Stigma Around Female Rappers
Image description: Rico Nasty is performing on stage at the Los Angeles Tennis Center for Bruin Bash 2021.
The day before I moved into UCLA, I spent an hour waiting in a virtual line for Bruin Bash tickets instead of packing. Of course, the prospect of seeing Rico Nasty perform live at LATC trumped any need to fold my clothes and think about the UC quarter system. I even started listening to Tkay Maidza and Yung Baby Tate, the opener and middle act, so I could know the words to every song. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up getting tickets, but once I got to campus, I discovered that many others also lost out on attending a Rico Nasty concert.
And of course, Bruin Bash was a key point of conversation with the new people I met during move-in. As I expressed my sadness, I observed a concerningly sexist pattern among the guys that I talked to: Many of the boys who I talked about Bruin Bash with didn’t even consider going because they “didn’t like female rappers.” When I asked them if they had ever listened to Rico Nasty or the other artists before, they said they didn’t but they apparently had an “intuition” that they wouldn’t enjoy it. A majority of them backed their perspectives by complaining about how female artists only rap about “female issues:” too much talk about pussy, feelings, and money.
The stigma surrounding women in the music industry, particularly rap, is an indication of broader and extremely pervasive institutional sexism. The large overlap in rap themes contradicts the variation in feedback that male and female rappers encounter. While male rappers like Drake, Travis Scott, and Playboi Carti are lauded for lyrics about drugs, sex, and extravagant wealth, female rappers are considered vulgar, tasteless, and trashy for producing the same content. In fact, the amount of criticism that women receive for songs that men would have been praised for releasing is astounding. This was especially salient with Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion’s “WAP:” following its debut in 2020, many of my guy friends found the song unlistenable because of its “explicit nature.” But their Spotify statistics are filled with The Weeknd, Ski Mask The Slump God, and 21 Savage – men who constantly rap about sex.
I’ve also noticed that many male rap songs are rooted in the objectification and degradation of women. One of the first lyrics in 21 Savage’s song, “X,” is “Hit it with no condom, gotta make her eat a Plan B,” implying that women exist solely for men’s sexual gratification and their sexual health can & should be neglected. Since its release in 2016, “X” has received nearly 455 million streams (Spotify). Society loves to celebrate men’s sexual conquests in the music industry because it exudes “masculinity” and strength, but when women preach confidence and mastery in the bedroom, they are viewed as overtly hypersexual and name-called as a result.
This gender double standard is fostered by the toxic cycle of small advancements in gender equality quickly followed by the reinforcement of the patriarchy. In the music industry, I’ve observed a trend in which a “female rapper of the month” is idolized for a short period of time and then replaced with the next big thing: such has been the case for Cardi B, Cupcakke, Flo Milli, Doja Cat, and Rico Nasty. After the debut of a hit single, the media would explode with overwhelming support and commendation for the female empowerment that their music elicited; the song would be played on repeat on the radio and found in the background of every TikTok on everyone’s For You Page. But after a couple of weeks, the hype would die down and the attention would be redistributed to the newest Juice Wrld song or Lil Uzi Vert album.
The norm in the modern rap industry is to prioritize men and capitalize off of silencing women. This pattern highlights the sexist and misogynistic notions embedded in collective society, as men constantly take advantage of power dynamics to gain control over women – whether consciously or subconsciously. To overcome this, we as a society must collectively engage in the process of unlearning toxic mindsets and relearning intersectional ideologies; in doing so, we can dismantle oppressive institutions.