Music History

Atoning for the Misogyny of Hip Hop

Hip hop has a number of image problems, one of the worst being its treatment of women. The bitches and hoes thing has been out of control for a couple of decades. Can hip hop atone for its sexist sins?  The Daily Beast takes a look.

Hip-hop’s penchant for rampant misogyny has gotten an increasing amount of pushback in the last few years, with incidents like Rick Ross’s “U.O.E.N.O.” lyrics and the legacy of iconic gangsta rap group N.W.A becoming flashpoints for conversations about the genre, it’s history, and the way it portrays and polices womanhood. Misogyny in hip-hop is a byproduct of misogyny in society, and the music has always reflected how many men value women as nothing but trophies and mother figures.

The rock standard “Hey Joe” was popularized by Jimi Hendrix and tells the story of a man shooting his woman for cheating—a dark scenario revisited in other popular songs like Neil Young’s “Down by the River” and, 30 years later, in D’Angelo’s “Shit, Damn, Motherfucker.” Bob Dylan famously sang that a former lover could “Take just like a woman. Fake just like a woman.” The Rolling Stones sang about everything from slave rape (“Brown Sugar”) to statutory rape (“Stray Cat Blues”) to rape and murder (“Midnight Rambler”) with a bawdy carelessness that likely wouldn’t be tolerated today. Even earlier Rolling Stones hits like “Under My Thumb” wallow in sexism as frontman Mick Jagger sings about getting a strong-willed woman to submit: “It’s down to me—the way she talks when she’s spoken to. It’s down to me. The change has come. She’s under my thumb.” In “I’ve Got a Woman,” an exuberant Ray Charles sang that his lady “never goes out and leaving me alone. She knows that a woman’s place is right here in her home.”

But in hip-hop, the misogyny tends to be much more explicit, even if it is born of the same toxic mix of fragile male egos, accepted gender roles, double standards, and entitlement. It shouldn’t be news that rappers of the ’80s and ’90s could often be unapologetically misogynistic.

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Alan Cross

is an internationally known broadcaster, interviewer, writer, consultant, blogger and speaker. In his 40+ years in the music business, Alan has interviewed the biggest names in rock, from David Bowie and U2 to Pearl Jam and the Foo Fighters. He’s also known as a musicologist and documentarian through programs like The Ongoing History of New Music.

Alan Cross has 38536 posts and counting. See all posts by Alan Cross

3 thoughts on “Atoning for the Misogyny of Hip Hop

  • Who can forget Run For Your Life by the Beatles. Awkward as fuck nowadays.

    Growing up, I had a bit of a crisis of conscious listening to The Pursuit of Happiness; some very misogynistic stuff. I later came to accept it as the earnest outpouring of how “a guy’s” mind works. And I don’t believe Moe Berg actually has a misogynistic bone in his body, from everything else I’ve heard him say.

    I’m not a hip-hop guy, but I am an (electro) industrial guy. This video at Kinetik about misogyny in the scene, put on by the immediately-preceding opener to Combichrist, was fucking amazing:

  • Kanye’s rant, monologue, whatever you want to call it, would work if it were someone like an Axl Rose, Iggy Pop, or the obvious like John Lydon. The problem is that everything his genre of music represents, sucks.


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