Gender Roles in Rap Music: Evaluation of Lil Wayne

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8th Feb 2020 Music Reference this

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After a semester of analyzing different gender works and authors, I will be using my knowledge to analyze how gender plays a role in the works of American rapper Dwayne Carter Jr. (also known as Lil Wayne). Lil Wayne is a 36-year-old hip-hop icon who grew up in Hollygrove (one of New Orleans’ most impoverished neighborhoods). He is commonly known as Weezy and is a not only a rapper, but also a songwriter, executive entrepreneur, and actor. I will delve into the deeper meaning behind his song lyrics, his music videos, even examine Lil Wayne as an individual. Gender plays a significant role in Lil Wayne’s works through his representation of women, his sexual references, and his urban background, according to gender theories of Lull, Cohen, Butler, Smith, Jamison, Connell, and Kimmel.

Today, rap/hip-hop music is loaded with gender stereotypes, where women are often times presented as inferior or as sexual beings for the pleasure of men. They are commonly marginalized and “it remains uncommon for women to be presented as independent, intelligent, enterprising, or superior to men. Derogatory images are far more common” (Weitzer and Kubrin 2). Common misogynistic themes in Lil Wayne’s music can be exemplified via, “naming and shaming, sexual objectification, distrust of women, legitimating violence, and prostitution and pimping” (Weitzer and Kubrin 9). Many rappers, including Lil Wayne, regularly portray these themes throughout their lyrics and music videos. Throughout rap music, the terms “bitch” and “ho” are commonly used to label and sexually objectify women (Tyree and Jones 3). One thing that distinguishes Lil Wayne’s lyrics from most leading rappers is that Lil Wayne does not only objectify black women, he commonly objectifies women of all ethnicities and backgrounds. After viewing rap music through a gender lens, I cannot help but ask myself if my generation is at fault for consistently consuming music that objectifies women, or if the rappers are at fault for writing heinous lyrics.

The first song I will analyze is “Lollipop” by Lil Wayne featuring Static Major. The track was released in 2008 and was written by Dwayne Carter, Stephen Garrett, Darius Harrison, Jim Jonsin, and Rex Zamor. It appeared in Lil Wayne’s album, Tha Carter III. The song objectifies women, not only in the song lyrics, but also in the song’s music video. Lyrically, Lil Wayne objectifies women by referring to their body parts as “lady lumps,” “buttocks,” and “pussy.” Even in the title of the song, Lil Wayne insinuates a sexual gesture, as the word “Lollipop” refers to a penis and the actions that take place during oral sex. An example of an explicit lyrics from the song is I say he so sweet make her wanna’ lick the rapper, So I let her lick the rapper.” Here Lil Wayne is once again referring to a woman performing oral sex. Another example is “Middle of the bed, give and gettin’ head, Give and gettin’ head, give and gettin’ head,” where he is once again suggesting the same thing. With so many sexual references, Lil Wayne is portraying women as objects whose purpose is to pleasure men.

In the official music video, women are portrayed in awfully tight and revealing clothing. There are numerous scenes where they are performing sexual actions with their bodies (e.g. twerking, biting their lips, sucking lollipops. etc.). There are specific examples throughout the video of women being portrayed as sexual figures. Throughout the entire video, women are shown sucking on lollipop’s, which is symbolizing a penis given the context. At 0:19, a woman is pictured seductively stuffing money into her bra. At 1:14, a woman is seen twerking on Lil Wayne himself. At 1:45, a woman is seen seductively touching her body.

The next song I will analyze is “Every Girl” by Lil Wayne. The track was released in 2009 and was written by Dwayne Carter, Aubrey Graham, Jarvis Mills, Jermaine Preyan, and Carl Lilly. It appeared in the album, We Are Young Money. A quick analysis of the title suggests that Lil Wayne is rapping about his desire to have sexual intercourse with every girl (in the world). He uses somewhat violent lyrics by referring to having sexual intercourse with every girl as “smashing them all.” The song is about a dream of Lil Wayne’s where he portrays women as objects for sexual pleasure. He also refers to his masculinity by stating that he has the best sex game. In addition, as previously noted, he distinguishes himself from other rappers of his generation by emphasizing that he has sexual intercourse with women of all ethnicities. An example of an explicit lyrics from the song is “Open up her legs to filet mignon that pussy, I’ma get in an’ own that pussy.” Here he is comparing a women’s vagina to filet mignon (a steak cut of beef). He is also objectifying body parts and making himself dominant by stating ownership of something that is not his.

