Hip-Hop is the top selling genre in the U.S. today although over the years, critics have suggested Hip-Hop has no real future [Kubrin 2005]. Hip-Hop’s emergence into mainstream culture and its success across America has continually caused tension with not only the media but politicians and other members of society. This has been due Rap artist’s explicit view on society from the Black perspective. The extensive use of curse words has been just one battle between rappers and American censorship. However, one theme that has caused great controversy, most apparent in the ‘Gangsta Rap’ genre, is misogyny and sexism. In a study of the 2005 U.S. Billboard Charts, Rap music held the majority for degrading sexual references [Dalton et al 2008]. The issue of misogyny and sexism in Gangsta Rap has been discussed by many academics, including Rose, Sharpley-Whiting and Adams and Fuller. But, it is important to look further than the genre that has the most media attention to learn more about this theme in Hip-Hop music.
Hip-Hop is more than a music genre. In the mid 1970’s, the Hip-Hop culture was developed by the poor, Black youth of America; those disregarded by society due race and class [Chuck et al 2002/2003, Adams and Fuller 2006, Sullivan 2003, Haupt 2003]. The culture grew in the streets and basements of New York; Bronx, Harlem and Brooklyn [Shusterman 1991; Watkins 2005]. The culture included break dancing, graffiti art and MCing; creative elements that allowed freedom of expression amidst the White dominated, oppressed society. During this time, Rap existed as Party Rap which acted as a backing for socialising and dancing [Krims 2003; Rose 1994; Hughes 2011]. However, Rap moved to the forefront of the Hip-Hop culture as free expression could be transcended through the power of language. In turn, this raised a rapper’s social status through their “verbal prowess...a deeply entrenched black tradition” [Shusterman 1991: p.615]. Rap could speak for the “marginalised voices” [Crossley 2005: p. 501] of inner-city America. With this, music and words could be recorded and therefore a portable means of expression.
With this new form of expression, Party Rap became an area for the oppressed to air their views about society. Socially and politically conscious (SPC) Rap became more prevalent and by the late 1980s, several artists emerged, including Public Enemy and Grandmaster Flash [Aldridge 1
2005; Hughes 2011; Rose 1994]. The few SPC Hip-Hop artists soon grew into many. Rap artists began to produce direct and complex explicit forms of expression, including KRS-One, LL Cool J and NWA. In turn, Rap became the voice for the Black youth; the strugglers amidst the an affluent city [Forman 2000]. However, it was 1990s that saw the boom of Black popular culture [Ramsey 2003]. The 1990s saw a transition from SPC Hip-Hop to Gangsta Rap, where Rap artists began to take on ‘gangsta’ personas, including Snoop Dogg [Krims 2003]. Although SPC Hip-Hop had explicitly commented on the problems of society and politics, Gangsta Rap celebrated the dysfunction of society (more specifically Black society) [Chuck et al 2002/2003]. Issues raised included money, women and pimpin’, making sexism and misogyny of Hip-Hop culture far more evident. Gangsta Rap became the most explicit in its message through the language used. In turn, this led to the issues with the media and hierarchy, which are still evident in today’s society.
Issues of Black Masculinity and Exploitation of Women
Black males of the “underclass” are consistently up against the dominant order of society; White masculinity [Cheney 2005]. Academics have discussed the loss of Black masculinity that has existed in different forms. The first can be linked to slavery whereby African males’ masculinity was reduced by the power of “the man” (the White man) [Shusterman 1991: p.624]. In...