When #HipHop Meets #MeToo, And Every Rap Personality Is Guilty
Put Molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.
- Rick Ross, from the remix of Rocko’s 2013 single “UOENO”
Film, television, and politics will be deservedly pilloried and demonized in what will now be the never-ending saga surrounding male privilege and sexual violence. However, it’s Def Jam Records co-founder and iconic hip-hop presence Russell Simmons recently being implicated in 1991 rape claims by writer Jenny Lumet — claims that made him subsequently step down as the chief executive of ALL of his business holdings — where things really get frightening regarding our communal human future. There’s a horrifying Venn diagram of not just privilege and gender, but privilege, gender, race, fetishization, and socialized acceptance of sexual violence and sexual impropriety in general in now pop culture guiding hip-hop that settles on a nexus point with terrible future implications. In short, there’s a real case to be made that every rap personality you know and love — at a time where we all know and love rap and hip-hop more than anything else in the world — is as guilty as hell and UOENO it. Contemplating the potential fallout is incredibly important.
In 1991, when Russell Simmons was accused of assaulting Jenny Lumet, he was the head of Def Jam Records, and was at the height of success in his first decade of running the iconic hip-hop label. Via said label, he had evolved the beats and rhymes of Afro-Latino dominated uptown and downtown New York City borough-branded culture into pop culture writ large worldwide.
For as much as this was related to backspins and graffiti, this was also related to an uber-adoration of an era of potentially very socially flawed black and brown men. The progenitors of this culture were indeed individuals who were gifted at crafting ear-worming polyrhythms and unique turns of phrase. But, given when and where they were born, they were also hyper-exposed to domestic violence, mass incarceration, drug abuse, prostitution, mental illness, socioeconomic depression and/or inspired by the mainstream media of that era fetishizing gangland culture and popularizing the pimp and ho lifestyle. For fifty years hip-hop as a culture, rap as music, and its creative communities have persisted and universally expanded bearing these flaws as dominant truths. Because of this, the fear factor that should be associated with #MeToo and hip-hop crossing each other is obvious.
The allegations against Russell Simmons are proof of a freeze of the global warming of emotions regarding race, sex, and gender of the first two decades of the 20th century. A chilling evil has settled in related to the angst-ridden notions of not just Harvey Weinstein to Matt Lauer being bad dudes. Indeed, this now extends to horn-dog music men doing things like running their slick macking game on “hoes” errwhere, with the expectation of engaging in far worse behavior thereafter.
One look at the 2018 Grammy Award nominations showcases that rap music and hip-hop culture are finally at the top of the world’s pop cultural food chain. This happening as #MeToo has also emerged as pop culture’s most rampant of cause célèbres creates quite the moment as impropriety between men and women, as much as the relationship between the MC and the DJ, has allowed for hip-hop’s unfettered popularity to exist. For example, let’s not forget that for as much as Snoop Dogg and Dr. Dre’s “Nuthin’ But A G Thing” was selected by the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame as one of the 500 songs that shaped rock and roll and XXL Magazine named it the top hip-hop song of the 1990s, it’s also a song that purports that women are hyper-sexualized potential sexually-transmitted disease carriers who, if they voice opinions that stand against a man’s sexual desires, deserve to be assaulted.
Yes, there have been and will continue to be men in hip-hop culture who represent much more positive values. However, regretfully, too often in hip-hop history, the men that we artistically love and appreciate have either implied in recordings or have in real life have also been allowed to engage in astounding displays of sexual and/or physical impropriety with women. These chickens now coming home to roost calls into question so much. Here’s a sampling.
For as much as Dr. Dre is one of America’s most celebrated new billionaires, he was also a member of NWA when they released the song “Automobile,” in which the notion of a woman being uncertain about engaging in sexual relations is lampooned. The woman, clearly implied as being uninterested in sex, is then insulted, and then mercilessly teased. Moreover, regarding his past as a well-noted abuser of women, Dre has stated, “People talk all this shit, but you know, somebody fucks with me, I’m gonna fuck with them. I just did it, you know. Ain’t nothing you can do now by talking about it. Besides, it ain’t no big thing — I just threw her through a door” as related to his infamous 1991 assault of reporter Dee Barnes. As well, 25 years later, he’s said, “I apologize to the women I’ve hurt. I deeply regret what I did and know that it has forever impacted all of our lives.” Not to be humorous, but mournfully, this puts the meaning of “Beats by Dre” on a whole other level, doesn’t it…
Then, there’s the likes of 2Pac, who was incarcerated for nine months between 1993–1994 for sexually assaulting a woman in a hotel room. The charges alleged rape, and the sentencing judge described the crime during the Thug Life legend’s sentencing, as “an act of brutal violence against a helpless woman.” Famously, on the Arsenio Hall show, ‘pac denied the claims noting that he was “hurt that a woman would accuse me of taking something from her” when he was “raised by and was surrounded by females.” Of course, compound this issue with 1992-released “Keep Ya Head Up” including the lyrics “I wonder why we take from our women, why we rape our women — do we hate our women,” and 2Pac being released from prison, signing to gangsta-fied Death Row Records, and in 1995 saying to his rap feud combatant The Notorious B.I.G. on the vitriolic “Hit ’Em Up” “You claim to be a player, but I fucked your wife,” and there’s more answers than questions and more anger than joy regarding 2Pac in the shadow of #MeToo.
