Tuesday, 16 April 2013


   If you've been living under a rock or have zero interest in hip hop you may not have heard about Rick Ross's recent controversy. Reebok (who sponsored Ross) dropped him because he dropped this lyric-

'put molly (mdma) in her champagne, she aint even know it, took her home and enjoyed that, she aint even know it'

on this song


Ross is advocating date rape. Reebok dropped him. No brainer. 

   A couple things have come up in my corners of the internet that I think need addressing. The first one was in a happy article by Bridget Minamore on the Poejazzi website called What To Do When You Rap Something Stupid. It's good. Read it here http://www.poejazzi.com/what-to-do-when-you-rap-something-stupid/ 

got a third man boob, he aint even know it
   Bridget differentiates between Rick Ross's lyrics and the misogynist bars by rappers like Eminem and Tyler The Creator. The latter MC's frame their misogyny in psychosis and fantasy by taking on personas; Slim Shady and Wolf Haley respectively. The general argument from fans of Tyler, Eminem and artists like them, is that they aren't glamorising sexual violence, homophobia etc. The aforementioned personas are unhappy and clearly insane, not to mention fictional, so why would anyone want to even begin to emulate the things they're talking about.
   Rick Ross however, despite being the king of fictional lyrics, has dropped a rape bar 'off-persona'. Ross isn't a very good rapper. His whole career has been built on a fictional crime-lord/hustler/serial-killer/glamour-god image. People don't actively want to be Rick Ross, he's not a very healthy man, but they'd love to emulate his 'lifestyle'. If he's talking about rape, that shit serious. And he is casual with it. Listen to the song. Not. Impressed.

   That's why Ross is a candidate for our scorn and Tyler and Em aren't.

   It's an argument.

   I certainly agree that Ross's bars are gross, effed and that he should've been dropped by Reebok. However Eminem and Tyler and their misogyny-trolls, of which their are depressingly many, get off lightly in my book.

Art, see?
   Music is art. Music is entertainment. Art and entertainment bleed into one another. In my formative years I only listened to (and produced) abrasive sounds. I am super aware that there are elements of our personalities we suppress and they can be explored in art and that is exciting. There are certain corners of the musical ocean where these primal, animalistic and generally quite impolite sections of the psyche can be tapped into to make horrible and thrilling music. I'm never going to get down with someone's inner rapist but I'm acknowledging these darker facets of humanity exist and recognising that art is a place where we can safely experience them.

   'So why can't Eminem and Tyler explore their darker sides on their records, Thought Police?'

    Eminem and Tyler are great rappers. Whatever they rap about, it's got to sound good. When you make rape lyrics sound good on a beat, that's a problem.  Listeners are bopping along having a great time, feeling full of that excellent feeling that good hip hop can evoke, and the lyrics are hateful and violently misogynistic.  That's one screwed-up juxtaposition. Making something sound good is a form of glamorisation. Looking good is another. Combine the two, that's a noxious cocktail. There are a million ways to be animalistic or provocative in lyrics or performance. An artist chooses to use rape imagery or misogyny. That is a choice they make with their adult minds which they are responsible for. The persona argument doesn't wash. Ultimately, it's using rape in entertainment and while maybe not directly endorsing it, the artist is a long, long, long way from condemning it.

Which leads neatly into the second thing; Last week Evidence posted a well observed but quite unsavoury series of tweets. Evidence is a dope rapper, used to be in Dilated Peoples, I guess he's buddies with Rick Ross. He tweeted

'Drugs and murder will get you sponsored. Rape, not so much.'

First, lets address the drugs thing. Drugs are against the law and 'supply' convictions carry higher sentences than rape (this in itself is so mind-blowingly insane that my innards knot themselves in sadness). But ethically, drugs are a grey area. While there are certainly drug pushers in the world, the average dealer is meeting a demand with a supply. Most drug users have only themselves to gain consent from. Drugs are a world apart from rape and murder. Reebok were probably a bit silly sponsoring Rick Ross in the first place, but here's some pretty solid reasons why rape lyrics are not such a good look.

Sobering Statistic Warning

In the England and Wales there are approximately 85,000 reported rapes a year, over 400,000 sexual assaults, and 1 in 5 women has experienced some form of sexual violence since the age of 16. (source:http://www.rapecrisis.org.uk/Statistics2.php)

I did a bit of maths. That means 1 in 123 women will be victims of sexual assault or rape each year. How many women do you know? Check your FB list. I bet it's more than 123.

And around 1,328 women are sexually assaulted or raped in England and Wales every DAY.

In England and Wales there are 550-600 murders a YEAR. (source:http://www.guardian.co.uk/news/datablog/2011/jul/14/crime-statistics-england-wales)

485,000 Vs 600. That's fucking why.

This is why we need to condemn rape lyrics from ALL ARTISTS. I'm not saying boycott them, no one pays for music anyway, but do the fuck away with hero worship and speak against it. Free speech is a beautiful thing and misogynists are entitled to it as much as the rest of us. If we demonise Tyler The Creator kids will love him more. And rightfully so. But if we speak openly and coolly about why misogyny in music is effed, we make an argument that doesn't isolate anyone. We have to acknowledge the fact that this music is good. It's good music. I'm not a massive Eminem fan but Tyler is haaard and I can get down with Ross when I'm feeling ridiculous. I was gobsmacked by the above stats. Who wouldn't be? The majority of people don't know how widely the effects of these problems are felt, so why would MC's? But if attitudes change for the better, successful artists won't be able to spray such hateful content, in persona or otherwise.

'can't wait'
I think what I'm saying is 'be cool'. A measured argument is better than a frantic one. If we're cool then the fence-sitters and don't-carers might want to get onside. Ya dig? (that's cool, right?)

But what about the argument that artists are prisms for the world in which we all inhabit and that the misogyny in hip hop is a direct reflection of the non-stop bludgeoning sexism we are confronted with on a minute-to-minute basis?

Well, that's another blog.

And it's a long one.


  1. How do you square this with the misogyny (not to mention homophobia - different discussion perhaps) that I have heard in rap battles (playful insults? character opinions?) that you (and other poets) take part in?

  2. I think the misogyny and homophobia (although that I think that is another discussion) are just as unacceptable in battles. I think that maybe it's a little less potentially damaging because a) it's contextualised and b) it's infinitely less cool. It's depressing to see and I call battlers out on it, but the whole thing's a bit silly. And most battlers know that. It's not glamorised to the extent of the music artists mentioned here. It's still inexcusable though.

    I haven't dropped a homophobic bar since 2009 and I was never on the misogyny guff. If poets are battling it's up to them to decide whether they resort to the conventions of the form. I think most poets that have battled have risen above that stuff and gone in with more creative and less offensive angles.