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Oluseun Thomas
Art and Women
ProI Cacoilo
December 1, 2011
Semester Project
ObjectiIication oI Women in Hip Hop
The male gaze and oppositional gaze are concepts that we learned in the beginning oI the
semester. During class discussion on the male gaze and oppositional gaze, I couldn`t help but
think about hip hop and how through music videos, album covers and other advertising means
regarding hip hope have an element oI objectiIying women. Women are seen as objects in hip
hop as hip hop artists depict this in music videos. The male gaze and oppositional gaze are alive
in hip hop and I plan on using this paper to prove that they exist in hip hop. With the help oI
scholarly articles and images Irom hip hop album covers as well as hip hop music videos and hip
hop lyrics, I plan on depicting the male gaze and oppositional gaze in hip hop and how it is used
as means oI objectiIying women.
Hip hop is one oI the leading genres in music. Everywhere you turn you can see hip hop`s
inIluence on the society. Hip hop record sales and popularity has been on the rise in recent years
as hip hop has grown to be a Iorce to be reckoned with in the music industry. To help promote
record sales, music videos are produced; enticing album covers are produced and over the top
lyrics are used. These three things are usually at the expense oI women as they are oIten
objectiIied by these means. Whether it`s sexually charged album covers or demeaning lyrics,
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women are objectiIied. For the purpose oI this paper, I`ll only be discussing album covers song
lyrics and music videos. An example oI degradation oI women in hip hop is a song by rapper
Eminem named Kim which was made Ior his wiIe at the time. The lyrics are as Iollows:
'Don`t you get it bitch? No one can hear you
Now shut the Iuck up and get what`s coming to you
You were supposed to love me¨ (Eminem)
This song`s sole purpose was to describe the death oI his wiIe as he was killing her in the
song. This may sound disturbing but a lot oI hip hop lyrics are similar although not as graphic
as Eminem`s song Kim.
Misogyny in hip hop culture is spread across the border and is highly evident in lyrical
content and music videos. Hip hop is popular amongst the youth in the society and it has
inIiltrated pop culture to the point that hip hop`s inIluence can be noted almost everywhere you
turn. From b-boy dancing to wearing baggy clothes, hip hop has a strong inIluence on the youth
who identiIy with hip hop culture. II the youth watch this and embrace this then this will be a
domino eIIect and misogyny will be present in diIIerent Iorms and outlets other than hip hop.
Hip hop has a history oI portraying women as objects as this dates back to the beginning oI hip
hop. This isn`t limited to male hip hop artists, Iemale artists such as Nicki Minaj and Lil Kim
subject themselves to objectiIication to help sell records. Below in Iigure 1.1 and Iigure 1.2 are
pictures oI Iemale rappers Lil Kim and Nicki Minaj in objectiIying manners. In Figure 1.1
Iemale rapper is standing dressed in a see through dress. In Figure 1.2, Iemale rapper Lil Kim is
posing nude with Louis Vuitton logos printed all over her body as she tries to cover her private
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Fig 1.1 Fig 1.2
The male gaze as discussed in class and through readings is the objectiIication oI woman
Ior the sole purpose oI men pleasure. According to Berger in his writing on the male gaze, he
states, 'Men act and women appear. Men look at women. Women watch themselves being
looked at. This determines not only most relations between men and women but also the relation
oI women to themselves.¨ (Berger 47) In class we discussed the painting Vanity in which a nude
woman was standing outside looking into a mirror. As Berger states in the reading, 'You painted
a naked woman because you enjoyed looking at her, you put a mirror in her hand and you called
the painting Janity, thus morally condemning the woman whose nakedness you had depicted Ior
your own pleasure. (Berger 51) Is this similar to what we see in hip hop music videos? Songs
that may have absolutely nothing to do with women still have a large number oI women in their
videos. An example oI this can be seen in rapper Wale`s new single, 'Bad Girls Club.¨ An image
oI this is depicted in Figure 2.1. Album covers are the same as women are on display in
objectiIying manners. Albums such as My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy by Kanye West and
As Nasty As They Wanna Be by the 2 Live Crew all have women posing in questionable
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manners. Although one oI the album covers is an actual painting artwork, it still Iinds a way oI
depicting a woman in an objective manner. Below Figure 2.2 is the cover oI Kanye West`s
album and Figure 2.3 is the cover oI the 2 Live Crew`s album.
