Straight Outta Philogyny: Four Rappers Who Empower Women Through Music
Misogyny in rap and hip-hop is nothing new to the music industry. In songs like Eminem’s “Kill You” and Kanye West’s “Blame Game,” both of which promote violent sexual abuse, rap artists have a long-standing reputation of mistreating women in their lyrics, and some do in real life too.
Following the box-office success of biopic Straight Outta Compton, legendary rapper Dr. Dre issued an apology last Friday to the women he’s physically abused.
“Twenty-five years ago I was a young man drinking too much and in over my head with no real structure in my life,” he told The New York Times. “I’m doing everything I can so I never resemble that man again.”
Dr. Dre is one of several artists who’ve come under fire recently for degrading and abusing women in their professional and personal lives.
In a petition circulating in May, rapper Action Bronson was accused of glorifying gang rape and the murder of women; the petition called for his removal from a Toronto music festival’s lineup. The accusation stems from his 2011 song “Consensual Rape,” which talks about drugging a girl and having rough sex with her.
“Man, if you’re upset about Action Bronson lyrics wait until you hear about rap music,” music critic Gary Suarez tweeted.
However, a handful of rappers have made it a point to combat the stereotype of rap music by creating songs that are respectful to women.
Here are four rap artists who seek to empower women through their music.
Known for creating raps that address social issues like marriage equality and wasteful consumerism, Macklemore is recognized as a rapper who's outside the conventional standard. His mom was a social worker who, he has told interviewers, raised him to be accepting of people’s differences—a sentiment that is evident in many of his songs.
Macklemore's support for women, especially those in his life, is perhaps best showcased in his new song, “Growing Up (Sloane's Song),” which is an ode to his newborn daughter.
The song challenges the notion of women’s conventional roles in society with lyrics such as “They say girls shouldn’t be tough / And moms should raise their kids at home / But baby, I know that that isn’t too true / Cause your momma’s the toughest person I know.”
2. Tupac Shakur
One of the world’s most well-known rappers is also recognized for dignifying women through his lyrics.
Tupac was raised by his single mother, who struggled with substance abuse throughout his life and even did stints in jail. His song “Dear Mama” is an appreciation of her parenting, despite the hardships they faced as a family on welfare.
His upbringing influenced his insistence on dignifying women in his songs, the most supportive being “Keep Ya Head Up.” In it, he calls on men to take responsibility for treating women respectfully while encouraging women to remain strong and independent:
“And since we all came from a woman / Got our name from a woman / And our game from a woman / I wonder why we take from our women / Why we rape our women / do we hate our women…. So will the real men get up / I know you’re fed up, ladies / But keep your head up.”
Like Macklemore, Kenya-born, Canada-raised hip-hop artist Shad focuses on themes of social awareness and emotional vulnerability.
His raps uphold respect for girls and women, as he recognizes how other rappers brag about being with several women at a time.
“Keep Shining” is Shad’s shout-out to women everywhere. He calls for more women to pursue a career in rap, saying: “Even tracks like Kweli’s ‘Four Women’ / That’s still only half the view of the world / There’s no girls rapping so we’re only hearing half the truth.”
4. Queen Latifah
Queen Latifah broke barriers for women when she started in the rap industry, signing with Tommy Boy Music in 1988.
Her 1993 single “U.N.I.T.Y.” earned her a Grammy for best rap solo performance. The song encourages women to stand up for themselves when men are disrespecting them, even offering Queen Latifah's own solution to the problem.
“Since he was with his boys, he tried to break fly / Huh / I punched him dead in his eye….”
She was nominated the following year for best solo artist at the first annual hip-hop awards but lost to Snoop Dogg.