10. Song title: Independent – Webbie ft Lil’ Phat and Lil’ Boosie
Album: Savage Life 2, Lil Boosieanna, Pt. 2
Lyric: “She’ll buy her own/I don’t think she’ll never look/in a man face waitin’ for him to take care of her/She’ll rather go to work and pay the bills on schedule…I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-T do you know what that mean?”
Southern rap can be particularly stingy when it comes to doling out respect for women, so this tribute by southern rappers to financially independent women is a welcome change. Plus, the hook is hella catchy!
9. Song title: “Nothin’ On You” – B.o.B. ft. Bruno Mars
Album: B.o.B Presents: The Adventures of Bobby Ray
Lyric: “Baby you the whole package, plus you pay your taxes/And you keep it real while them other stay plastic/You’re my wonder women call me Mr. Fantastic/Stop… now think about it.”
You’ve got to love a man who praises a woman for paying her taxes. I also appreciate the faithfulness to his woman that B.o.B. expresses throughout this song.
8. Song title: “Fancy” – Drake
Album: Thank Me Later
Lyric: “And you don’t do it for the man, men never notice/You just do it for yourself you’re the f**king coldest/Intelligent too ooh you’re my sweetheart/I’ve always liked my women book and street smart.”
Drake has said he wants to “speak for his generation” with his music. I’m not sure if he achieves that in this song, but it is always refreshing to hear a rapper express appreciation for intelligent women.
7. Song title: “Perfect Defect” – N.E.R.D.
Lyric:“I don’t care who gets you, I don’t care what they don’t see/I don’t need God to remix you/It’s less for them, but mo’ for meee!/Oh you’re so perfect, oh don’t ignore me girl/Them other girls just service, they do nuttin for me girl/Oh you’re so perfect, don’t you ignore me girl/Ain’t no need to be nervous, this’ll workout surely girl”
I like this song and lyric because it acknowledges that a woman can have imperfections, while still praising her as valuable, and perfect (for Pharrell). Plus, “I don’t need God to remix you” is a tight line.
6. Song title: “Walk Alone” – The Roots ft. Truck North, P.O.R.N., Dice Raw
Album: How I Got Over
Lyric: “There ain’t no hell like the hell I raise/I’d die in the bed I made ‘fore I lay with a love I loathe.” And: “Bad sh*t going down on the daily/While bad chicks pass in a Mercedez, damn/They see he’s the bastard for chasing them/Maybe, it’s the patterns that make me (that made me) crazy
Too often, rappers like to brag about sleeping with the same woman they just got finished dissing or calling a “ho”. Not only does this brother refuse to “lay with a love he loathes”, implying that he actually cares for the women he goes to bed with, but the rest of the song reflects similar condemnation of the usual “patterns” of commercialization and rigid gender norms that often characterize women men as breadwinners and women as gold diggers.
5. Song title: “Ballad of the Black Gold” – Reflection Eternal
Album: Revolutions Per Minute
Lyrics: “That was catalyst for soldiers to break into they crib/Take it from the kids and try to break’em like a twig/And make examples of the leaders; executed Saro-Wiwa/Threw Fela’s mom out the window right after they beat her/In an effort to defeat hope.
In 1978, Nigerian women’s rights activist Funmilayo Kuti passed away as a result of injuries sustained when she was thrown from a second floor window during an attack on her son Fela’s compound. Even in the midst of so-called “conscious rap,” it’s inspiring to hear the legacy of an African woman activist honored more than 30 years later, and for her place in history to be preserved through the voice of a modern hip-hop star.
4. Song title: “Love the Way You Lie” – Eminem ft. Rihanna
Lyric:“Cause when it’s going good, it’s going great/I’m Superman with the wind in his bag, she’s Lois Lane/But when it’s bad, it’s awful/I feel so ashamed/I snap, who’s that dude? I don’t even know his name/I laid hands on her, I’ll never stoop so low again/I guess I don’t know my own strength”
This song may be a controversial choice, but I believe the depiction of domestic violence presented in this song (and video) exposes some common and dangerous characteristics of relationships with intimate partner violence. As such, it has value for women by contributing to the public dialogue about what domestic violence looks like, and how to prevent it.
3. Song title: “Breakup Song” – Wale
Album: N/A (released on Twitter)
Lyric: My n*gga for life though/It’s funny how this life go/We love for a while then a light goes/Took me a while just to write those/lyrics had to fight so I’mma stop right here/And I know you don’t care/But I hope you got that bike boo”
It’s rare to hear a rapper espouse respect for an ex after the relationship has ended (we usually end up with something that looks more like Cee-Lo’s summer banger “F**k You” (a.k.a “Forget You”). In this song, Wale send well wishes to his ex-sweetie and promises her that she’ll be his “n*gga for life.” In hip hop terms, that’s respect of the highest order.
2. Song title: “The Light” – Common
Album: Go! Common Classics
Lyric: “I never call you my bitch or even my boo/There’s so much in a name and so much more in you/Few understand the union of woman and man/And sex and a tingle is where they assume that it land/But that’s fly by night for you and the sky I write/For in these cold Chi night’s moon, you my light/If heaven had a height, you would be that tall/Ghetto to coffee shop, through you I see that all/”
Ok, so I’m kinda cheating because this song came out a while back. But it was re-released this year as part of a Common Classics album, so how could I resist throwing dap to one of the most beautiful hip-hop love songs ever written?
1. Song title: “Keep Shining” – Shad
Lyric: “There’s no girls rappin’ so we’re only hearin’ half the truth/What we have to lose? Too much/Half our youth aren’t represented, the better halves of dudes/So we don’t hear about your brain, just your brains/How you rock a fella, Stacey Dash dames/We just need your voice like an a capella/Something in the music’s gotta change…My mom taught me where to keep my heart/My aunts taught me how to sing two parts/My sis taught me how to parallel park/Tried to teach me math but she’s way too smart/My grandma in her 80′s is still sharp/My girl cousin’s an activism at art/They taught me there’s no curls too tight/No mind to bright/No skin too dark to keep shining.
This entire song by Canadian rapper Shad is a progressive and heartfelt manifesto on women, gender relations, and what needs to change. This is just the latest in a long line of downright feminist lyrics from Shad- check out “Out of Love” and “Our of Love Pt. 2” for more feminist hip hop gems.
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On his 1990 debut solo album AmeriKKKa’s Most Wanted, Ice Cube declared that “when it comes to hip-hop, this is a man’s world.” On a battle-of-the-sexes song featuring female rapper Yo-Yo, Ice Cube declares that “women, they’re good for nothing, no maybe one thing.” Interestingly, in the same song, he comes around to admitting that Yo-Yo “can flow” and is “kinda dope”, but still “can’t fade him”. Less than three years after the release of the album, he spoke about the importance of respecting black women and communication across gender in an interview with bell hooks for Spin magazine.
Ice Cube is not alone as a rapper with something of a contradictory position on women and gender issues. We often hear hip-hop criticized for its misogyny, and rappers are constantly facing public scrutiny for their treatment of women on and off stage. But while hip-hop certainly has a long way to go when it come to treatment of women, critiques of sexism in rap fail if they demonize rappers across the board without acknowledging both the women-bashing that goes on in other genres, as well as the respectful, and sometimes downright feminist messaging that sometimes occurs within hip-hop.
That’s why I’ve chronicled the top pro-woman hip-hop lyrics of 2010, below. They’re not all perfect. But they’re a start. Because, just like Ice Cube, I can’t help but give props where props are due, even if, at the end of the day, they “still can’t fade me.”