Fig 2.1
Fig 2.2 Fig 2.3
These albums were sold in stores with this imagery on the cover which was easily visible
to children. On the cover oI My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy, there`s a painting oI a black
man with a bottle in his hand with a nude white woman on top oI him. The angle oI the painting
is Irom the side so the woman on top oI the man has the side oI her body exposed. The man in
the painting is smiling and may also be nude but that`s uncertain as the woman is on top oI him.
On the cover oI As Nasty As They Wanna Be by The 2 Live Crew, the members oI the 2 Live
Crew are at the beach in all back with gold chains. Standing above them are Iour AIrican
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American women with bikinis on but they are Iaced towards the water while the picture was
taken Irom the back thereIore exposing their backsides.
Hip hop has grown to be a household phenomenon as over the years it has been able to
embody and impact other genres oI music and also Iind its way to the television screen.
Documentaries on hip hop and also shows inspired by hip hop can be seen during primetime
hours. Music channels such as MTV and BET show hip hop music videos. There has always
been news and debates about hip hop music videos as they depict violence, sexism and various
socially unacceptable things. The image oI women being subordinate to men in hip hop videos is
a major theme as this can be seen in Iigure 2.1, 2.2 and 2.3.
Fig 3.1 Fig 3.2
Fig 3.3
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Each oI the videos above have one thing in common, they all degrade women as they are seen as
objects oI sexual desire. Figure 2.1 is the music to rapper Chingy`s hit single entitled 'Right
Thurr.¨ In the screenshot, Chingy is rapping while halI naked women are dancing around him
and he`s throwing money at them. In the screenshot Ior 50 cent`s video Ior 'P.I.M.P¨, he`s
surrounded by naked women and the Iocus oI the women is on him and him only. Figure 2.3 is
Irom Dr Dre`s video Ior 'Next Episode.¨ As you can see Irom the screenshot oI the video,
women were having money being thrown at them as they dance which is demeaning and
degrading towards women.
There have been scholarly articles written about the objectiIication oI women in hip hop
but no one covers this topic better than Rana A Emerson in her article entitled 'Where My Girls
At? Negotiating Black Womanhood in Music Jideos. In her article she discusses how hip hop
being predominately male dominated genre has ignored women and their experiences. Although
there are Iemale musicians in hip hop, these women aren`t a direct reIlection oI young black
women as they haven`t eIIectively provided an outlet to express the experiences oI young black
women. Hip hop music videos expresses the how young black women must negotiate their
sexuality and womanhood to achieve goals. According to Emerson, 'Yet, AIrican American
women have a signiIicant presence in hip hop and Black popular culture and in music videos,
where they appear as dancers; models; and most signiIicantly, as perIormers. At the same time,
the hip hop genre and the music videos that are used to promote records and perIormers have
been harshly critiqued Ior the antiwoman (speciIically anti-black woman) messages and images
within them.¨ (Emerson 116) This is an issue that has widely caused concerns in the general
public. Emerson goes on to say 'Critics have pointed out that many discourses in hip-hop culture
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reproduce dominant and distorted ideologies oI Black women`s sexuality.¨ (Emerson 116) For
rappers this may be Iun and games but this has a long lasting eIIect on women and youth.
The oppositional gaze is another thing that is present in hip hop. According to Bell hooks,
the oppositional gaze is how an AIrican American woman views themselves in terms oI the
media as there aren`t that many AIrican American women on television. Bell Hooks states, 'To
stare at the television, or mainstream movies, to engage its images, was to engage its negation oI
black representation.¨ (Hooks 117) Although hip hop predominately has AIrican American
women in their visuals, these AIrican American women tend to be light skinned. It`s pretty hard
to watch a hip hop music video and Iind a woman with a dark skin tone. In rapper Wale`s video
Ior his hit single 'Pretty Girls¨, he had a plethora oI women parading around posing Ior the
camera. There were absolutely no dark skinned black women in the video. Figure 4.1 is a
screenshot Irom Wale`s video.
