“Now I ain’t tryna be the greatest/I used to hate Hip Hop, yup, because the women degraded” — Lupe Fiasco, “Hurt Me Soul” (2006)

I love women. Some of the most beautiful souls on this earth whom I’ve ever had the pleasure of knowing have been women. My grandmother. My cousin Jennifer. The same goes for my friends Jody, Jess, Kate, Alena and Rachel. They illuminate what it is to show compassion and allow a grown man to be vulnerable, while our society wants him to be as hard as concrete. And yet I listen to Hip Hop, my favorite genre of music, and I hear some of the self-proclaimed “hardest” men show vulnerability, and in the span of a few bars, spew misogyny.

When I was a teenager and first getting into Hip Hop, the words “bitch” and “hoe” didn’t bother me at all. I’m not proud of that, but that’s the way it was. It wasn’t that I had malice in my heart for women, or poorly related to girls in my school. In all honesty, I didn’t think anything of it more than I thought anything of T.I. rapping “I got a strong mind, to grab my chrome nine, and shoot yo ass for a long time.” They were just words in a song that I happened to like. Even when my dad brought it up to me in the car one day, upset at how I could listen to music that talked about “bitches and hoes,” I didn’t have an answer for him, but it didn’t bother my 16-year-old mind, either. I didn’t connect the lyrics in the song to actual women I knew, and it certainly didn’t impact the way I treated any of them. I suppose the anonymity of the name-calling was some sort of security blanket to my ears. It wasn’t anyone I knew, or anyone specifically at all, being called a bitch or a hoe. Like Chris Rock’s girl dancing to misogynistic Hip Hop would say in his HBO Never Scared stand-up special: “He ain’t talkin’ ‘bout me.”

Smack Her Witta Dick!

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I also found it hypocritical, as I still do, for people who enjoyed misogyny in R-rated movies and other forms of entertainment to single out Hip Hop. Politicians, parents and anyone looking to pass the buck can throw stones at Hip Hop without having to worry about repercussions from a society that doesn’t look past the surface. And, from A Tribe Called Quest to Common, there have been many men in Hip Hop who glorify and respect women. There also have been many female MC’s, from MC Lyte to Queen Latifah to Lil Kim, who have been flag bearers for gender equality and who have called out misogynism by their male counterparts.

I refuse to condemn Hip Hop culture as a whole; that’s not even the feminist way.

As I got older, I began to build deeper and more meaningful relationships with women. I have buddies that say they can’t be friends with women without experiencing sexual or romantic feelings, but I’ve been able to separate the two. In college, I made friends with some of the best women on the planet. As anyone who has read my open letter to Kid Cudi knows, I’ve faced some difficult mental health issues, and these women were and are, as well as anyone has ever been, willing and able to help me through my struggles. Whether it was late-night phone conversations or just hanging out at their house, I truly valued their friendship.

It was around that time that misogyny in Hip Hop started to sting a little bit. At first, I didn’t realize why, but when I gave it some thought, I knew. It was my newfound friendships with amazing women. Now, I didn’t wake up one day and suddenly become a mature, well-rounded adult with a clear-eyed view on feminism. I was like many other guys in their early 20s, making stupid jokes about sex around my friends, pretending to be tougher than I was, and sometimes, just generally making an ass out of myself.


Misogynistic or Musical? Popular songs like French Montana’s 2012 hit “Pop That” blur the lines where suggestive language towards woman is deemed acceptable.

But life, like the best Hip Hop, has a way of keeping it real. I know who I am today: a nice guy who loves and respects women. I’m not perfect; I’ll still make the occasional stupid joke around my friends, or get mad if I feel my kindness is being taken advantage of. But I make an effort, now more than ever, to see if my views in relation to women are or aren’t the result of society’s sexist double standards. It’s a long, uncomfortable look in the mirror, but it’s worth it.

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So, where does that leave me with Hip Hop? I enjoy various subgenres of Hip Hop, from hardcore rap to conscious Hip Hop, and smooth crossover joints in between. Much of the rap I like isn’t doesn’t bear a trace of misogyny. However, there are times when I’m enjoying a song by one of my favorite rappers and they’ll drop a line that makes me think, “Why did you have to go there?” However, there also are songs, such as Black Star’s “Brown Skin Lady,” that I cherish for their positive messages toward women. Several of today’s young elite rappers, like Kendrick Lamar, J. Cole and Chance the Rapper, have shown a sensitivity to women that is a beacon of hope. They’re far from saints, but when Chance raps on “All We Got”: “Man my daughter couldn’t have a better mother/If she ever find another, he better love her,” I want to jump up and cheer.

I’m no fool. I know that misogyny will be in Hip Hop as long as misogyny is in society because Hip Hop is a reflection of society, not the other way around. And like I said, I’m no crusader. But as I’ve grown, Hip Hop has grown with me. And as the genre continues to break new barriers, I’m hopeful that it can give birth to a new generation of prophets. Because it’s as true today as it was in ‘89: It’s Ladies First.

SMH, “ol girl with that trash accent” was Monie Love and she’s a pioneer for female Hip Hop as a whole.