June 28, 2010 / Media - Entertainment, Safety, Sexism

Rap Music Perpartrating the Myth of the “Ho”


The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, and not necessarily those of The New Agenda.

I grew up in the ghetto and like a lot of other ghetto people I grew up listening to the voice of the Streets or rap music.  Its my favorite type of music and it dominates my MP3 player. Yes I know I am 46 but I still grew up with rap I was a sophmore in high school when the first rap song hit number 1.

Nas:  Rapping without "ho"

Nas: Rapping without "ho"

There used to be female rappers like Queen Latifah who were as good as any male It was Queen Latifah who took on male rappers for calling females “bitches” and “hos” in the song U.N.I.T.Y. There were also M.C Lyte, and Salt n Pepa they did not come off as Ho’s.  These women were rap stars and made it in rap.

Then came Lil’ Kim who is a very talented “street” rapper but the story goes that the Notorious B.I.G advised her that she would never make it because no one wanted to hear a woman rap about anything other then sex and she listened to him.  She became a “ho” and things changed for women in rap music. Now we have Diamond and Trina singing about sex.

I have to be honest I am turned off by all the sex in rap today from males and females. Rap is supposed to be the music of the streets. To hear the rappers today the only thing going on in the hood is oral sex and frankly folks I don’t care what you do behind your bedroom door. I don’t need to hear it.

Both males and females say “sex sells” but so does street rap.  They believe that sex is the only type of music that sells but Nas and Tupac are and were pro-woman.  Nas sells millions without referring to females as bitches and ho’s and Tupac is a legend he also wrote positive songs about women.  They rap about things in the hood and provide a powerful voice for a community who has no voice.  A community that desperately needs a voice of both genders to tell our story.  We have major problems in our neighborhoods and to many young people are dying. This is what we need to put out there.  Sex may sell more to the burbs but what  happens when the women and men in the burbs stop allowing that music in their homes or refusing to buy these offensive albums.

To the women in rap I hear you this is the only way you can make money but think about what you are doing to all women. Now its believed that all girls and women in the hood are “hos” stand at the bus stop trying to go to work and you will find out how true that is.  I personally have to correct males from inside and outside of the hood. Ghetto women are not “hos.”

Lil Kim, Diamond, and Trina will either end up getting out of rap or changing their songs. Lil Kim is aging and soon no one will want to hear her sexual lyrics.  What will she do then? She will either lose her career or have to change her music. Sadly she will leave.

Another problem is the sexualization of all girls. When I see a 10 year old dressed like an adult with make up and nails done and proactive dress it drives me nuts it makes me wonder what their mother is thinking. Its coming from our music and music videos. Beyonce shaking her butt in very little clothes and you have a bunch of 10 year old girls dancing to the same video. Our young girls see women like Beyonce shaking her butt and Lil Kim singing nasty songs. It makes them think that is what they are here for. There is nothing wrong with sex but it belongs in the bedroom not the radio, television, and Movies.  We are growing our kids up to fast.  My own girls know they are worth more and their social activities are closely monitored by myself.

Most rappers are products of single mother families. They lived in the projects and experienced sexism through their moms.  They need to be reminded that they are also labeling their mothers, sisters, and daughters the same because we are all women.

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  • Pat Garrison

    Great post, Helen. It’s a really sexist, nasty soundtrack that kids — black, white, suburbs, urban — have had since they were born. To me, it’s all about men running everything. Men run the music business, they run the movie business. People will often say “it’s about money”, but that’s not the whole story, IMO. It’s about what the boys, whatever color they are, want to perpetuate. Occasionally, you see the power of the female in entertainment, ie Taylor Swift, Sex in the City, Alicia Keys, Mary J Blige, who are powerful and don’t degrade themselves to make a buck. But, most of the time, it’s more and more sexism. Movies and music are made by and for men. Until we get more women in these businesses that SUPPORT women, then I don’t think much will change there. But we can get much louder about this. Have some public fights. Be another soundtrack.

  • Valentina

    Thank you Helen!