Fig 4.1
Blogger Joy Daily brought this issue to the IoreIront on her blog site as she discussed the
Iact that there wasn`t any dark skinned woman in Wale`s music video. As she states in the
video, 'II we look at this video and its talking about pretty girls and 90° oI the women are
Spanish, Mixed or White. So what are you implying? That Pretty Girls are Spanish mixed or
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white?¨ This is common in hip hop videos as majority oI women in music videos are light
II you Ilip the oppositional gaze around in terms oI hip hop and race, white women would
be aIIected as they are rarely seen in hip hop videos. How can a Caucasian woman relate to a
hip hop video that shows predominately AIrican American women? This is similar to the
oppositional gaze that Bell Hooks mentioned in the readings as the Iocus was on AIrican
American women being misrepresented in the media. In Hip Hop, Caucasian women are
misrepresented as well.
Whether it`s a music video or an album cover, the objectiIication oI women in hip hop
appears. Women in hip hop are seen as property or display oI wealth. Women are treated in
demeaning ways and are reIerred to in vulgar language. Although every hip hop song or video
does not display this but that is the general theme in hip hop. In 1996, a rap group named The
Roots released a video Ior their hit single entitled What They Do. The song discussed the
direction that hip hop was going in and how people were Iollowing in the same direction. Lyrics
Irom the song help describe this. A portion oI lyrics Irom the song are as Iollows
'Lost generation, Iast paced nation
World population conIront they Irustration
The principles oI true hip-hop have been Iorsaken
It`s all contractual and about money making
Pretend-to-be-cats don`t seem to know they limitation.¨ (Roots)
The video Ior the single is also nicknamed 'The Manual¨ Ior a hip hop video. The video is in a
house party setting at a mansion where there was women scantily dressed dancing around. The
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Roots tried to help depict the message that hip hop was trying to send through having visuals that
was hypocritical to the audio.
The male gaze and oppositional gaze in hip hop are alive and well. The eIIect oI
this on young women is evident as some women have selI esteem issues and Iew themselves in
a sometime negative light. As long as record sales are booming and nobody with a strong
inIluence on hip hop stands up against this, then this ever growing norm in hip hop will
continue and its eIIects could have a lasting negative eIIect on women and how men and women
interact. As Joy Daily stated, ''People need to understand that when they`re making a video,
they`re making an image. An image that you want to use to sell your music¨ (Daily)

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Works Cited
Bad Girls Club. PerI. Wale. Youtube.com. Universal, 1 Nov 2011. Web. 4 Dec 2011.
Berger, John 'Ways oI Seeing¨ YouTube.com 15 Mar 2008. 4 Dec 2011
Crew, 2 Live. 'As Bad As They Wanna Be¨ Luke Records. 1989. CD.
Daily, Joy 'Wale`s New Video Pretty Girls` only Ieatures Light Skinned Girls.¨
Youtube.com. Feb 9, 2010. Web.
Dre, Dr 'The Next Episode.¨ Chronic 2001. Interscope. 2000. CD.
Emerson, R. A. ""Where My Girls At?": Negotiating Black Womanhood in Music
Videos."Gender & Society 16.1 (2002): 115-35. Print
Eminem 'Kim.¨ Marshall Mathers LP. Interscope. 1999. CD
Hooks, Bell. "Chapter 7." In Black Looks. Race and Representation. Boston: South End, 1992.
115-31. Print.
P.I.M.P. PerI 50 Cent. YouTube.com. Interscope. 16 Jun 2009. Web. 4 Dec 2011.
Pretty Girls. PerI. Wale. Youtube.com. Interscope. 22 Feb. 2010. Web. 4 Dec. 2011.
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Right Thurr. Perf. Chingy. YouTube.com. Capitol. 11 Feb, 2011. Web. 4 Dec 2011
Roots, The. 'What They Do.¨ Illadelph HalIliIe. GeIIen. 1996. CD
West, Kanye 'My BeautiIul Dark Twisted Fantasy.¨ DeI Jam. 2010. CD
What They Do. PerI. The Roots. YouTube.com. GeIIen. 5 Oct. 2009. Web 4 Dec 2011