What Do Black Women Need From Hip-Hop in 2020?
Four women in different parts of the culture discuss how hip-hop can value and embrace them like they deserve
For all of hip-hop’s undeniable good, in 2020 it has seemingly counteracted every positive with a negative — and worse, one that further marginalizes or mistreats Black women. Talib Kweli went on a weeks-long abusive tirade against a Black woman. J. Cole’s first rap response to the moment was a song demanding Noname watch her tone when correcting him. After Tory Lanez shot Megan Thee Stallion, 50 Cent posted memes making fun of it while Cam’ron posted a transphobic joke about it. All the while, rappers like Cee-Lo were publicly clutching their pearls at the way “WAP” gave women agency over their bodies. And bubbling below the surface, as detailed in the documentary On the Record but muted by the hip-hop industry’s deafening silence, were Russell Simmons’ longstanding sexual assault accusations.
Admittedly rap is, like so many other cultural products, a symptom of the rest of the world. But while arenas are awakening — or being forcibly awakened — to their deep-rooted misogyny, hip-hop has avoided a true reckoning. The easy and most obvious reason for this is that, for the most part, the women feeling the wrath of rap’s worst traits are Black. The least appreciated, protected, and valued among us.
Let’s be clear about this: The onus of making hip-hop culture a space that values Black women lands on the men in charge. Black men have to advocate for and amplify these voices, but we also have to reckon with the ways — whether through action or complicity — we all act to perpetuate the cycle. So in speaking to these women, the intention is not to burden them with holding our hands through the process, but to hear their experiences and use them to challenge ourselves to demand more.
“I’m still wrapping my head around the fact that I have a right to even expect something of hip-hop as a woman. I had to fight and justify…