Similar to “Lollipop”, women are seen in tight clothing (and bikinis) in music video. There are numerous examples throughout the video of women being portrayed as sexual figures. There are many scenes where body parts of women are featured. For example, when women are getting out of a car, only their lower body region (legs) are seen in the video. At 2:30 there is also a disturbing scene where a man is “checking out” each woman that walks past him, while making facial gestures that suggest he likes what he sees.

The last song I will analyze is “Love Me” by Lil Wayne featuring Drake and Future. The track was released in 2013 and was written by Dwayne Carter, Aubrey Graham, Nayvadius Wilburn, Michael Williams, and Asheton Hogan. It appeared in Lil Wayne’s album, I Am Not a Human Being II. Lyrically, Lil Wayne is vulgar and blunt. An example is the lyric “She wake up, eat this dick, call that breakfast in bed”. He once again is suggesting that a woman’s sole purpose is to sexually gratify men. Another example is “all she eat is dick. She’s on a strict diet”. Here Lil Wayne disturbing puts women down.

 Probably the most disturbing aspect of the song is the music video. Lil Wayne takes his objectification to whole new level, where women are consistently seen in chains and cages. This representation implies that the women are dangerous, wild, and uncontrollable, so they need to be locked up. This is objectifying women by characterizing them as barbaric or nonhumane. The women outside the cage are seen dancing and grinding on or around Lil Wayne. In addition, at 0:52, there is a woman licking an object, symbolic of a penis, similar to what was shown in “Lollipop”. At 3:54, there are a few women pictures, completely naked, with nothing but red paint covering their bodies. There was also a racial controversy over this music video. Lil Wayne depicted African American women as animalistic, as all women of color in the video were dressed up as snakes or cats.

 Although Lil Wayne’s lyrics come off as very vulgar and demoralizing, many of them reflect the struggles he has had in life. In September of 2018, Lil Wayne released his latest album, Tha Carter V. Spencer Kornhaber, of The Atlantic, performed an in-depth analysis of the album and compared it to adversities throughout Lil Wayne’s life. Something people don’t know about Lil Wayne is that he survived a self-inflicted gunshot wound at the age of 12. Lil Wayne’s misogynistic lyrics can be traced back to his struggles finding love. Kornhaber described how “Lil Wayne’s view of love, that thing he’s held up as the ultimate goal of his career, is not pretty.” (Kornhaber 2018). In the song “Mess,” Lil Wayne takes a surprising approach and talks about the compromises his wife, his side girls, and his exes all made to get along (Kornhaber 2018). In the most critically acclaimed song in the album, “Mona Lisa,” Lil Wayne describes sex as a toxic activity that causes homes to wreck. This is a very different point of view from the themes in his earlier song. Lil Wayne has been through severe tragedy in his life, and he has consistently stated how love is something he values heavily in life. His music shows a clear development in character. His views on sex changed tremendously compared to his early works, and today, he seems to be humbled and grateful for the women in his life.

Lull defines hegemony as “the power or dominance that one social group holds over others,” (Lull 61). Hegemony involves people in power pushing their beliefs and attempting to maintain power. They provide a platform for individuals to gain power, wealth, and status. They also provide a platform for individuals to gain power, wealth, and status. Celebrities, athletes, public figures, etc. have the ability to change the social norms and daily routines of their audiences. One such celebrity is rapper Lil Wayne, A gender based hegemonic system is persistent through the song lyrics and music videos of Lil Wayne. Throughout his songs, Lil Wayne represents himself as a dominant male, while he represents women as merely objects in an obscene manner. Lil Wayne commonly describes himself as being the best as sexual intercourse, being the man all the women pursue, and being the man who can have sexual intercourse with any girl he desires. His portrayal of woman is quite the opposite. They are viewed as weak and submissive figures whose sole purpose is to satisfy men sexually. The song lyrics fail to show the women any sort of respect. In the music video they are commonly viewed as objects and consistently seen performing sexual actions. Lil Wayne clearly views depicts himself as the center of the hegemonic system, with women being placed on the outside of the hegemonic system.

