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Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Column: Who’s really to blame for hip-hop’s rape culture?

Our buying habits say we, the consumer, are at fault.

Jack Flemming

April 16, 2014

The opinions expressed by The Maneater columnists do not represent the opinions of The Maneater editorial board.

“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain't even know it. I took her home, and I enjoyed that she ain't even know it,” sings rapper Rick Ross.

These lyrics, quoted from Ross’ “U.O.E.N.O,” landed the Florida native rapper in hot water last April due to their apparent condonation of rape. For the following few weeks, Ross ran damage control, apologizing and condemning his offensive lyric. This satisfied the media to an extent, and the story faded a few months later.

To the non-hip-hop enthusiast, there were no irregularities here. However, I, as well as fellow rap followers all across the country, scratched my head and wondered “Why just Rick Ross?” See, rape culture is as embedded in the hip-hop culture as much as guitar is embedded in rock ’n’ roll culture. It’s a terribly unfortunate fact, but a fact nonetheless. Hundreds of rappers before Rick Ross have discussed rape more graphically and violently in their lyrics, yet they go unquestioned and unmonitored by the media and public.

I won’t get into specific lyrics, but rappers such as Eminem, Gucci Mane, Biggie Smalls and many more belong to the guilty party. The reason rape lyrics are so prevalent among rappers is because rap has a certain mentality. Now, of course there are exceptions, but the “classic” characteristics that belong to hip-hop are ones of money, fame, toughness and misogyny, which in turn leads to the rape culture.

While the most convenient group for Americans to blame for this awful misogynistic trend is the rappers themselves, I don’t believe that’s where the blame lies at all. I firmly believe that we, the consumers, are to blame for misogyny having such a firm grip on hip-hop.

The Ross situation is a prime example because it’s been happening for years. Every year or two, the media seems to get enraged over a rapper’s misogynistic lyric. And every time, like clockwork, the rapper will issue an apology, the public will slowly forgive him, and life will go on. A decade ago, it was Eminem. Five years ago, it was Tyler, the Creator, and the most recent was Rick Ross.

Obviously, it’s safe to say that society as a whole is not OK with misogynistic lyrics. But when will we do what it takes to actually stop it?

Rap, while existing largely as an art form, doubles as a gateway to fame and wealth. And who decides which artists get famous and wealthy? We do. We, as consumers, support rappers and often never take into account how misogynistic they are. Unless there’s a reason for rappers to efface rape from their lyrics, change will likely never take place.

Another huge factor in this dilemma are the “anti-rape in hip-hop” spokespeople. Too often, the only people shaming misogynistic rappers are 50-year-old bloggers and news anchors going split-screen on CNN. While their messages are strong, clear and correct, this isn’t necessarily their battle.

Many of them are as far removed from hip-hop as I would be if I went on CNN and shamed congresspeople for the government lockout. Just as the congresspeople wouldn’t listen to me, the rappers aren’t heeding the instructions of CNN reporters. However, should younger, more influential hip-hop icons, as well as consumers, take more offense to rape culture, it would make a difference.

The responsibility is ours. For so long, we’ve let our mouths say one thing and our pocketbooks another. We outwardly shame rape culture in hip-hop, but we turn around and purchase the albums of artists who directly contradict those values.

So at the end of the day, the decision to omit misogyny from rap is our decision. Are we going to incite change or let our buying habits continue to tell rappers that we’re cool with rape?

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