Note: some of this music is rather offensive - be careful if you're at work, etc.
I don't pretend to really understand hip-hop culture. The subtle nuances of rap are quite lost on me. (The only rap that I really listen to is nerd-cord (rap for computer geeks) and parody/humorous rap). So, I started research for this post not knowing quite what to expect.
Still, it's fairly obvious that most hip-hop is incredibly misogynistic. When rappers aren't rapping about how they did/are right now/will kill someone, they are bragging about their sexual conquests, calling women 'hoes' and 'bitches', insulting people's mothers, and calling people gay.
But rap is also one of the primary musical vehicles for social protest - given the existence of such politically focused groups as Public Enemy, it seemed almost a given that feminists would be making rap, too.
Unfortunately, this is simply not the case.
Women in hip-hop are rare, except as sex-object in music videos. Among women artist, feminism is pretty much non-existent. A search for 'feminist rap' only turns up an Australian group that isn't so much rap as comedy. NOW NYC has a list of 'feminist-certified rap'. Feminist-certified apparently means 'only marginally offensive', for the most part. An NY Times article published in 1990 gives the same impression of the state of the industry - 'feminist' hip-hop is mostly either anti-racist, or merely co-opts male sexuality. Things haven't changed much since then.
The most popular female hip-hop artist, Missy Elliot, is pretty much a textbook example of the problem. No, she not presenting herself as a sex object all of the time, but listen to 'Shake Your Pom-Pom'. Just lovely, isn't it?
Let's listen to 'Gigahoe' by Shazzy - one of the better songs I found:
Notice the gender reversal of the 'hoe' concept. This song comes across less as offensive than as an expression of power. But still, nothing really impressive.
Now, 'Gotta Get A Grip' by MC Trouble:
The rap itself is about racism, and it's very powerful in that regard. I also like the dynamic between Trouble and her manager - it's pretty obvious who's in charge.
Then, of course, there's Choice. Don't listen to any of her music unless you have a very thick skin. She takes the absolute worst aspects of male sexuality (endless bragging about conquests and number of partners, complete hatred of the opposite sex, insane competition with others of their own sex, obsession with genital size, etc.), and using them almost unchanged. And she incredibly homophobic as well. I suppose it's good that she exists - it's interesting to see how things look with the sex reversed, but two wrongs definitely don't make a right in this case.
So, unless I've missed something big, rap is probably the most non-feminist music in existence. I'd love to see some MCs consistently rapping about sexism and feminism, for a change, but it doesn't look like that's going to happen anytime soon.
Let's end with one of only a few truly feminist rap songs: 'U.N.I.T.Y' by Queen Latifah
(Embedding was disabled on this video, click to listen.)