Gender and Sexuality in Hip Hop
March 11, 2018
Womanhood and Queerness in Hip Hop: Annotated Bibliography
Johnson, Aja Lenae. “‘Keep It Coochie’: Reimagining the Boundaries of Race, Gender, and Sexuality in Dominant Hip-Hop Culture through Raunch Aesthetics.” (2016).
Johnson’s article is an important piece because it talks about how newer people a part of the Hip Hop community, specifically rappers, are presenting subject matter that refuses to be bound by respectability politics. Johnson uses the raunch aesthetic, conceptualized by Jillian Hernandez, to analyze both lyrics and the visual imagery that usually accompanies it. Both womanhood and Queer identity are policed, or attempted to be policed, via respectability politics outside of hip hop. These notions, of course, trickle down in to the hip hop world, and Johnson is writing about why it is important that newer artists are emerging that brazenly challenge and seek to erase the presence of respectability politics that have been set in place for them.
Love, Bettina L. “A Ratchet Lens: Black Queer Youth, Agency, Hip Hop, and the Black Ratchet Imagination.” Educational Researcher 46.9 (2017): 539-547.
This article uses an approach that is similar to “the raunch aesthetic” that Jillian Hernandez conceptualized, this time is a bit different. Love argues that having and utilizing a methodological lens to perceive the intersections of Black and queer identity constructions in hip hop is vital. She calls this methodological lens the “Black ratchet imagination” because through this lens one can perceive the fluidity of Black queer identity earnestly. In addition to that, she argues the need for Black ratchet imagination because it humanizes Black queer identity especially that which is influenced by hip hop culture and she examines NOLA bounce culture to justify her points.
Harris, Ryan. ““What Is Meant To Be, Will Be”: Hip-hop and the continuum of Gender Politics.” Tapestries: Interwoven voices of local and global identities 6.1 (2017): 10.
In his piece, Ryan Harris works to analyze women and LGBTQ+ who have been either alienated, objectified, or ostracized within mainstream hip hop, those people always being the LGBTQ+ community and women. Harris is seeking to diversify, the narratives that command every space in hip hop. That is the narratives which continue the cycles of hyper masculinity, misogyny/misogynoir, homophobia and so on. Harris plans on doing this by utilizing methods of performance studies, queer theory, and lyrical analysis.
One thing that I think attracts so many to hip hop, is that it is a vessel through which people, especially young people can not only express themselves through music, but through so many other facets, as well. Those other outlets include, rap music,—which is the most obvious and most prominent—graffiti, break dancing, and DJ-ing, and beatboxing are among the elements and mediums of hip hop through which people communicate, express themselves, build communities, and so much more.
Hip Hop since its inception has been known for turning the tides of what is “acceptable” and all the while stirring up the pot, and doing so fervently and unapologetically. It still possesses this reprutation, too—of pushing the “limits” and jumping past boundaries proving that they were never supposed to be there in the first place. However, we all know that hip hop and those that make up the hip hop community are nothing short of imperfect.
Despite hip hop time and time again pushing the envelope, the topics of agency and bodily autonomy of women is a topic that, in mainstream hip hop, is still approached, if at all, using a male-centered, hetero patriarchal lens. Then when it comes to the presence of LGBTQ+ folks in hip hop, things become even more taboo. If we are to view hip hop through the cis, heterosexual, male-dominated perception, then gay people, trans people, anybody who is not straight then they would barely even exist. If they do, then their contributions are all for naught. This is why this way of participating in hip hop, must be ripped away from mainstream and underground hip hop, it only serves a select few. Thus, the result is that there is a hierarchy in the hip hop community that couldn’t be any more evident.
In 2018 some things about hip hop remain to be unknown, or rather overlooked, specifically and especially to mainstream hip hop. Unbeknownst to many, the LGBTQ+ community, specifcally queer people of color (QPOC) have been present, front and center, since hip hop’s very conception. Queer people aren’t going anywhere, so neither will the queer folks who continue to influence it. Whether mainstream artists know this or not. The same goes for women. Women have always been vital to hip hop in the present, and women will continue to be significant to hip hop in the future, as well. It is a known fact that the industry through which hip hop lives is a hyper masculine, toxic hetero patriarchal, and misogynist one. This is why coverage of certain topics, content made by, and for men, get the most air time.
It’s been a long time coming, and though the journey is far from over, the presence of LGBTQ+ folks getting the attention that they worked for is growing more and more each day, each year. The topic that I chose to write about are the folks in the hip hop community that have been marginalized. Women in hip hop is interesting because although they are hypervisible, there is also the erasure of women as complex individuals, meaning more than sex objects and as mothers, are rarely ventured from. There is something both bitter and ironic, about the fact that hip hop as a culture was born out of the struggle of marginalization of Black and Latinx youth, the fact that they were suffocating and there was nobody there who was willing to listen, so they made people listen by bringing something new to the table. And yet, women and LGBTQ+ folks somewhat face the same exact thing. This time, the men in charge of who sees what, are supressing the voices of women by saying that more one woman at the top is impossible, and to LGBTQ+ folks by saying, both implicitly and explicitly, that this space is for marginalized people, except if you’re gay.
The authors I chose are determined, not to rewrite history, per se, but they are clearly determined to write new chapters that actually give queer people their flowers. They do this by critiquing the very constraining bounds that dominate the narratives within hip hop and by providing solutions. Harris, Love, and Johnson all provide methodologies and lenses through which they suggest we can and should perceive hip hop in. The topic of womanhood is undoubtedly more fleshed out, and queerness in hip hop is a growing subject of which each source built upon. By doing this they are embodying what it means to be hip hop, they emobdy what hip hop has always, or was always, supposed to be about. To destroy walls, and instead create and strengthen ties among each other, no matter that person’s identity.