As well, there’s Eminem, whose growth as an emcee and superstar is intrinsically tied to his flawed relationships to women in his life, namely his mother and Kim, his ex-wife. There’s a certain demographic of hyper-aggressive males between the ages of 18–24 who have always been Em’s strongest fanbase, and when songs like 2002-released “Superman” depict him as “both sexual predator and commitment-phobic single guy,” plus include lyrics like, “Don’t put out? I’ll put you out / Won’t get out? i’ll push you out…Wouldn’t piss on fire to put you out / Am I too nice? Buy you ice? / Bitch if you died, wouldn’t buy you life,” it sets a damning precedent.
In final, there’s Jay-Z, whose 2017-released album 4:44 is largely inspired by the fact that he has successfully emerged from counseling after he was unceremoniously outed for cheating on Beyonce, his wife. This is after a 25-year career for Jigga in which his inability to positively relate to women has been pilloried and praised to the point where its provided context and background for his growth and excellence as a pop cultural touchstone and global musical icon.
Jay has long been rumored to have had sexual or romantic contact with what would’ve been a then 17-year old Rihanna, 18-year old Rita Ora, and 19-year old Beyonce. This is sad and unfortunate, but compare this to R. Kelly being rumored to have had sex with a 14-year old, illegally marrying Aaliyah at 15, sexually urinating on a 17-year old, and consorting with 18-year olds in an underground “sex cult,” and the similarity is astoundingly creepy. Add on top of this Jay’s career of “pimp songs” including “Ain’t No,” “Cashmere Thoughts,” “Who You Wit,” “Money, Cash, Hoes,” and 2000-released breakout single “Big Pimpin’,” and there’s a ton to unpack that looks ominous in light of #MeToo.
There’s all sorts of frustrating additives to all aspects of this puzzle, many of which likely could, but will not, be mentioned. However, on the touchy subject of dating, race, and the potential for hip-hop-related black men as objects of sexual fetishization, there’s much to consider. For every socially demonized relationship between Tyga and Kendall Jenner or 50 Cent and Chelsea Handler, there’s likely tons of dalliances that are just as tantalizing but much less consensual. Furthemore, they’re probably far messier insofar as the moral nature and purity of thought (think 1999 film Black and White) and lawful decency of action involved. From Ganymede and Blanche to O.J. and Nicole Brown Simpson (okay…), there’s a history of where black men, white women, sex, racism, and the belief regarding/angst related to lack thereof of sexual violence is prevalent, insidious, and problematic.
Regarding the intersection of hip-hop and male privilege over women’s bodies, it’s also worth considering that we could need to be apologetic towards men who were overcome by unexpected wealth, power, and a certain level of perceived unassailable (and potentially demonic) virility. Intriguingly, as many rappers mature, they evolve into the kinds of humans who like, in the case of Russell Simmons, go from being an Angel Dust smoking accused sex maniac into a veganism-adopting yoga practitioner. Similarly, the Jay-Z who “got more black chicks between [his] sheets than Essence” and believes his penis “is a weapon” as a 27-year old on 1996 Foxy Brown collaboration “Ain’t No Nigga” is not the same 47-year old Jay-Z who, on 4:44’s lead track “Kill Jay Z” reflects to himself regarding his improprieties that, “all along, all you had to say you was wrong,” and that he almost “let the baddest girl in the world get away.”
As we weave men into this massive web of #MeToo guilt and shame, it’s worth our time and energy to contemplate not so much how these men are guilty, but maybe why they’re ALL potentially riddled with guilt. In the case of men in the industry of hip-hop culture, there’s a socio-cultural precedent that’s stamped in the DNA of what hip-hop that explains how and why we consider sexually violent and morally reprehensible behavior to be justifiable, monetizable, marketable, and appreciated. As hip-hop has grown, the culture has been unable to rid itself of its genetic code, which, given the current cultural climate, should have everyone concerned.
I’ll state this again. There’s a real case to be made that every rap personality you know and love is as guilty as hell of sexual assault and UOENO it. Contemplating the potential fallout is incredibly important.