Stop telling women what to rap about

I go on several journeys when shuffling through the latest mixtapes, albums, and EPs by women in hip-hop in my music library. Each track tells different stories with braggadocio and bite. Megan Thee Stallion raps about owning her cognac queen crown, turning up at night, and still making it to class the next day. Next up, Cardi B describes her need to grind and stack cash so that she can support baby Kulture.

Nicki Minaj then delivers a verse detailing her graceful curves, backing up her boss stance with a cocky spirit. My library’s algorithm now blesses me with Tierra Whack, highlighting her personal style with diamonds and pearls. Before I turn my playlist off, Rico Nasty comes on to remind me be thankful that I went the entire day without smacking a bitch.

With so many women of the past, present, and future offering their points of view with witty bars and undeniable talent, how can someone claim that the genre is overrun with “stripper rap?”

Let’s ask Jermaine Dupri.

During an interview featured on PEOPLE Now, hip hop producer and artist Jermaine Dupri took the opportunity to share his opinion on the status of “female rap.” Throughout his career, Dupri has positioned himself as a maker and breaker of hip hop and R&B careers. Notably, his work helped deliver the glory days of artists like Mariah Carey, Usher, Dem Franchize Boys, Da Brat, and others. Currently, Jermaine Dupri works as a songwriter and producer, as well as lead host and judge on The Rap Game—a talent-search reality show where adolescents compete for a spot on his So So Def label.

With his resume, discussions about the state of hip hop are almost mandatory during his sit-down interviews. But when speaking on women currently running the genre, Dupri resorted to sexist values instead of valid critiques or deserved celebration.

When asked his opinion on “female hip hop” (a term we should leave in 2019), Jermaine Dupri expressed his concern that all women rappers sound the same, showing disdain for their playful vulgarity.

“I feel they’re all rapping about the same thing,” Dupri said. “I don’t think they’re showing us who’s the best rapper. For me, it’s like strippers rapping. […] Okay, you got a story about you dancing in the club, you got a story about you dancing in the club, you got a story about you dancing in the club.”

There are many routes you can take to try and understand or rationalize Jermaine Dupri’s ill-informed sentiments—yet every path leads to the same ditch. Based on his response, it is very possible that Jermaine Dupri thinks every single woman rapping today is Cardi B, or runs the Bardi Gang fan club and solely listens to her rhymes. Either way, his not-so-harmless opinion perpetuates sexist ideals.

Women are held to higher standards in hip hop by men who are, most times, not even listening.

Ignoring the fact that Jermaine Dupri is, in fact, Jermaine Dupri—someone who is able to promote and produce numerous women rappers if he chooses to—his statement at face value condemns women for wanting to have fun and sell records. Why are women the only artists required to provide Shakespearean sonnets in the form of eight-bar verses?

Women, especially Black women aiming to make it big in hip hop, enter a world where rules and regulations only apply to them. 2 Chainz, Meek Mill, Future, 21 Savage, and Drake all have references to exotic dancers in multiple songs that are often disrespectful, but women are the ones minimized with “stripper rap” labels, degrading their existence and artistry. Yes, the interview topic was women in hip hop, but we cannot ignore this double standard. Dupri’s critique is not valid without including all genders.

The beauty of this debacle (not to anyone’s surprise) was that women rappers and singers banded together.

They spoke out and advocated for the space to create whatever art they deem necessary on their own terms. Doja Cat, Ari Lennox, Trina, Noname, Cardi B, and others used social media to gather Jermaine Dupri—whether they promoted women artists who don’t rap about sex and dancing, verbally addressed the double standard upheld by men in hip hop, or disapprovingly posted his photo as a response in itself. false

As much of the responses pointed out, in addition to being misogynistic, Jermaine Dupri’s statement was also blatantly incorrect. The facts are that women rap about way more than dancing in the club. In Cardi B’s response, she first justified rapping about her pussy by reminding the world that sex sells; women who are not half naked are often overlooked. She then went on to offer Dupri examples of women who currently rap with fewer sexual references in their lyrics.

The reality is that Jermaine Dupri, and anyone else offering the same lazy opinion about women rappers, simply doesn’t really care what women are creating. In the streaming era, it’s so easy to find and curate a musical experience to your liking. Cardi B’s call to action for listeners to support women of all flavors proves that there is no “stripper rap” mystery. Women can—and do—rap about everything.

If you want to hear rap that does not discuss twerking and tequila, then find the poetic lyricist for you. As both Cardi B and Doja Cat pointed out, there are dozens of women who don’t rap about their bodies that you can support. In her social media post, Cardi B included Grammy-nominated Rapsody, Tierra Whack, Chika, and Kamaiyah. All of those artists constantly drop music that anyone can stream. And by the way, supporting those rappers does not mean weaponizing Rapsody’s name to shame Yung Miami and JT’s sexual City Girls lyrics. Women deserve to rap about any subject so they can expand their music careers.

Black women do not exist to earn validation and approval from men, and that’s what Jermaine Dupri and others don’t realize. When these women rap, they create a genuine, carefree manifestation of Black womanhood, sonically and aesthetically.  Music seems to have finally shifted away from the male gaze as more and more women are flooding the airwaves with content for us and by us.

The bottom line: Listen to music, find what you like, and support that with streams, merchandise purchases, concert tickets, and good old word-of-mouth promotion. Instead of engaging with interviews that police women, explore the multitude of rap that exists so you can enjoy it all.

Go enjoy your hot girl summer.

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