Today’s entry comes courtesy of Blair Robertson. She is taking a closer look at the correlation between music and rape culture. (Link is set to open in a new window/tab.) Please keep in mind that this may be triggering. If you find yourself being triggered, please stop reading and do something kind for yourself instead. – Amanda
I want to write a tip-of-the-iceberg- article about the effects of hip-hop and rap music on rape culture today. In one of her recent posts, Amanda Brock addressed the rape-laden lyrics of a lot of popular music; I want to focus on hip-hop. In my opinion, this genre had a direct causative effect on my daughter’s rape.
Becky Blanchard, in The Social Significance of Rap and Hip-Hop Culture, says, “Hip-hop music is generally considered to have been pioneered in New York’s South Bronx in 1973 by Jamaican-born Kool DJ Herc. At a Halloween dance party thrown by his younger sister, Herc used an innovative turntable technique to stretch a song’s drum break by playing the break portion of two identical records consecutively. The popularity of the extended break lent its name to “breakdancing”. She goes on to say, “Hip-hop music originated from a combination of traditionally African-American forms of music–including jazz, soul, gospel, and reggae. It was created by working-class African-Americans, who, like Herc, took advantage of available tools–vinyl records and turntables–to invent a new form of music that both expressed and shaped the culture of black New York City youth in the 1970s.” Rap seems to be rooted in the long oral traditions of Africa, expressing the oppression of the African and Afro-American people. Blanchard goes on to say, however, that hip-hop and rap were discovered by corporate labels, and the commercialization and commodification of the genre quickly diverted the lyrics from\ social, political, and economic problems into those of violence, misogyny, and homophobia. She claims that, “according to Davey D, “The business of music has bastardized rap.” “
For example, Dorian Miller-Rosenberg, in Music News, cites the 15 Most Misogynistic Lines In Rap History, including 1) “My little sister’s birthday/ She’ll remember me/ For a gift I had ten of my boys take her virginity.”–Bizarre, and 2) “Slut, you think I won’t choke no whore/Til the vocal cords don’t work in her throat no more?!”–Eminem.
One of the forerunners of the commercialization of the rap movement was Def Jam records, with one of its earliest presidents being Russell Simmons. Under Simmons, the rappers made the leap to the ever-present usage of the terms “bitches” and “hoes” for women, and the music was increasingly sexualized, with little regard for women’s voices or consent. His sexist attitudes and repudiation of women was highlighted in 2006, during his infamous approval of a Harriet Tubman sex tape. In one part of the documentary, he is asked why he can not address sexism and misogyny in hip-hop, and responds with, ““I think we have to challenge sexism as a whole…the way it stands in the community, not the poetry that is a reflection of it” (Womanifesto: Exploring Sexism, Misogyny and Accountability in Hip-Hop, For Harriet) He doesn’t seem to realize that the poetry he is selling is creating the community as much as the reverse.
As the company was working to become the multi-million dollar corporation it is today, a young woman went in and made herself indispensable, working with Simmons in his bedroom, with drunk partiers sleeping off the night before all around her on the floor. She soon became president of Def Jam records. Who do you suppose that was? Why, the mother of my daughter’s rapist, of course. And this was the environment in which he was raised. Women were ‘bitches” and “hoes”, to be raped or killed at will. In an article in UKEssays, entitled “Mysogynistic Portrayal of Women in Male Rappers”, they conclude that, “Kubrin and Weitzer in their study claim that misogyny is the general characteristic of rap music. Not all of the songs discredit women, but the objectification, intensity of insults and perpetuation of violence towards women stand out to the extreme.
Whatever his mother thought she was teaching him, this is what he learned. And what he puts forward, to this day, on social media. I only wish she had been more like the mother of Earl Sweatshirt, a noted rapper and member of the group Odd Future. His mother was a law professor at University of California; his dad, who left them when Earl was 6, was a famous South African poet and political activist. Earl got involved with the other musicians at a very young age, and was well known for his recordings by the age of 16. According to an article in New Times Music, by Kat Bein, “His debut mixtape made the rounds on hip-hop blogs as a fan favorite. It was equal parts artistic and shocking. The then-16 Sweatshirt showed an incredible talent for unique flows and a mature diction but made waves when pairing that musicality and rhythmic skill with near-obscene stories of kidnapping, rape, cop-killing, and deranged violence.” My son, a fan of his, said he simply could not listen to his music, because it was so filled with graphic and explicit rape imagery. He then did a horrendously violent music video, apparently seen by his mother. She promptly pulled him out of the group, and shipped him off to a therapeutic retreat school in Samoa, where he remained until he graduated. He spent time there working with rape victims, hearing their stories. He returned to music after he graduated, and his content reflected much introspection, growth and maturity. No longer did he rap about rape and violence.
The rape culture-reflecting and-producing hip-hop/rap movement doesn’t catch all the youth in its realm, not even all the musicians, but it takes the strong will of a solid mother and/or upbringing to resist. The music has a seductive beat, and the words worm themselves so far into the subconscious of young men today, I’m convinced it contributes to a lot of the rapes taking place. Annie’s rapist’s mother continues to maintain that her son was falsely accused, and has taken great strides to become a “Christian minister” since the rape occurred, so she will be viewed as a righteous woman and mother. But he was born into the rap culture, bred in its inner circle. He set out that night to rape somebody, and my daughter became the easiest target. If he hadn’t heard a rap song about it, he could write one.(He’s also a rapper, did I mention that?) Recently, on his Facebook page, he posted a picture of women learning martial arts that said, “GIRLS MUST TRAIN…Rape, Abuse, Domestic violence, kidnap, abductions, kwk, TRAIN or DIE.”