This post requires a strong TW for rape, sexual assault, violence towards women, and harassment.
This might have been one of my most exhausting and challenging pieces to write, and I’m not going to disclose my own personal experiences, but I think it’s an issue that needs to be brought up. In the wake of Jaguar Wright’s sexual assault accusations against Common and other members of the Soulquarian movement, I thought it was important to make this post. Despite how much those particular artists mean to me, I can’t just turn a blind eye to the situation. Working as a woman in the music industry is difficult. Even common “water-cooler” conversations can be sexual harassment. There are just different rules, different morals, and a different standard of workplace ethics to live by. I have faced my own fair share of demeaning experiences and conversations, and they plague my mind all of the time. I’m extra conscious of the things that I wear and the way that I present myself because I’m viewed differently than my male co-workers in the industry. I have so much more to prove. So I don’t really care who it is that’s being accused. It doesn’t matter how much I idolized them in my mind or made them out to be this genuine diamond in the industry, I will always believe the victim. Because I know how it feels. I know what it’s like to be brushed aside, or ignored, or made out to be dramatic. I know how it feels to be hurt and abused in this industry, just for your one concern to be if your reputation would be tarnished for being the victim. And I know what those everlasting effects are. There have been numerous instances where I have had to turn off songs because of how particular lyrics sat with me, and I want to raise awareness around those so rappers have a bit of a future reference as to what sort of impact their words can have. Lyrics advocating for sexual assault shouldn’t be normalized, and frankly, it’s unsettling that this is even a topic up for debate.
The number of artists that are accused of rape and sexual misconduct is appalling. It’s even more upsetting to see how quickly these accusations are either ignored or forgotten. While I understand that at times cancel culture can be a bit extreme and tend to overwhelm a person’s ability to change and grow, I don’t believe that in terms of sexual assault. Occasionally I’ll listen to music and try to separate the artist from their work, but it’s so fucking hard, especially when you relate to the victim and what they’ve been through. Unfortunately, my one stream is still putting money into their pocket while they are walking the streets idolized by millions of people, while the victim is forced to live with the trauma every day of their lives. I know how it feels to have those repressed memories resurface at the most random of times. I know how it feels to be reminded of the guilt and disgust when in reality you aren’t at fault. You faced the manipulation or coercion or force. It’s horrible and exhausting.
Ashley Judd had spoken out about the violence in hip-hop towards women, specifically its rape culture, and that did not fly with Questlove and other artists. I do understand their frustration because hip-hop does tend to be on the receiving end of most blame. Unfortunately, there are a lot of songs that perpetuate rape culture, but many of them are disguised with catchy tunes and fun choruses. This isn’t an exclusive conversation to be had, but this is a hip-hop blog so obviously, that is what I will be covering. One of the most popular examples is Rick Ross’s verse in “U.O.E.N.O,” which received a lot of criticism, rightfully so. In the song, Rick Ross boasts that he “put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it,” openly rapping about roofying a woman. This led to some severed ties with brands and sponsorships, which is great considering this isn’t the first time he’s referenced assaulting women. The fact that it’s done so casually is absolutely repulsing, especially considering the song was played on the radio. It sounds like something he does every Saturday night, and to normalize this is scary behavior. The imagery in that line makes me cringe, and despite how much I love Rick Ross, it has always been imprinted on my mind.
However that isn’t the only song that made it to the radio that advocated for using substances to cross boundaries, and a lot of them end up being timeless club bangers. For instance, imagine you’re in a club, dancing with a guy to “Blame It” by Jaime Foxx as he offers to buy you another drink. It’s quite obvious that you shouldn’t have any more alcohol, but he chooses to ignore it. He sings the line, “I’m going to make you do what you’ve already said you’re not going to do,” as your control over your body weakens. That is fucking terrifying. The whole song is about blaming these actions on booze, and it brings up so many issues in victim-blaming such as “well how much did she have to drink?” or “they were both just drunk.” These aren’t justifications for sexual assault! There are no justifications! Even the song, “How Many Drinks?” is pretty gross when you think about it. Now don’t get me wrong, I always thought this song was sexy. It’s Miguel, everything he touches is smooth. But in reality, it’s dripping with misogyny as he constantly reiterates that he has money and he really doesn’t want to waste his time. We get it. You wanna fuck. I think every girl I know has had at least one experience where the guy thinks that because he bought you a drink, or dinner, or sent you some sweet messages, he deserves sex, and he views anything else as a waste of time. But let’s get something clear. I can buy myself a $10 drink. You buying me one isn’t going to guarantee anything, especially when you’re asking how much I need to lower my boundaries enough so that I’ll go home with you. That’s fucking creepy.
