Representation of Women and Feminist Liberation in Hip-Hop
In this hip-hop pedagogy, I will focus on the representation of women and feminist liberation in hip-hop. These themes will be discussed using the artistry of Cardi B. A rapper of Dominican descent who rose to her rapping career in early 2017. Cardi B was born and raised in The Bronx, New York City. Cardi B was an internet personality through content on Vine and Instagram before she was casted in the reality T.V show Love & Hip Hop: New York. She then turned to rapping, dropping mixtapes until her remix single “Bodak Yellow” earned three number- one singles on US Billboard Hot 100. Her fast-growing fame became a sensation for the many identities she represents. As an Afro-Latina from New York, a former stripper, and an unapologetic charismatic woman, Cardi B’s popularity grew to stardom from an empowerment song. With 95% of her fanbase being women (Maillo,2018) Cardi B’s infectious personality and unfiltered rapping skills rose to the top of the charts. Hip-Hop culture is constantly evolving every year. New artists, new beats, new sub-genres, new styles, new ideas of what Hip-Hop encompasses. For a long time, Hip-Hop has been a tool that provides understanding to complex social issues (Karvelis, 2018). The art form has been a way of healing, liberating, and a form of resistance for the oppression of black and brown communities. Hip-Hop has allowed for the most marginalized to express themselves. Self- discovery, empowerment, and liberation. Hip-Hop culture has given women a platform to be who they desire to be. Cardi B’s rise was a breath of fresh air for Hip-Hop culture. Her unfiltered liberation can be described like the daughter’s garden used to describe Hip-Hop and the dominant form of expressing herself with truth (Lomax, 2011). Cardi B challenges the ideology of woman in Hip-Hop. She embraces her identity as an Afro-latinx woman and uses her music style to talk about her days as a stripper and living in the Bronx projects. I will be synthesizing three of her most known music videos and combining the artistry of her lyrics with the production of her visuals.
Bodak Yellow Lyrical and Visual Analysis
The representation of woman and feminism liberation in Hip-Hop has evolved tremendously since the culture was created in the 1970s in the streets of New York City (Karvelis, 2018). As I reflect on millennial artists, I come across a fierce, controversial rapper. Cardi B comes from the streets of the Bronx, New York. Hip-Hop was heavily created in the Bronx by poor and working-class youth (Rivera, 2001) Cardi B is a new artist in the Hip-Hop culture that is continuously challenging the role of women in Hip-Hop. The song that took off the course of her music career was a remix to young rapper, Kodak Black song “No Flockin.” Her song, “Bodak Yellow” represents her identities and empowerment of who she is. The song starts out with a boss attitude of no one being able to compare with her. In her music video the scene starts with Cardi B in the desert dressed in middle eastern outfit, with her pet Jaguar. Her representation in the music video signifies the womanist prose that Lomax talks about when she speaks of Nicki Minaj. Cardi B also, “explores the daughters' appropriations and interpretations of race, gender, sex, sexuality, and experience in the new millennium” (Lomax, 2011). Cardi B mentions big name brands that are well known in the Hip-Hop culture for its luxury’s reputation. Her most known lyrics, “These expensive, these is red bottoms”, referencing the infamous Louboutin heels. Cardi B references her stripper past with the lyrics, “You in the club just to party…I’m there, I get paid a fee…Look, I don’t dance now, I make money moves”, she empowers her past to her present to show how her life has changed knowing she may be judged for her past. It’s a reflection of the struggles of urban black and latinx (Maillo, 2018) In the music video, she also has scenes of her at a club dancing and having money around her and transitioning back and forth with a scene of her in front of an expensive sports car. Cardi B raps about how she used to be poor and now has money, “I used to live in the P’s…Now it’s a crib with a gate”. I view this transformation as a “break” which is described to be a concept that is essential for black women to transform traumas into joy and brings together race, beats, and liberation. (Cooper, 2013).
