Rap music has been criticized for having misogynistic lyrics, violence, drug dealing, and most importantly objectifying women. However, the genre didn’t begin with promoting negativity; it spread a message about how drugs were affecting their neighborhoods. As President Nixon declared a “War on Drugs” campaign unemployment was at its highest. The same rappers who grew up listening to Grandmaster Flash and the Furious Five classic “The Message,” were now embracing dealing drugs. Each year Hip-Hop grew older women began transitioning from Queens to objectification in lyrics and music videos.
Female rappers such as Sha Rock, Salt-n-Pepa, Roxanne Shante, MC Lyte, Queen Latifah and more are noted for being innovators who opened doors for other women in this genre. Within the small group of diverse women each had or have the common goal of proving they’re capable of equaling the success of their male counterparts.
Then there are rappers like Lil’ Kim, Foxy Brown, Trina, and Nicki Minaj, who embraced their sexuality by being just as vulgar as their male peers. Lil’ Kim wasn’t afraid to defy society by wearing provocative clothing on and off stage. Although, she was heavily criticized for her iconic outfits, but her brand kept increasing.
“With your style…you changed the female MC game…and became one of the biggest international stars in rap history,” Puff Daddy said. “Kim made rap feminine and sexy, stylish and hardcore all at the same time.”
When Nicki Minaj emerged in 2009, she imitated the Harajuku girls culture which is vibrant and full of colors. She was viewed by the media as a spectacle because of her pastel-colored wigs and costumes. However, her image didn’t deteriorate her lyricism or ability to capitalize on her brand. After she reached a certain level of success from her debut album Pink Friday, she gradually toned down her Harajuku Barbie style and turned up the sex appeal. All of which played a huge role in her being the world’s top earning female rapper.
“One of the things that is drastically different with the music industry, in general, is that the young people are more astute in terms of business,” Dr. Nancy Dawson continues. “They understand their being exploited but I’m getting paid.”
Based on a small focus group discussing the impact of Nicki Minaj’s music with college women between the ages of 21 to 25; They respected Minaj for providing female empowerment through her music and business. These women were inspired by female rappers and their confidence to be themselves.
Society criticizes women for objectifying themselves as a marketing strategy to generate revenue but rarely speaks on how men have done it for years. Rappers are doing it every time they’re on social media uploading pictures of themselves promoting brands or body parts.
Watch below as Dr. Nancy Dawson discusses sexuality in Hip-Hop culture and its connection to stereotypes and slavery. You can check out her website for more information about the African American culture, negro spirituals, and plays on her website.