Another dangerous mentality we see in hip-hop is the idea that men are owed sex because of who they are. It’s one thing for rappers to brag about getting pussy because every girl loves their music. But it’s another to demand it and to not take no for an answer because of it. Rich Homie Quan, for instance, rapped in “I Made It,” that “I don’t want your ho, just want that cookie from her/she tried to resist, so I took it from her/how are you gonna tell me no? You must not know who I am.” The whole scenario is repulsive. First, by saying he’s going to “take” her cookie, he is completely ignoring consent. But then, the fact that he described a situation in which she actively resisted is literally rape. Please, don’t think otherwise. It’s like textbook definition. Additionally, women don’t owe you shit. Just because you’re a famous rapper doesn’t mean I’m going to sleep with you, and I’ve encountered this mentality quite a bit working in the industry.
Now these lyrics, in my opinion, are the most horrifying. As I discussed in Do You Feel the Same Weed High that I Feel, a lot of hip-hop music is comprised of glorified realities or complete fiction. The genre is known for its storytelling, so sometimes it’s hard to read into lyrics. However, occasionally you hear lyrics that are so terrible and outrageous, that one must wonder if they are still protected under the first amendment. Some of these lyrics are unnerving, and even if imaginative, the idea that someone could possibly think things like this is upsetting. One of the most notorious perpetrators of this is Odd Future, with Tyler, the Creator in particular. It always makes me wonder if the lyrics were excused once he came out as gay, but I would be lying if it said that it didn’t bother me that he changed subject matter simply because “talking about rape and cutting up bodies doesn’t interest [him] anymore.” I have come to love Tyler, the Creator. His growth is inspiring. But when he first came on the scene, I was horrified by some of his lyrics. As a young woman, I really don’t want to listen to songs that talk about how he “usually just [stalks] you and [masturbates],” as heard in the song “She.” I know so many young women who have been on the receiving end of horror stories like this, and it isn’t something to be taken lightly. In Tyler’s defense, it was always just art, but at what point does it become irresponsible? It reminds me of the debate about video games. Everyone always accused video games of increasing violence among impressionable children, which I think is absurd, but even then, most popular games don’t show things like rape, no matter how violent they are. Looking at movies, it’s very clear that when an actor does or says something, they are playing the character of someone else. But when you’re a musical artist, at what point does your audience know that you’re playing a character? How do we know where that line is and when it’s crossed? Similarly, in songs like “Tron Cat,” when do we know that thoughts like “[raping] a pregnant bitch and [telling his] friends [he] had a threesome” aren’t things he is actually thinking about? One other defense for Tyler was that his music was for pieces like this-ones that critique hip-hop on its violence. Some argue that he chose to play into those stereotypes as a commentary of sorts. I think that’s an interesting idea, but I still find some of the lyrics extremely disturbing.
This should come as no surprise, but Eminem gets yet another entire paragraph dedicated to him for his atrocious lyrics. After threatening to kill his ex-wife, murder homosexuals, and abuse sex-workers, why wouldn’t rape be on the list? Man, the amount of songs that I could list, including fucking features, is outrageous. The fact that he hopped on someone else’s song and said shit like this without being checked shows the blatant disregard. And the scariest part is that a lot of these songs mention raping REAL women, with their names and everything! Imagine listening to music and hearing someone say that they want to rape you? Even as a “form of art” that is fucking scary. For instance, in “No Favors,” Eminem and Big Sean take on the current administration, singling out Ann Coulter. Delightful, I can’t stand that moron. However, for you to go on and say you want to “fuck Ann Coulter with a Klan poster, with a lamppost, with a door handle, shutter,” is literally a call to action. At what point does that make you different than the predator currently in office? Secondly, in the track, “Vegas,” Eminem rapped about Iggy Azalea, exclaiming, “so what’s it gon’ be? Put that shit away, Iggy. You don’t wanna blow that rape whistle on me. Scream! I love it. Before I get lost with gettin’ off.” Please keep in mind that Eminem has a daughter.
