On any given day the stylized, rhythmic sound of hip-hop can be heard blaring from at least one room in our suburban house in sleepy Oakville. My teenage kids lose themselves in the booming base, titillated by the lyrics, nodding their heads oblivious of the privileged lives they live. Be it Fetty Wap’s, Trap Queen, or Fredo Santana’s My Squad, or old school beats by Snoop Dog or Notorious B.I.G., the infectious music is hard not to like, –but as a mother I struggle with the misogynistic language that is inherently woven in.
As someone who despises the word ‘bitch’ I am in a constant state of conflict when it comes to my love, and now my daughter’s infatuation of all things hip-hop. Growing up I listened to Earth Wind and Fire, Michael Jackson and Motown, in part because that is what my parents listened to. I learned from a young age that music can sing to one’s soul, and can capture the essence of who you are.
In the early nineties when rap was becoming increasingly politicized with Public Enemy’s Fight the Power and Ice-T’s Cop Killer, the songs struck a chord with so many, but not with me. What did I know about justified rage and racism? I did however identify with the female empowered and highly sexualized lyrics of Salt-N-Pepa. I couldn’t get enough of them…Mary J. Blige, Missy Elliott, I admired their powerful, raw sound.
Two decades later I have introduced my daughters to these artists, stressing the importance of appreciating female rappers in this male dominated and often anti-female, world of hip-hop. Being bi-racial and light skinned, I want my girls to embrace their blackness and own their femininity, not be labeled a ‘black bitch ho’ by any artist, regardless of how captivating the beat may be.
The importance of rap in music culture can’t be disputed. Biographical movies like Straight Outta of Compton about N.W.A., top box office sales and have introduced the masses to the origins of west coast gangster rap. Yet, it took a social media storm for Dr. Dre, to publicly apologize for his alleged physical mistreatment of women. (The movie conveniently left out this controversial truth about Dre.)
If rap is suppose to represent every day life, I am hopeful that sooner rather than later, the in- your-face misogynistic element of hip-hop will finally be muted. But until that happens, in our not so quiet house, hip-hop will continue to play loud and often, despite my distaste for all references to bitches and ho’s.