HOT FIYAH: Women pimping Women in Today’s Hip-Hop Music
The urban world of hip-hop music has, in recent years, become one of great appeal. With television shows that claim to reveal the “reality” of the hip-hop industry popping up every other Wednesday, the very culture of the urban music industry has become a hot commodity, its influence spreading like wildfire to a variety of ethnic communities and age groups alike. In the words of Drake’s 2009 hit, the industry is ridden with images and lyrics that glorify money, cars, clothes, and ho’s (or, as we used to be called, women). Alongside the clothes and cars of the stars, the behavior and general attitude displayed by such language has fostered a new trend in the hip-hop community, one that seems to be gaining popularity, but that has yet to be formally addressed by the mainstream. Vanessa Reece, or as she is known by the public, V-Nasty from Oakland, California is not the best female rapper in the game by any stretch of the imagination. However, as a feminist and an all-around fan of women, I vowed to give her a chance, even learning to appreciate her very candid delivery. The following is an excerpt from a song featuring the young female rapper called “Whip Appeal”.
Gucci let’s get ‘em, Got that AR chopper
Come through the front door, Left them at the doctor
Now we up a hundred more bands, that’s proper
No need for a preacher. Pray to me, I’ll be your father
Hide the young ones cause I’m coming for your daughter
If she ain’t selling pussy, I ain’t gon’ bother
Got a pornstar, a ho, and a model
In the club we do big shit, Pop a hundred bottles
We gettin’ hoes wet, They gon’ need goggles
They said get that gas so I’m on that full throttle
If I had a dIck, than I’d tell that bitch to swallow
Thirty in my clip and I’m letting out hallows
Analyzing the overt, and sometimes strangely placed, references to gun violence and robbery, I see that V-Nasty has obviously done her homework regarding what sells in the hip-hop music business. The latter part of her “HOT FIYAH” verse is riddled with demeaning names, degrading sexual imagery, and downright disrespect for women. While it seems the world has become desensitized to this type of language from the male entertainers who have utilized these lyrical tactics for decades, the acceptance and, in turn, adoption of those tactics by women themselves is extremely disturbing. Even Rihanna’s 2013 hit “Pour it Up” features lyrics referring to female strippers “goin’ up and down [the] pole” (1). One line in particular, “bands make your girl go down”, is an example of one of the world’s biggest female stars verbally reinforcing the already present notion that women and our highly sexualized bodies are for sale (1). The message grows clearer and clearer: Male or female, if you’ve got the money, you’ve got the ho’s.
Why has this trend become so popular in recent years? I cannot say for sure, but the feminist within me is clamoring with possible theories, all of which involve the internalization of the extreme patriarchy we see and feel (or perhaps don’t see and feel, since they are, in fact, so intertwined with our nation’s foundation) all around us each day.
The first reason that I feel women find this type of language acceptable enough to utilize it themselves is because, as women, they are following the rules of the game, adhering to the hip-hop blueprint. The rappers of the early and mid-1990′s, musicians like A Tribe Called Quest and The Fugees, took rhyming to a mainstream level and made it clear that hip-hop music should and would be considered a legitimate art form one day. Lyrical expressions about actual life in urban neighborhoods, battles with the drug wars of the 90′s, and the place of the individual within a police state still resonate in much of today’s music, but for the most part, the road paved by the early emcees forked and many of the new-schoolers took a hard left, flooding all of our senses with pictures of excess and lust, sex, and a complete disregard for all but the self. Since the hip-hop world is one of great male influence, it is (sadly) only natural that women would get caught up and considered an additional piece of booty, no pun intended.
Images of barely-dressed women gyrating their bodies provocatively became a staple in the industry’s music videos.
With this in mind, imagine a young woman who (for the purposes of this article) has real, raw talent. She has been a fan of the art form, has written and practiced for years. When she steps up to a street battle, she is met with critical eyes. First and foremost, she is a woman or “rap bitch”. This marker instantly takes her potential down at least one notch in the eyes of the men watching and listening, waiting to see what this girl could possibly have to say. What will she rap about? What can she rap about? Certainly there are commonalities, but the struggle of the average woman is not of any relevance to the average male hip-hop star and fan. With the critical breath of the industry’s heavy-hitters at her neck, the pressure to prove herself in this arena weighs at her shoulders and she caves, eventually giving the masses what they want. As she opens her mouth to spit HOT FIYAH, she simply regurgitates all she has heard from her testicled counterparts, being sure to mention her vehicle, her clothes, and her “ho”. As the crowd roars, she realizes that this hip-hop is a boys’ club, and she must follow the rules to be considered a real member.
Another possibility for the growing popularity of the trend I mentioned earlier (the verbal, sexual subjugation of women by women in the hip-hop community) lay in some of the core issues of how we- as women- have been socialized to deal with each other. Women have been painted as devious, untrustworthy, unstable (by way of nature) creatures. Because of this, some of the most flawed attitudes regarding women are bred and reproduced amongst groups of exclusively women. In many cases, the underlying reason for this phenomenon has to do with patriarchy. Within all patriarchal societies, there is a very limited amount of power, and thereby worth, available to women. Most often, the easiest and most direct route to power involves a man. Take Michelle Obama for example. I am a huge fan of the first lady. She is a stunning example of grace and humility, not to mention the poster woman for strong femininity and domestic support. Since Obama’s inauguration, she has been invited to speak at numerous events, and has certainly achieved celebrity status. Even so, it is only her connection to her husband that makes such a somebody, anybody in the eyes of America. Had she remained single, focusing on her own political career and pursuing individual goals, truth be told, we may never have heard of her. She would be just another faceless woman fighting for something no one cares about. Cynical as that statement may read, this is the country we live in. The hip-hop community is no different. With such a stultifying box for women, there is a definite need to not only liken oneself to the males of the industry, but almost an even greater need to separate oneself from the ranks of the faceless others. What better way to do this, than to de-humanize the “others” (a practice America is quite familiar with). Instead of a “rap bitch” cypher, or a girls’ club in hip-hop, there is most often a clear “them vs. me” mentality among female emcees, because- as I said- with only so much room for power, we women have to get it how we can, right?
I am not sure that either of these reasons is the explanation behind the “Women pimping Women” musical trend. However, as a black, queer, separatist feminist, these are- at the very least- still issues to be addressed, still problems that plague and threaten to weaken and eventually destroy any chance of a unified community of women in both the hip-hop community and the world at large. When we can finally address our own internalized oppression and stop hailing to the patriarchy in our words and actions, we will actually stand a chance at reversing some of the damage and instead begin using our words and art to free ourselves and each other, the way the goddesses intended.
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