Are Misogynistic Rap Lyrics Just Cringe-Inducing, or Something Worse?

There’s nothing better than jamming along to one of your favorite songs, enjoying a beat that pounds in your ears and gets you into a mood you love. You hum, dance, or sing along to your singer of choice – and then the rap comes on.

You might mumble some of the words you know, shout out a couple with disproportionate confidence, or nod quietly until the main hook of the song cycles back. Do you really know what the rapper is saying? No, but it certainly is a nice addition. 

If you took a moment to look up some of the rap lyrics, you might be surprised by some of the lines that make it into the top radio songs of our day. 

Often, they’re shockingly misogynistic towards women, and in the creepiest way. Sexual abuse, gang rape, rape of minors, and a general disparaging objectivity are all common themes. Then there is the very continuous and consistent manner in which women are referred to as “bitch” – and absolutely nothing else. 

One would think that the rise of female rappers, like Nicki Minaj and Cardi B, would alleviate the prevalence of this misogyny, but so far it hasn’t had the sweeping effect one might have hoped for, evident in rising rap star Cardi B’s “Bartier Cardi.” She repeatedly speaks of drugging “bitches” with molly: “Bardi, put that lil’ bitch on molly, Bardi,” whereupon featured rapper 21 Savage takes her lyrics a step further: “fucked that bitch on molly.” 

You would think that people would be uncomfortable about delving into the territory of drugging a woman for sex, but neither 21 Savage nor Cardi B seem particularly worried about it. Instead, “Cardi B got your bitch on molly. . .I got your bitch and she naked. . .swap out the bitch for your main. . .”

Another quite popular 2018 song, “Big Bank” by YG, features a rather unappealing line in its chorus: “From the hood, it’s type of money make you stay awake / Type of money she gon’ let you put it in her face.”

Usher’s “Yeah,” an older track, on the other hand, stands out for its catching statement, which tells girls to “bend over to the front and touch your toes” and “if you hold the head steady, I’m a milk the cow,” a degrading metaphorical depiction of oral sex.

However, perhaps the most disturbing lyrics can be found in the 2000 song “Amityville” by Eminem featuring Bizarre: “My little sister’s birthday/ she’ll remember me/ for a gift I had ten of my boys take her virginity.”

Another golden bar from Eminem’s “Kill You”: “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore ’til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?”

The way these “artists” bring sick abuse of women to life in their popular, upbeat songs should be a crime in itself, but these lyrics continue to ride on the power of popularity, a massive wave of listeners, and a Hollywood that seems willing to keep any critique of its bedfellows — and their lyric-made monsters —“hush-hush”.

Is the solution avoiding rap music? Not quite, since you’d have to a significant amount of pop music out of your life to escape this appalling system. 

“Right There” by Ariana Grande has a sweet ring to it and a fairytale-cute music video. The rap segment is an odd contrast that throws off the whole feel of the song. Ariana Grande sings from the position of someone who has fallen in love and pledged her heart and loyalty to him. Big Sean speaks from the opposite position, and his statements aren’t nearly as romantic, to put it mildly: “A player too, you know I have some girls missionary/ My black book and numbers thicker than the dictionary.”

The derogatory treatment women by rappers extends beyond just a few lyrical lines. Misogyny of women is built into the very basis of rap, evident in its personal set of slang and common linguistic terms: bitches, hoes, thot (that hoe over there), gold digger, freaked it (had sex with), and top (oral sex). Nor does this realm of abuse towards women exist only in the harmlessness of words; numerous rappers have been involved in incidents which mistreat women and reflect the words they spew into the mic. 

A female journalist from BETcomplained that she felt uncomfortable with supporting the rap genre, especially when artist Rick Ross joked/confessed that if he added a female rapper to his Maybach Music Group, he would have to “fuck her,” especially “if she’s lookin’ good and I’m spending so much money on her photo shoots.” The idea of consent seems to have been forgotten in such statements, and with the way Ross hacks at the finesse of the conversation with his words, it’s unlikely he’ll ever receive it. 

Famous Dex put words into action when he was taped physically beating his girlfriend. Rapper XXXTentacion abused and imprisoned a former girlfriend, hinting at his crimes in his music and then denying them in a manner akin to that of a sick game. Riff Raff and Nelly have also been accused of rape, while R. Kelly was involved in statutory rape of a minor back in 2002.

The underlying current that runs through rap and encourages even top female rapper Nicki Minaj to refer to other woman as “bitches” and to herself as a “stank ass hoe” is a direct attack towards women. It’s disgusting, immoral, and degrading, and it frames women as objects that deserve to be treated with abuse because, somehow, womenare disgusting. Rap serves as an outlet like no other for this sick ideology and its followers, and it gives shelter to a threat that puts women in danger.

This is the 21st century, however, and it is a world in which women are not silent in the face of such attacks. Even Hollywood and its seemingly untouchable movie directors suffered the brunt of the #MeToo movement that sent the entertainment industry scrambling. 

I believe that these feminist forces lie not in movements, necessarily, but in women themselves. We are not the generation of women that silently takes the brunt of these attacks. I’d like to listen to my favorite songs without having to cringe at the verbal attacks constantly directed at my gender. I don’t think it would be particularly difficult for the rap sector of the music industry to adjust to real-world equality. It’s time they stop living in the archaic abuse of the past and face the equality of the present, consequences and all.