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.”