Since its inception in the 1970s, the hip-hop industry has been inarguably male-dominated, yet women have consistently played a significant role in the development of its culture. Icons Lauryn Hill and Missy Elliot paved the way for contemporary artists such as Nicki Minaj and Doja Cat, who have changed the narrative surrounding women in rap today. Figures like these are beginning to shift a culture that for decades has been criticised for its over-sexualisation of women. The recent increase in the popularity of female rap through platforms such as Tiktok has led listeners to view the music as both empowering and progressive. However, many still argue that the sexual and arguably aggressive lyrics of women in the industry further perpetuate the misogynistic connotations of hip-hop. Regardless of the stance that one may take on the topic, it seems as though there is an undeniable depth to our beloved hot girl summer anthems.
Men within the hip-hop industry have fuelled misogyny through lyrics which both objectify and over-sexualise women, facing little backlash. Yet when female artists discuss similar topics, they receive rather extreme reactions. These double standards were evident when Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion joined forces to create the unforgettable anthem WAP. The internet exploded with both criticism and praise for the duo. In response to the backlash, Megan stated that “some people just don’t know what to do when a woman is in control and taking ownership of her own body.” Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion had completely reversed the narrative. Not only were they speaking about sexuality in a manner that had, for the most part, been exclusively associated with men, it was even said that the lyrics ‘objectified men’, causing many to acknowledge how it may feel for women to listen to the degrading lyrics of many male artists.
The empowering hits continued with the release of Megan Thee Stallion’s debut studio album Good News in late 2020, featuring icons such as Beyoncé and SZA. Saweetie and Doja Cat kicked off 2021 by promoting female independence with their single Best Friend, highlighting the importance of women supporting one another, rather than falling victim to the toxicity of comparison – another ideology that is intrinsically linked to the male portrayal of women through media.
“The notion that there can only be one woman at the top is beginning to dissolve as we witness new female faces rise to stardom in the industry.”
Although women within the hip-hop scene are no strangers to public abuse, their overwhelming success and praise is indisputable. The notion that there can only be one woman at the top is beginning to dissolve as we witness new female faces rise to stardom in the industry. Long-time favourites such as Nicki Minaj and newcomers like City Girls receive similar levels of success to their male counterparts which speaks volumes to the growing female presence within the industry.
Instead of condemning male rappers, these artists are turning the tables and using the sexualisation of women to their advantage. Through female rap, women are given the option to reclaim power over their sexuality and obtain a new sense of confidence. To denounce this fact would be to silence one of a woman’s innate powers. Why should women be shamed for expressing their sexuality in a way that men have been doing for decades? A woman is a multifaceted being. Female rap incorporates both a woman’s female and masculine energies simultaneously. Yes, women can listen to Taylor Swift and feel all their feelings, but we can also channel a healthy inner aggression that resides in many of us by aligning ourselves with the shameless energies of Flo Milli or Rico Nasty. The women of the hip-hop industry are reversing the narrative. Instead of being silenced while men profit off of female sexuality, they are using it to empower both themselves and others.
Featured photo by Soundtrap
This article was supported by: STAND Women Editor Ellen + Programme Assistant Alex