Feminist Rap

Roxane Gay talks about Kanye West's song New Slaves in which he says "You see it's leaders and it's followers / But I'd rather be a dick than a swallower." Of course this is an example of misogynistic rap that assumes women should be obeying and submitting to men.

Cigarettes by Fort Minor is a good example of what feminist rap might actually sound like. Starting at 1:06 in the song, Mike Shinoda says:

Let me tell you something that I realized tonight
My hip-hop radio's like Marlboro light
They both selling stories and they sound about the same
Cigarettes say they safe, rappers claim they really bang

We don't care if it's true when we just lay the money down
We don't believe the words, we just love the way they sound
They're acting like we're idiots, they're lying to our face
Maybe we are idiots, we buy it anyway

I'm running out to get the next rapper's CD
Just sucking up the guns, drugs, and misogyny
The same way that I suck up all the stories when I breathe
That little bit of death, supposedly cancer free

And everything they say's got the truth twisted up
And twisted up's what I want, man, I can't get enough
'Cause even though we know it's all just a big bluff
We just light another up, what, we don't give a fuck!

In these lyrics, Mike tells us he is well aware of the misogyny, violence, and addiction that rap music talks about and promotes. But, nonetheless, he loves it. He knows rap is bad. He knows cigarettes are bad. Of course he does. He's not stupid, but then again, maybe he is because he willfully ignores the cancer and ignorance of cigarettes and rap. So too does Roxane Gay talk about this. She openly admits to being a bad feminist. She consumes rap music and even enjoys music that has misogyny.

But the thing is, life is hard, life sucks, life is suffering. Whether its cigarettes or misogynistic rap, can you blame someone for using these things to help cope with the pain caused by the realities of life?

Rap fortunately doesn't cause the long term problems that cigarettes do, so as long as you are aware of the problematic things that rap promotes, I think you can safely consume as much rap as you want. Maybe we should update the parental advisory sticker on music albums. Like cigarette warning labels, they can say: WARNING you should only take the misogyny, promotion of violence, and promotion of drugs with a heavy dose of irony and feminism.

Zach Bellay published on

3 min, 464 words