Cohen described in a series of seven theses that there are monsters that control our behavior. I believe Cohen’s theses can be directly connected to Lil Wayne himself, as he clearly has insecurities that shape the music he makes. Thesis one states that the monster represents a cultural/societal body. It specifies what is desired and not desired in culture. The monster signifies something else and serves as a reflection of fears. Lil Wayne’s lyrics suggest that he has sexual insecurities, and his depiction of women tends to empower him in his own eyes and the eyes of others. The so-called monster in Lil Wayne’s life could be his sexual desires, where he feels as if he needs to consistently prove his masculinity in the eyes of society. Thesis two states that the monster always escapes. The same monster can be used repeatedly, however, they each represent a different meaning. The monster “escaping” in Lil Wayne’s life could be seen in his latest album, Tha Carter V, where he finally begins to be grateful for the women in his life – finally realizing that sex isn’t everything. Thesis three describes the monsters as dangerous creatures that are not always known. Lil Wayne’s insecurity in his masculinity most likely led to the vulgar lyrics and music videos being made. This is potentially dangerous to the younger generation who grew up admiring Lil Wayne, as their views on women are potentially altered due to Lil Wayne’s inaccurate depiction of them as only sexual beings. Thesis four states that the monsters appear when someone tries to deviate from social norms. The monster most likely appeared in Lil Wayne’s childhood when he suffered through tremendous tragedy and began to pursue love/women some time after. Thesis five states that monsters’ dwell at the border, and this represents a border that cannot be crossed. The monster is guarding the border to prevent one from breaking a societal norm. A representative quote found in thesis 5 is “the monster is transgressive, too sexual, perversely erotic, a lawbreaker; and so the monster and all that it embodies must be exiled or destroyed. The repressed, however, like Freud himself, always seems to return,” (Cohen 16). In this case, the monster (Lil Wayne’s sexual insecurities) could actually be stopping him from finding the love he desires. Growing up in a impoverished and unsafe neighborhood, maybe “love” was not viewed as a norm in the community. Men possibly chased women for sexual pleasure with no intention of falling in love. Thesis six describes that the fear of the monster is similar to a desire. This relates to Lil Wayne as his monster is essentially a desire to find love. Thesis seven states that the monsters are needed and always return. These monsters force people to reevaluate cultural viewpoints on race, gender, and sexuality. Lil Wayne has had numerous relationships struggles throughout his life. His insecurities most likely haunted him throughout relationships early on in his life time. Overall, the monster defines what is and is not accepted by society. Individuals create the monster, so in turn they must question why they created the monster. The monster always escapes, and once the idea is there, it will always exist.

Butler’s “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory”, argues that gender identity is a performative accomplishment created by social construct. Butler states that “one is not born, but, rather, becomes a woman,”. This quote embodies what she is stressing by the stylized repetitions of acts. She believes that gender is created by the way one acts, and one’s actions are based on how that gender is ideally supposed to act within society. Butler defines gender as how many times one repeats certain acts. Lil Wayne’s actions throughout his music videos firmly project his masculinity. He is consistently seen surrounded by half-naked women, and he is portrayed as a sexual desire for all women in the video. The women consistently dance and grind on him and make him seem like the man they have always wanted. His actions and sexual behaviors consistently reinforced his masculinity. On the other hand, the women are seen as quite passive throughout the videos. They are seen as submissive and solely sexual beings. All the women are repeating the same actions of dancing, wearing revealing clothing, and making sexual gestures. Lil Wayne portray femininity as extremely sexual and submissive.

In Smith’s “It’s Just a Movie”, he stresses the idea that each member of the audience interprets things differently. Smith’s piece shows that filmmakers do not possess much power over the audience. Everything is put into films for a reason. Filmmakers put messages in their movies for their audience to interpret. However, it is the audience who essentially judges and scores the filmmakers creation. “Since human beings cannot be reduced to their conscious thoughts, films should not be reduced to the director’s conscious intentions,” (Smith 130). The audience is given the freedom to interpret movies anyway they want, and that power refutes Lull’s hegemony, as filmmakers do not have complete control over their audiences. This relates to how people interpret Lil Wayne’s music videos. Lil Wayne is a renowned rapped with a loyal following. In the eyes of someone who has studied gender, his lyrics and videos are extremely misogynistic, primitive, and suggestive. However, in the eyes of hip-hop fanatics, his music is relatable, honest, and entertaining. His audience is broad, coming from all different backgrounds. Depending on how each individual listener was raised, which form their values and beliefs, they all interpret Lil Wayne’s music in different ways.

In Jamison’s “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain”, she discusses women’s pain. Throughout literature, women’s pain tends to drain women. In literature pain can be documented as menstruation, cutting, disorders, abortion, rape, heartbreak, etc. “Pain is the unending glue and prerequisite of female consciousness,” (Jamison 3). Here Jamison talks about the pain behind experiences, the pain post-experiences, and the way this shapes a female’s identity. The women in the music videos can be viewed as women who are in pain. In “Love Me,” the women are chained and locked in cages. The women here could be seen as in pain because they are being completely controlled by male’s sexual desires.