Money Lyrical and Visual Analysis
The visual and lyrical components of the song Money is an all compelling, sensual, extravagant fashion, unapologetic statement that represents the women liberation of Cardi B. As she comes into first time motherhood, Cardi B questions the changes of Hip-Hop form in the environment of motherhood. As scholar Ford mentions in his article, questioning changes re-frames Hip-Hop to understand the civil rights movement transmogrification (Ford, 2019). In the music video, Cardi B opens with a woman swinging from an invisible pole. The scene then transitions to a group of women in futuristic black and white suits with her in the middle, opening with the lyrics, “Look, my bitches all bad, my n**** all real”. The scenes flash through episodes of her being in a glass case, dancing on the pole with money around her, her being in the audience in a over the top outfit and being on a throne-like chair breast feeding a baby. The scenes go through her personal story line of once upon a time being a stripper, to now a breakout rapper and a recent mother. A reflection of the Hip-Hop aesthetic in which women in Hip-Hop have a range of origin stories (Cooper, 2013). Cardi B empowers the in-dependency of woman and the liberation of woman through her lyrics, “I like boardin jets. I like mornin sex…but nothing in this world that I like more than checks (Money)…All I really wanna see is (Money)”, she emphasizes the power of woman is through independent finances and not needing men, “I don’t really need the D, I need the (Money)…All a bad bitch need is the (Money)”. Compared to the artistry in article by Lomax, Cardi B is sex-positive and uses creative power to also end patriarchy (Lomax, 2011). In the lyrics “I need room for my legs…I got a baby, I need some money, yeah”, there is an intentional expression of motherhood in her lyrical and visual art that reframes the culture of Hip-Hop music. It is reconstructing the role of woman in Hip-Hop and the liberation of deconstructing a patriarchal ideology of Hip-Hop culture in a post-Civil rights movement era (Ford, 2019). In the late 1990’s the rise of Latina women fetishization in Hip-Hop grew, having an approval in black culture and the sexualization of latinx woman (Rivera, 2001). Cardi B has embraced her identity as an Afro-latinx woman from the Bronx. Her music has catered to English and Spanish rap, this has challenged the idea of latinx woman to only seen as a sexual object.
Be careful Lyrical and Visual Analysis
In the latest debut album by Cardi B she includes a song about infidelity and overcoming the hurt of ex-boyfriends through the song “Be careful”. The music video has two main scenes; Cardi B getting married in a church and ends with her attending her dead husband’s funeral. In her lyrics, “Poured out my whole heart to a piece of shit…Man, I thought you would’ve learned your lesson…” introduces the dishonesty that leads to infidelity. I reflect on the common role of woman in Hip-Hop culture, I think of the constant exploitation of sexual figures and targets of misogynistic violence (Karvelis, 2018). Cardi B transforms the popular representation of woman in Hip-Hop culture, through this song. The song is guided by the empowerment of woman and being liberated by toxic masculinity.
“But is it worth the girl that you’re losin? Be careful with me…yeah, its not a threat, it’s a warnin”, is a moment of clarity that she decides to take control of her life and it transitions to the funeral scene in her music video a coupe lyric’s later. Cooper captures the essence of the Cardi B’s Hip-Hop aesthetic through the emergence of feminism needed in Hip-Hop. Joan Morgan argues, that the feminism must be keeping it real and told by the voices of many juxtaposed (Cooper, 2013). Cardi B’s artistry offers representation of liberation and escape from emotional abuse. Cardi B caters to her experiences to represent woman in toxic relationships and maneuvering out of them. Her lyrics provide for daughter and granddaughters to reimagine their reality (Lomax, 2011). Her lyrics, you don’t want someone who loves you instead? I guess no though…its blatant disrespect, you nothin like the n**** I met” are accepting the person she was with is not the same and she must come to terms to it. Cardi B wants the audience to listen closely and interpret the song within and for the art form it is. Her artistry continuous to be a form of bold self-acknowledgment and expression. Liberating her sexuality and giving an empowering representation to woman in Hip-Hop.
Karvelis, Noah. “Race, Class, Gender, and Rhymes: Hip-Hop as Critical Pedagogy.” Music Educators Journal 105, no. 1 (2018): 46–50.
Lomax, Tamura. “In Search of Our Daughters’ Gardens: Hip Hop as Womanist Prose.” Bulletin for the Study of Religion 40, no. 3 (2011): 15–20
Maillo-Pozo, Sharina. “Reconstructing Dominican Latinidad: Intersections between Gender, Race and Hip-Hop.” Small Axe: A Caribbean Journal of Criticism 22, no. 2 (2018): 85–98
Cooper, Brittney. "“Maybe I'll Be a Poet, Rapper”: Hip-Hop Feminism and Literary Aesthetics in "Push"." African American Review 46, no. 1 (2013): 55-69. http://www.jstor.org.ezproxy.fiu.edu/stable/23783601.
Rivera, R. Z., Dávila, A. M., & Lao-Montes, A. Hip-hop, Puerto Ricans and Ethnoracial Identities in New York. ProQuest Information and Learning. (2001). Pdf.
Ford, James Edward, III. "'THE UNCLEAN BREAK': RE-IMAGINING THE SOUND OF HIP-HOP." College Literature 46, no. 1 (2019): 269+. Academic ASAP (accessed April 15, 2019). http://link.galegroup.com.ezproxy.fiu.edu/apps/doc/A573714858/AIM?u=miam11506&sid=AIM&xid=b289e3da