Controversy of the Week: Female Empowerment in Rap and RnB

The sexualisation of women is prominent in every music genre, but especially in Rap and RnB. With their degrading lyrics such as “And she gon’ suck me like a fuckin’ Hi-C” and “make these bitches scream” in 'Taste' by Tyga, these songs do not create a sense of empowerment for women and young girls, but instead enforce the cultural patriarchy of female objectification and subservience. Having lived in South London until goin to university, most of the music I heard was RnB, and so I often felt sucked into this culture of female objectification. However, with the rise of artists like Cardi B, Janelle Monae, ChloeXHalle, and Doja Cat in the last year, we are starting to see change. 

Cardi B is at the height of female empowerment in Rap. Yes, she is overly sexualised in her videos, and her lyrics are explicit. But, the way she portrays herself as unapologetically flawed and powerful. In her recent music video for ‘Money’ the recurring image of her breast feeding her new born daughter turns something that is often looked down on in our society into something strong and powerful. Moreover, her lyrics “kiss the ring and kick rocks, sis” emphasise her high status and promote independence.

This female empowerment was well received in her first album ‘Invasion of Privacy’ (2018). It debuted atop of the US Billboard 200 and made her the first female rapper to achieve multiple chart toppers, as well as the first female artist to have all the tracks from an album certified as gold or higher by the RIAA. This can be seen as a massive step forwards for women in music, as in the 2018 Grammys only one female solo artist was awarded in the major English-language categories, whereas this year, five out of the eight nominees for Album of the Year are women.


Janelle Monae can also be seen as a crucial figure from 2018 in the rise of feminism in RnB. Her 2018 album ‘Dirty Computer’ has a clear message of owning and reclaiming power. The popularity of this in the media, with her song ‘PYNK’ making headlines, has created hope for a leading femal future in Rap. The music video featured women dancing together wearing trousers that look like two labias. This causes the audience to address and celebrate the female body, removing a sense of shame that has been embedded for years under patriarchal culture. Monae said that pink is “a color that unites us all, for pink is the color found in the deepest and darkest nooks and crannies of humans everywhere... PYNK is where the future is born.” Thus, promoting women reclaiming their bodies through RnB.

This empowerment of women in rap is undeniably positive, and will hopefully continue until we get to a point where there is an equal amount of male and female artists in the genre, unlike the curently male-dominated sphere. Some of the more recent releases from emerging female rappers have even turned the stereotype on its head, such as ‘Go To Town’ by Doja Cat featuring lyrics oral sex and empowering women in the situation with  “If you're down, boy, really down/ Baby let me watch you go to town”. Similarly, in ‘G.A.F’ by IAMDDB, the main line is “I don’t give a fuck what you do/ I get bitches too” repeated throughout the whole song and creating a sense of rebellion and power. 

Unfortunately, it seems that women will always be sexualized in rap in some way, because that’s what sells. However, female artists in Rap and RnB are taking defiant steps forward in their songs and lyrics to own their own bodies and take charge of the message that people receive, and this will hopefully continue, shaking up the patriarchy and reclaiming female independence.