If you’re shifting in your seat as you read this, trying to imagine a reason it doesn’t apply to you, and if you’re still hoping it’s possible to “listen to the beat and not the words”, I am talking to you.

With the sadness of one losing a long-time friend, I am calling for a hip hop boycott.

And I’m going to keep calling until you listen.

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