Eminem’s lyrics have contributed to other negative and harmful assumptions in rape culture, as seen in the song, “Medicine Man.” He raps that “ain’t no one safe from, non-believers there ain’t none/I even make the bitches I rape cum.” This is a huge issue that downplays the guilt victims feel if they come to climax during sexual assault. They feel betrayed by their bodies and it’s an issue that men seem to think they have an opinion on. Additionally, for someone who really hates the Republican party, Eminem’s line echoes some of the stupid bullshit that they have spewed about rape victims. For instance, they believe that if a woman truly isn’t enjoying the non-consensual sex, their bodies would simply “shut down.” They also tend to use the defense that if a woman gets wet, she enjoyed it, and as a result, it couldn’t possibly be rape. Science has proven otherwise. He brings up a similar thought process in his cypher with Black Thought and Mos Def when he rapped that “[his] dick is so big if [he adds] another inch to it, you would swear when [he] raped you that you was actually into it.” I don’t think I need to even go into detail about how wrong this is. Other notable mentions include “[raping] the women’s swim team” and “jumped out, killed the bitch, and did her.” Also, keep in mind, these aren’t even the songs mentioning domestic violence against women. This is JUST sexual assault and I’ve already quoted like five songs.
It’s upsetting to know that a lot of his music stems from personal experiences because I’m sure a degree of that hatred for women has to be real. Oddly enough, people defend him by saying that he uses the alter-ego of Slim Shady to say these horrible disgusting things and get away with it because it’s a persona. However, his songs about his real life, specifically those dealing with his ex-wife, aren’t much less scary. As if that wasn’t horrific enough, I found a Reddit thread asking the question, “who likes Eminem’s rape lines?” Odd phrasing, to say the least, but the responses were just as disturbing. Some people thought they were hilarious, others thought that the media was overreacting. A lot of the groups that got upset over these same lines were survivor groups helping rape victims. It wasn’t necessarily the media “blowing things out of proportion.” They were groups who dealt hands-on with those who have to live with the life-long impact of something as traumatizing as sexual assault.
Another track that bothers the hell out of me is “Murder Avenue” by Geto Boys. Now I love Geto Boys, I’ll say that time and time again. They’re one of my favorite hip-hop groups and some of the best story-tellers of all time. However, it’s this same incredible lyricism that makes it nearly impossible for me to get through this song. Although, the obvious fact that it’s a story, paired with their nursery rhyme style makes the song just a little less intense. But I can’t lie, the lyrics on their own are concerning. The song is about a serial killer, and it could really be the plot of a horror movie. The imagery is insane. In the song, they mention a woman who “was gettin too fuckin nosey,” so it’s arguable that the character murders everyone and isn’t just violent towards women. But goodness, the rape scenes are mortifying. I won’t get into direct quotes, you can listen to the song if you’d like, but it mentions raping the woman not just once, but a second time using a pistol, right before using it to kill her. My one argument for this song is that a lot of Geto Boys’ music deals with mental illness and various stigmas, so I wouldn’t say that this is a reoccurring theme for them. But this descriptive violence towards a woman is concerning nonetheless. Likewise, in DMX’s “X Is Coming,” DMX spits about getting revenge on a guy who crossed him, which he chooses to do by seeking out his daughter. In the song he raps, “if you got a daughter older than 15, I’mma rape her, take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you, then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?” This shows that rape is an act of violence, for anyone who had doubts and thinks that questions like “well what was she wearing” and “who was she with” are relevant. It additionally talks about raping a minor, which is NOT COOL. Never ever ever will that be “gangster” or “thug” or anything synonymous with that. The fact that this song is produced over a nursery rhyme is EXTRA fucked up.
