Megan Thee Stallion challenges the notion that womxn who rap can only express themselves in one way, be one thing, and that must be approved of by men working in the music industry.
By Ro Carson
Multi-hyphenate rapper Jermaine Dupri recently expressed disillusion with the current state of Hip Hop, particularly with womxn in the genre, in an interview with PeopleTV. Some major take-a-ways from his remarks were that their music sounds like “strippers rapping” and that all they talk about is their pussy and club hopping; an interesting account from the former rapper who has produced and written music with similar content with both men and womxn rappers; most notably what he considers to be his best work “Money Aint a Thing” featuring Jay-Z, but I digress.
Dupri’s comments set the internet ablaze with rappers Cardi B., Doja Cat, Trina and many others defending the new class of rappers by offering up examples of rappers who have diverse musical content including the likes of Rhapsody, Tierra Whack, and Rico Nasty. The So So Def owner attempted to remedy the negative press in response to his comments by announcing a cypher contest for “female” rappers, encouraging womxn who challenge his statements to submit freestyles for his consideration the goal of which is still unclear.
Dupri’s judgmental sentiments were an attempt to pit womxn rappers against each other and establish a hierarchy of musical content based on the male gaze and male approval. His comments reflect a larger societal problem that rejects and regards womxn who express sexual agency as “hoes” because of a fear of this inspiring other women to take ownership of their sexuality. Notwithstanding this ambition, it served as a moment for womxn who rap to band together and publicly promote and support each other’s music. For example, rapper Cardi B took to Instagram to address the music mogul’s comments by proclaiming that she has heard comments like Dupri’s that claim that “female rappers only talk about their pussy” and affirms that she prefers that content for two reasons: her pussy is her best friend and attempts to broaden her content have proven less successful. In a second Instagram post, she called for the support of womxn rappers Kamayiyah, Rhapsody, Tierra Whack and, Chika, who she believes are “dope rappers” who don’t talk about their pussy or “sucking dick”. This moment of support highlighted a wide array of lyrical content that boasted womxn empowerment AND celebrated the expression of womxn’s sexuality.
This idea that womxn talking about their pussy proves a lack of lyrical ability speaks to another heteronormative falsehood that cis womxn are passive participants in sex with cis men. According to this misrepresentation, sex is something that happens to womxn and not with womxn, and this sentiment makes it socially acceptable for men to talk about a womxn’s bodies and how they can provide pleasure for men, but does not welcome a similar expression from womxn. Lust is reserved for men. It asserts that the allure heterosexual men feel for womxn is steeped in conquering and pursuing a humbled woman, and womxn who rap about sex pose a challenge to that accepted norm because they defy being accessible to their misogynistic lens and rules for sexual expression. For many cis men that support the genre, it is unfathomable that the womxn they want to have sex with actually enjoy sex as well and aren’t afraid to publicly express that. Womxn are sexual beings, and exploring our sexuality through song or otherwise is our definitive birthright.
But this discussion is not only about Dupri and his words, it’s about how the system of patriarchy and investment in it will always produce visceral reactions to womxn — particularly Black womxn and more particularly darker-skinned Black womxn — who have the audacity to not be humble or perform exclusively for the male gaze, and instead choose to display their body for their own enjoyment and to celebrate womxn.
Dupri was specifically asked about Megan Thee Stallion during his PeopleTV interview to which he hesitated before responding, “I think they are all rapping about the same thing… You got a song about you dancing in the club.” Megan is a naturally curvaceous, darker-skinned, Black southern woman who refuses to be neatly categorized. She’s a fun college student who twerks, raps about her pussy, drinks dark liquor, is sex-positive, and an anime stan with long color-changing hair and equally long colorful nails. She’s everything society has taught people to hate and extract value from because womxn of her skin complexion and body type have historically been undervalued and considered less attractive, and yet the world loves her — well, at least the world that’s ready for her. Megan Thee Stallion looks like so many of the Black womxn I know and, more importantly, expresses the nuanced experiences of Black womxnhood. We are not a monolith, but a compilation of many experiences and characteristics that contribute to the magic we are, weird and fun and talented and sexual.
Megan Thee Stallion’s music is reminiscent of so many feminist rappers who came before her. Her content is raunchy, confident, assured, and commanding. She speaks authoritatively about being in control of her sex life and the men she entertains and does so while dressed as your favorite anime heroine. She has varied interests and a genuinely endearing presence. Megan Thee Stallion challenges the notion that womxn who rap can only express themselves in one way, be one thing, and that must be approved of by men working in the music industry.
So, here’s why people like Dupri are really mad: these hashtags and this music encourages womxn and femmes of all ages who have been taught and socialized to believe their worth is tied to the male gaze to say “to hell with all that” and have a good time. Because what upsets people about the new class of womxn rappers is that they don’t give a fuck about what you think and are unapologetically having fun and expressing their sexual agency publicly. Let’s be clear: the real issue is that these womxn are reflective of a larger community of womxn and femmes who refuse to be controlled by oppressive systems of power and the people who benefit from them.
Ro Carson is the author of The Sins of My Parents, the host of an upcoming podcast “Bwitch, Please!” and a PhD student at The George Washington University. She enjoys writing about Black womxnhood, millennials, and pop culture. You can follow her across social media at @helloitsro_ or by visiting TheRoProductions.com.