Raewyn Connell is an Australian sociologist who talked about how most of the people who hold positions of power are men. Her 3-fold model of gender relations talks about how when it comes to power relations, men are dominant, and women are subordinate. She detailed how any position that is able to impose their will be male-dominated. In the music videos, the women are being marginalization, meaning they are being treated as inferior or less than a man. Connell explained how it is very difficult for a group to change the fact they are marginalized. The marginalized women in the videos are essentially stuck outside the hegemonic system because the hip-hop/rap culture of the 2000s made marginalizing women a norm.

 Michael Kimmel, an American sociologist, gave a TED Talk about how gender equality is beneficial to both men and women. He stated that “men have sense of entitlement” (“Why Gender Equality Is Good for Everyone — Men Included” 7:15), which is why they resist gender equality. Looking at Lil Wayne’s lyrics, one can easily conclude that he feels entitled over women. By using words such as “owning,” “destroying,” and “smashing,” one can easily convey that Lil Wayne feels authorized to treat women however he feels like. Kimmel also talks about the different between white and black women. He states that when a white woman looks in the mirror every morning, she sees a woman; but when a black woman looks in the mirror in the morning, she sees not a woman, but a black woman. Race is visible for black women, but invisible for white women, and privilege is invisible for those who have it. Often times Lil Wayne portrayed black women as barbaric and primitive in his music videos – by dressing them up and giving them behavioral traits of animals. This further proves Kimmel’s findings, as even in the rap/hip-hop culture, white women seem to be more privileged than black women.

When taking a closer look at Lil Wayne’s audience, the typical demographics of his audience would include an age range of 13-30, inclusive of all races (but predominantly African American). His songs are mainstream in the rap genre, but his music definitely targets young adults who went through childhood struggles like himself. That would include but not limited to, young adults growing up in urban areas, men trying to find love, and survivors of gunshot wounds. Lil Wayne makes references to these life events in a large portion of his songs, with the purpose of instilling hope into the urban youth’s mind’s that things will get better.

When analyzing Lil Wayne, Lil Wayne’s lyrics, and Lil Wayne’s music videos through a gender lens, one can find eye opening trends. When using gender theories from seven different experts in the field, Lil Wayne’s masculinity, insecurities, and values are put into perspective. He was heavily influenced but his upbringing and environment, and in turn reflected that in his music. Lil Wayne will forever remain a hip-hop icon, but it is time people start taking notice of the concerning themes within his music. There is still much more analysis to be done, and his latest works have shown more empathy, but according to the gender theories of Lull, Cohen, Butler, Smith, Jamison, Connell, and Kimmel, Lil Wayne has a long way to go in terms of gender equality.

Bibliography

  • Butler, Judith. “Performative Acts and Gender Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and Feminist Theory.” Theatre Journal, vol. 40, no. 4, 1988, p. 519., doi:10.2307/3207893.
  • Cohen, Jeffrey Jerome. Monster Theory: Reading Culture. University of Minnesota Press, 1997.
  • Jamison, Leslie, et al. “Grand Unified Theory of Female Pain.” The Paradox of Eleanor Roosevelt: Alcoholism’s Child | VQR Online.
  • Kimmel, Michael. “Why Gender Equality Is Good for Everyone — Men Included.” YouTube, TED Talks, 6 Oct. 2015, www.youtube.com/watch?v=7n9IOH0NvyY
  • Kornhaber, Spencer. “’Tha Carter V’: Finally, Lil Wayne Is a Human Being.” The Atlantic, Atlantic Media Company, 1 Oct. 2018, www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2018/10/lil-wayne-tha-carter-v-human-being/571837/
  • Lull, James. Media, Communication, Culture: a Global Approach. Polity, 2000.
  • Smith, Greg. It’s Just a Movie: Cinema Journal. 2001.
  • Tyree, Tia and Jones, Michelle “The Adored Woman in Rap: An Analysis of the Presence of Philogyny in Rap Music” Women’s Studies, Vol. 44 , Iss. 1,2015
  • Weitzer, Ronald and Kubrin, Charis E. “Misogyny in Rap Music: A Content Analysis of Prevalence and Meanings” Men and Masculinities, Vol 12, Issue 1, pp. 2 – 29, 2009

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