Girl Got 99 Problems:
Is Hip Hop One?
SARAH MCGRATH and LIDET TILAHUN
Is hip hop bad for women? Well, it's complicated. Many feminists, cultural critics, and politicians often focus on its negative portrayal of women. But anyone who makes the blanket statement that hip hop is bad for women hasn't looked at enough of the culture: it's like someone who sees American Psycho, believes the movie is misogynist, and concludes that Hollywood is bad for women. This track will consider several arguments for the conclusion that some hip-hop lyrics—call them “the controversial lyrics” to be clear that we're not talking about all lyrics—are bad for women and ask whether any of these arguments are sound.
But first, we want to give some examples of lyrics that are about women but don't seem to be bad for them. Some lyrics protest the situation of poor urban women; others encourage women to talk about sex or to take control of their lives. For example, in “Brenda's Got a Baby,” Tupac lets us in on the life of a woman without education and opportunities: “I hear Brenda's got a baby / But, Brenda's barely got a brain / A damn shame / That girl can hardly spell her name.”1 Tupac continues by showing ya “how it affects the whole community.” He's just reporting the facts. Far from being an indictment of Brenda, or unwed mothers, this is a protest song.
1 2Pac, “Brenda's Got a Baby,” 2Pacalypsc Now (Interscope, 1991).