Female Rap; Empowering Or Controversial?
It’s no secret that as a society we tend to be shy when it comes to talking about sex, so why are female rappers so open about their sexuality?
Rap music as a genre is known for its passionate, strong, and overt lyricism and is mostly associated with young people. It originated in the 1970’s in New York City, but didn’t produce hugely successful artists until the late 1980’s and early 1990’s with artists such as Biggie, Snoop Dogg and Tupac Shakur. In this new era of rap, we’ve seen more female rappers making it to mainstream notoriety than ever before; and along with this comes lyrics that have opened up a big debate.
So, are female rappers actually empowering women to be open about their sexuality, or is it just reducing them to being sexual objects?
Arguably, the biggest female rapper of our generation is Nicki Minaj. She achieved worldwide success with her album Pink Friday in 2010, alongside the song Super Bass. Nicki has been making waves since she moved onto the scene in the early 2000’s and has shown the world what female rappers can do, making sure to keep the top spot, and labelling herself as the Queen of Rap.
She is part of the new line of hip-hop and was preceded by artists such as Lil’ Kim and Missy Elliott. These artists tend to have overtly sexual lyrics, never seeming to shy away from their sexuality and bodies. This could be because hip-hop culture is misogynistic and male dominated, often sexualising women in their lyrics, so female rappers have made the choice to use their music to combat this and make their presence known on the rap scene.
Another famous female rapper is Megan Thee Stallion, and in a lot of her songs, she turns the focus on what she wants sexually. This is empowering because it helps women to feel like they can have that assertiveness when it comes to sex, and highlight how women’s feelings tend not to be thought about, rewriting the narrative to fall on female sexuality. This is also true for Nicki Minaj. Both Nicki and Megan prioritise what they want and make no apologies for it. Women’s feelings have been forgotten about for way too long and female rap artists are making sure they are remembered. It can also help women become more open and honest about their sexuality, which is both healthy and positive! Female rap gives women the confidence to embrace themselves, normalise female sexuality and undermine the patriarchal value that women should not be sexual. What could be more empowering?
However, there’s always two sides to every story, and lots of lyrics could be seen as setting the feminist movement back. Instead of rapping about topics and issues that harm or disadvantage women and minorities, they are focusing solely on sex. This may perpetuate the unjust idea that women can only rap about sex, and that their sexuality is the only contribution they can make to the genre. It reduces them to be seen as only their bodies, and not their creative and talented minds as well.
This could be especially true in the age of social media and marketing. Ever heard of the phrase “sex sells?” Well, it does. Women are constantly being sexualised, no matter what they do, so is it not better to embrace it and sell more records? Or should anybody talk about sex that way? Does it cancel out if both sexes use language in the same way? ? . Personally, I definitely think there’s a double standard, but the more female rappers make themselves heard, the more we notice it.
So, whatever your beliefs, we can’t deny that women in rap are talented, strong, and just as good as the men. Whether or not they should be using sexual lyrics in their music, or if that harms or hinders them as artists and the wider feminist movement, is yet to be decided. I can’t wait to witness the future of rap music and what other talented artists are going to break onto the scene, but for now we should continue to be addressing, debating and researching into the way female rappers are treated. After all, in the words of Nicki Minaj, “I just want women to feel in control, because we’re capable, we’re so capable.”