I don’t think that freedom of speech is the issue here. There shouldn’t be censorship, but more so a general consensus that songs boasting about raping women shouldn’t be made. That should be common knowledge. Rape will never be cool or in or the thing to do. However, some artists do raise awareness for the issue in a way that should be praised. For instance, in Immortal Technique’s “Dance With the Devil,” it tells the story of Billy who got caught up with drugs and gang violence. In one of his initiations, he had to rape a woman with the rest of the group. At first, that was frustrating. Another song talking about raping women. But when they were about to kill her, he looked into her eyes and saw his mother. Interestingly enough, the song was told from the perspective of one of the other gang bangers who told the story of metaphorically raping Billy’s mother, finishing the song with the idea that he had to now live with the devil. By using characters to tell the story, it highlighted the horrible normalization of gang rape while also showing how corrupt people can become when desperate and lacking guidance. Also rather than glorifying rape, it exposed it for what it is-an evil act that can kill the victim literally or metaphorically.
I wish I could say that A Tribe Called Quest’s “The Infamous Date Rape” is a great example of highlighting the horrors of rape, but it isn’t. The song, which was apparently supposed to be an anti-rape song, seemed to have quite a different message. Yes, date rape is an issue. So that’s a great start. They even start the song on that note. But once that’s established, it goes downhill. The song focuses on a couple on a date. The woman does not want to have sex because she’s on her period, which already makes me cringe internally. Men, A LOT of the times, if a woman says she is on her period, she is not necessarily on her period. She isn’t interested. Or she just actually is. Regardless, take it for what it is, respect her and her body, and fucking drop it. From there it somehow segways into the guy on the date wanting to have sex (which was already established, thank you) but then being worried that the woman will cry “rape.” Tupac has a similar theme in “I Get Around” when describing his promiscuouity and the risk that comes with it of being falsely accused. Joking about this matter and using it lightly in songs, especially when the issue at hand is supposed to be sexual assault, is demeaning towards both actual victims and those who are falsely accused. By spending the whole track talking about how you want to fuck and it’s all you can think about and you have no desire to get to know the girl but then contrasting that with the idea that once you hit she’ll scream rape twists the narrative and paints those who have been wrongly incarcerated for such crimes in such a negative light. It makes them seem sex crazy or like they’re just trying have sex with no consequenses, when in reality a lot of these guys who are behind bars may not have even touched the woman.
De La Soul took a similar route as Immortal Technique on their track, “Millie Pulled A Pistol On Santa.” The song tells the heartbreaking story of Millie, who was being sexually assaulted by her father, whom everyone loved. Unfortunately, because everyone thought he was so great, her experiences were belittled by those she tried to confide in. She finally reaches her breaking point, asking her friends for a gun, only to pull the trigger on her father who is dressed up as a mall Santa. That symbolism right there is downright scary, disguising his predatory behavior in a way that everyone deems lovable. Sexual assault within families is just another issue that needs to be discussed more, and I’m so glad that they manage to do so on this track. Likewise, in Ludacris’s “Runaway Love,” little Lisa has to deal with sexual assault from her drugged-out mother’s various boyfriends. The saddest part is that she tries to tell her mother, but she doesn’t believe her. When discussing this post, someone asked me why Jaguar Wright hadn’t come out sooner about the abuse she suffered through. But honestly, when is the right time to open up about that? And who knows what will happen after that? Women aren’t obliged to tell their stories. They should do so because they feel comfortable enough to speak about it. It should bring them clarity or therapy or peace of mind. Because oftentimes, women won’t get the results they want when they speak out. Sometimes people doubt them, as we see with the case of both little Lisa and Jaguar Wright, and that just makes living with the trauma that much harder.
I think one of the most unconventional stories told, however, is Eve’s “Love Is Blind.” This one hurts a lot. In the song, she brings up the issue of rape (and abuse) in relationships, something that is often overlooked, ignored, or not even considered as imaginary. How can it be rape if you guys are in love, isn’t a relationship automatic consent? No. You can still be raped by someone you are dating or married to and I think that is fucking atrocious. Respect comes with love, and to overstep those boundaries isn’t love in any way. In the song, Eve talks about her friend who is so deeply in love, and how this love was taken advantage of. She doesn’t understand how someone could hurt a person who is willing to devote their mind, body, and soul to them. Once again, this shows that rape isn’t just based on lust. It’s a power trip. And just like Eve, if this happened to any of my friends, best believe I’d be cocking my gun as well.