    Unfortunately rap has been hijacked to glamorize sexism, and I don’t know if there is any way to fix it now, except with a new wave of music. I’ve had this battle with my once young ones, at least not allowing the to buy certain CDs while we paid for them. Parents also have to take some responsibility on what their children buy, and also discussing what is out there.

    Black music has always sold for many reasons. I am probably older than many of you (wow, it’s strange to say that), and even while living in Mexico as a young child I remember my mother singing to me songs by Ella Fistzgerald, which had nothing to do with sex, yet were very popular. No need to sexualize.

  • Bes

    Actually sex does NOT sell that is just an ignorant mantra that media types repeat over and over. Here are two articles which talk about real research on the topic.


    There are many more.

  • Bes

    Also the music and TV and movies produced by media companies does NOT reflect the culture we live in. How could it when the only people who have voice are 95% white, Jewish males who monopolize media and conversations through media. The people who run media have been very poor stewards of media and culture. The view of women and non lily white races you receive through media is their ignorant view and their alone. They are responsible for it not anyone else.

  • Helen McCombs

    I think we can change rap we just have to fight. I hope that parents in the Burbs stop letting their kids buy the offensive ones. Watch what your kids are watching and make sure you tell them that you are offended and tell them why? Most of the rappers come from single parent homes. They know better because they have seen women who carry the entire sky.
    We need to prove to women like Trina, Diamond, and Lil Kim that they do NOT need to sell sex in order to make a buck.
    All of these rappers of both genders need to realize that both are playing to both racial and gender stereotypes. It also takes away from our message which is to overturn oppressive sentencing laws and stopping the violence in our communities. Those are the issues Hip Hop/ Rap is supposed to be dealing with

  • Bes

    I don’t care enough to try to change Rap. All we need to do is offer an alternative and I am sure people will flock to it. Taylor Swifts success says very clearly that women can still sell music without acting like submissive sex monkeys. But no one has told Gaga, Christina A, Brittany Spears or the girls of Rap. The thing is they seem to be trying to impress men. Well today paying for music is optional. Frankly I don’t know any men who pay for music and the women and girls I know consider it optional. I pay for the music of artists I respect and I listen to other music for free. It is far harder to win my respect back once you lose it than to just maintain the good vibes.

    For me the tragedy of Rap and also Pop music is the very talented girls we never hear of because they won’t degrade themselves to behave in the manner media executives demand, in order to be heard.

  • Helen McCombs

    Rap is more important to me for other reasons for me its not just a form of music it tells the truth about what life is like here in the ghetto its the only form of music that lets us communicate what is going on. Another form of music celebrating women isn’t going to tackle the issues that effect the hood. There are plenty of POSITIVE rappers out there Nas being the biggest one. Its time for those of us who care about Hip Hop and Rap to take on the people pushing this poison to our children.
    Hip Hop has many problems to many beefs that end up with someone dying and the sexism is out of control.
    We need some women to go back to what rap is supposed to be telling your story but leave the sex in the bed room. Lil Kim is more then the Ho she pretends to be.
    One day I may be able to walk away but as long as the Rockerfeller law is on the books and as long as we face the problems we have in the ghetto I want it serves a purpose.
    My kids know that I don’t want racist nor do I want sexist. They know what I will allow them to watch or not watch. I am paying for this item I control the message. My poor daughter is about to be 15 if she even thought about dressing “hoochie my other kids will be on her before she even comes down stairs. I let her dress age appropriate by MY standards My girls had to be covered and my boys had to wear their pants above their butts.

