TW: Sexual Violence
The song “Throat Baby” has been circulating the internet in a way that made it feel inescapable for the past few months. BRS Kash sings over captivating piano chords, an infectious bassline, and a melody that’s difficult to forget. The song begins
“Sexy lil b*tch, sexy lil h*e,
love the way you walk,
love the way you talk,
let a young n*gga come play in your throat
deep stroke your throat til I make you choke”
The song itself sounds so good, it has me wondering whether I fit into the sexy lil b*tch or lil h*e category. Or if BRS Kash is talking about a person that’s separate from who I am altogether. I guess I would do it for a check too. But it’s upsetting because the popularity of this song sends a message that seems to be at the expense of the Black womxn that he’s referring to and the young womxn who are hearing this music. It seems to perpetuate misogynoir (the or discrimination and abuse based on both race and gender) and the early sexualization of young black womxn.
This theme of blatantly misogynistic and demeaning lyrics has been prevalent in too much of the music that I have heard in my life for it to be a coincidence. Before I realized it was not “normal” I enjoyed the music without questioning the objectifying nature of the songs. Now, I enjoy the songs and think about how horrible they are. What’s the difference?
I’ve loved trap music since the first time I heard Gucci Mane’s “Lemonade”. It goes so hard. The flow, the cadence, the wordplay. Undeniable talent. Plus, this music represents the culture of Atlanta so I know people feel a cultural connection to this music. However, Gucci talks about yellow b*tches with peach booties in the song too…I just want to vibe. Now, my love for trap music is personified by Future, Young Thug, Young Nudy. All of which are notorious for misogynistic themes in their music, and the relationships they have in the public eye. Yet, I still find myself enjoying their music.
Music is a powerful tool that influences the way we see ourselves and the place we hold in the world around us. The fact that music perpetuating patriarchal and misogynistic norms is so heavily circulated says more about society than it does about the artists releasing this music. Although the artists may be responsible for the production of the music, consumers give the music the relevance it has. This conversation of misogyny in music is often had in reference to hip hop music because these are significant problems regarding misogyny and sexual violence in the Black community in particular. Sexual violence and misogyny are global issues, however, I think it is common for Black folx to express the complexity of this problem creatively, through music.
In some cases, the objectification and degradation of womxn escalate to violence and can go as far as death. According to statistics, over 18% of African American womxn will experience sexual violence in their lifetime yet this percentage only represents cases that are reported to the police. Sexual violence is a prevalent problem in the Black community. The normalization of this music is a direct reflection of this problem, but it also perpetuates the toxic culture. The popularity of demeaning songs makes it easier for people listening to apply these themes in their own lives. From making the deaths of women like Breonna Taylor into memes (Rest In Peace), turning the deaths of women like Oluwatoyin Salau into hashtags (Rest In Power), and calling the people around us “females” (reducing them to their genitalia), this dehumanization of women is right under our noses.
Previously in the hip hop industry, womxn have been a common topic and inspiration but these same womxn were not necessarily represented in the bread breaking and creation of the music. Currently, representation of womxn in the rap industry has grown to include openly queer artists like Young M.A., alternative women like Rico Nasty, and women who openly express their sexuality like Megan Thee Stallion and Cardi B. There is a much-needed shift in culture happening and we must acknowledge the influence of artists like Lil Kim, Trina, Lauryn Hill, and Queen Latifah for paving the way for this acceptance.
The power in the representation of women in the rap game is that they use the current patriarchal state of the world to achieve a goal, develop their skill set, and make it where they want to be in life. It’s admirable. In a world that has been profiting off of the degradation of women for millennia, it’s like they are using their sexuality and F*cking the world back. I’m here for it.
Although the conversation of misogyny in music is common when referring to hip hop music and this is the genre of music I focus on in this essay, these themes are prevalent in every genre that men make music in. Songs like Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” which directly compares women to animals, and “Baby it’s cold outside” a classic Christmas song promoting coercion and ignoring a woman’s repeated wishes have massive cultural influences. This must be addressed on a larger scale, but when I google “misogyny in music” the first 5 articles that pop up are about Hip Hop music.
The nature of this question I pose is complex. The complexity is often shown in how we (as a society) are hesitant to push back against these themes yet quick to uplift people perpetuating them. We easily call Micheal Jackson the “King of Pop” and R Kelly the “King of Pop-Soul” knowing that these men have reputations for sexual violence.
At what point do artists have to take accountability for the messages they put into the world? Are people simply expressing what they have been fed from society? Is it ethical to censor creative expression? Can I genuinely advocate for womxn and enjoy this music or does it shape my subconscious?
Trinity Townsend is a 1.5 generation Jamaican immigrant from the Atlanta suburbs currently living in Philadelphia, PA. Right now, she is an undergrad student at a liberal arts college trying to figure out what major would sound the sexiest on a degree. In her free time, she records music, criticizes the world, and tries to dismantle capitalism.@iriejanea
More of Trinity’s work in Mixed Mag:
Is hop hop making the beauty of Black and Brown bodies more digestible to the white Americans? (Issue 6)