I don’t think any of these tracks could equate to Angel Haze, though, who ironically used Eminem’s “Cleaning Out My Closet” to tell her own story. The amount of strength this required is beyond me, and I have so much respect for her for creating this track. In the song, she recounts her childhood of being abused multiple times, and the effect it had on her. It tells the story of how scared and confused she was, how she was just a little girl manipulated and forced into pleasuring a man. But the worst part? She explains how it still affects her today, between her relationships and the way she sees herself. It breaks my heart. She pours her fucking heart out into the song to tell stories of these traumatizing events, showing just how strong she is. She talks about the anger she feels, and you can’t help but absorb those feelings. You feel that anger. You want to kill that mother fucker. And unfortunately, this happens so often, and a lot of stories go untold. So more power to her for using her voice to share her experience and hopefully give others listening with similar stories a bit of peace and the ability to feel less alone.
Now contrast this last song with all of the pieces of shit who think it’s acceptable to rap about doing this to another person. To inflict this lifelong pain and trauma. The list of artists who have gone on to casually talk about raping women is disgusting; from Cam’Ron to Tyga to Gucci Mane. It’s a lot of your favorites who have openly talked about raping someone. Why is this normalized? Why does this come with such ease, with no second thought? I understand the idea of selling drugs or wearing fancy clothes to build up street cred. Hell, even rapping about murdering someone is absurd, but it’s a lot less literal. To create scenarios in your head of doing this to someone is just repulsive and yet it has been occurring even in the most recent years. There is a lot of amazing hip-hop that builds women up, but this just negates all of that. This is why people believe hip-hop is violent and anti-women. This is what takes away from the beauty and the cultural importance of the genre. Everyone is so fucking pissed off about “WAP,” but where’s the outrage about shit like this? How is the idea of women rapping about their own sexuality more controversial than describing in detail how you’re going to force yourself onto an innocent person? So many people joke that they’re scared of being “Me Too’d,” but you know what? Movements like that are necessary. People should be scared of sexually assaulting someone and should be scared to rap about it. Normalize fighting for women.
Now this post was not created to start a discussion over Jaguar Wright. Please, for my own fucking sanity, keep your thoughts on that matter to yourself. I do hope that this created awareness, especially for emcees, lyricists, songwriters, and singers to re-think their words. Even something as simple as saying you’re going to “rape the beat” can come across as innocent, but it isn’t. That word should not be used as a common verb. It should be taken for what it is. As always, I have a list of all of the songs I’ve mentioned throughout the post in the order that they were mentioned in so you can listen along while you are reading about them, but I would like to disclose that they are extremely violent. Some are super triggering. Just please, exercise caution. I would love for you all to share this piece because I worked really hard on it and it was extremely draining to write, but please include a trigger warning. Make sure to follow the blog either through WordPress or your e-mail address and share your thoughts.♥
I tried to compile some petitions that can be signed and foundations that can be donated to for sexual assault victims, issues, and other relevant components. Please at least take the time to skim through this. And also remember, if someone confides in you with their story of sexual assault, it isn’t your place to judge or tell them what they have to do. Listen and be a strong support system. Sometimes that’s all a person wants.
https://sign.moveon.org/petitions/stand-with-survivors — Sexual Assault in the Military
https://www.thepetitionsite.com/takeaction/535/560/300/ — Sexual Assault in Universities
https://vawnet.org/events/vawa-self-petition-protections-immigrant-survivors-domestic-and-sexual-assault-abusive — Protection for Immigrants
https://act.colorofchange.org/signup/Blackwomenandgirlspledge — Protect Young Black Girls
https://www.change.org/p/congress-save-the-vital-programs-of-the-violence-against-women-act — Violence Against Women Act
https://www.usatoday.com/story/opinion/voices/2019/06/19/abortion-laws-bans-rape-parental-rights-column/1432450001/ — Laws on Parental Rights for Rapists