  • Juliette

    Helen. Thank you for your incite on rap music. I am a composer and music teacher and have been very negative about what rap has become. I remember how it started out being very innocent and enjoying it back in the 80’s. Then it started infringing on intellectual property and copy right by using loops of old and very popular hit songs. Now those hit song loops lure you into listening to a bunch of self aggrandizing, misogynic, and violence promoting nonsence spoken to an unsophisticated beat.
    No real musicans get to profit from this multi billion dollar industry. The video’s are all promoting glutenous materialism which I believe aids even more to tempt inner city kids into crime. Historically African Americans have contributed so much wonderful music, from pop to jazz to opera and beyond. Now the bar is set so low by this black-explotation and little or no opportunity exist for a modern day Stevie Wonder, Jimmy Hendrix, Dione Warwick or Miles Davis. I miss great music. I am sad that a generation has all but been denied any real popular music. As a private instructor, I can tell that very few children are inspired to learn to play a music instrument or study voice because they have no more heros in the pop world.
    Liberal culture has made a mint by exploiting racial cliches. I am Italian American and I am sad to see that only the bottem of the barrel of (not so Italian- but mostly American) culture being promoted and dominating the movie, and reality TV industry. I hope that Snukkie and The Situation don’t start to record songs. But I would’nt be surprised as more and more sucess and opportunity is being handed to those who behave badly and have little or no talent. Lets give some pride back to the real artist, who work hard to develope and refine a craft. Rap is extremely easy and cheep to create. It is a corporate dream to be able to create something so cheaply and sell it to the masses.

  • Juliette

    Just wanted to add to my previous and very long comment (sorry). That the art of romanticism is all but lost in Rap Music. Remember the great love songs of Stevie Wonder, Marvin Gaye, the Temptations and others? I don’t think there is any trace of love or romance in rap. It’s just not cool any more. The other big problem here is that the absence of meolody, harmony and couterpoint is leaving young people without an example of the laws of physics and limits that are the very foundation of natural beauty. I just think it is a shame and that Rap has dominated way to long. One can sing about life in the ghetto or anything one wants with a real molody, harmony and musicains playing real musical instruments. This seems to be making a come back in England’s pop music scene. Lets hope it will affect the pop culture here. I hope that the Maxwell-Jill Scott concert was sucessful and that they will have continued sucess.

  • Bes

    Helen: Thanks for saying what Rap means to you. I have written it off. The thing is I am not going to subject myself to listening to all the woman hate to pick out examples of it that are OK for my kids. Just as I don’t subject myself to reading about all the garbage on MTV to pick a few shows my kids can watch, I just block the whole channel and that is all the time I am willing to devote to the situation. I have found that when my kids age to the point where they are out of my shelter and are exposed to it all of the sudden they reject it outright and it doesn’t harm them. But I do think it does a lot of harm in the general society. After all many children rich and poor raise themselves and have no adult around to impose perspective or even show them how to filter out the hate filled background noise.

    But it does need to be made perfectly clear that the “woman hate and degradation” music produced by media companies does not reflect my culture, women like me do not have a voice in this screeching hate. The people who make it need to own it and they own it alone.

  • I never thought about it before but you are right. where did all the women rappers go? I really miss their voices and thoughts.
    Have you ever listened to Gil Scott Herron? The first poet/rapper, in my opinion. And really brillaint.
    Thank you

  • Bridgette

    Sexuality is not a bad thing. I think that it is quite ignorant to say that Gaga or Christina A. are just submissive sex monkeys. I’m sorry but sex appeal is an advantage that women have. I know it is not about control, but it gives women a sense of power that men do not have. Of course, there are some inappropiate popular songs that are performed by women, but we must remember that they are grown women. In many cases, Beyonce for example, I think that we should have more of a “you go girl” attitude. Lil Kim actually takes on the role of a man many times when discussing her sexual escapades. Men do it all the time, why can’t we? According to your article you think that sex is something that should be kept in the bedroom and I do not disagree. But sex is something that has been mainstreamed since Ancient Greece. What about Shakespeare? Sex is part of life and I think that we as females should embrace our sexuality.

  • Bes

    I don’t think sexuality is a bad thing. There are many ways to express your sexuality with out acting like a sex monkey and chronically seeking male approval which is what music video women usually do. Men generally are not selective regarding sex partners. It is pathetic to seek validation of your sexuality from a group of people who have very low standards. I see these women as women who will do anything to be on TV and are very needy of approval. I do not see them as independent or having sexual power or any sort of power. They remind me of trained circus dogs.

  • Karen

    Bes, I have noticed a lot recently that your comments seem to be sexist against women. First of all, you have repeatedly denied that women can achieve media recognition or respect on the basis of merit; you have stated that women must use their bodies or prostitute themselves.

    Now, you refer to women as “trained circus dogs.”