Listen to what you’re listening to

“If you’re back here only taking pictures, you gon’ have to take your a– back home ‘cause the only thing you’re taking is your clothes off.” If I told you that some guy said this to me, I’d hope that you’d be somewhat disturbed. But it’s actually a lyric from the song “Kiss Land,” which is my favorite album by The Weeknd. Still, if the lyrics are troublesome enough where someone saying them in real life would be problematic, why do we continue to listen to this kind of music?
Obviously everyone has the freedom of expression, so singers and rappers can talk about whatever they want in their songs. Despite the number of songs on my playlist that I always skip, “LA Confidential” by Tory Lanez is never one of them. Lanez is singing about cheating on his girlfriend, saying that he’d never actually leave her, so thus his mistress must 1. Not be just “anybody” and 2. Not expect to be his girlfriend. His excuse is that he gets lonely sometimes.
I’m not gonna lie, I really do like this song, but it makes me wonder–if we’re popularizing songs about a guy who’s straight up saying that he’s cheating because he’s lonely and then asking her to cover up for him in front of his friends, is that normalizing said behavior to a certain extent? I can’t speak for everyone, but I know that I’ve been somewhat desensitized to lyrics that are demeaning to women. And although I try to avoid adding songs that are overly-misogynistic to playlists, I still listen to songs like “LA Confidential” and enjoy it.
Despite what some might consider offensive language, the production is still well-executed with a catchy beat and ringing synths, making the song a unique form of art that can still be appreciated by many. I think we all realize that listening to music with crude lyrics isn’t an excuse to propagate that behavior in real life, but it certainly normalizes it to a degree.
We accept that with hip hop and rap comes iced out watches, designer brands, and a strong party and drug culture. This is prominent in industries of all music genres, but is highlighted through the lyrics of songs like NAV’s recent “Tussin” when he says “I spend a quarter on my watch, I drip drip my main b– down in rust, put a side b– in Gucci socks.”
Often the lyrics aren’t innocuous though, like in “My Collection” by Future when he raps “Any time I got you, girl you my possession. Even if I hit you once, you part my collection.” Realistically, wherever there’s parties and drugs and women, there’s a pretty high chance that some sort of sexual harassment or assault is occurring. But the popularity of these types of songs almost makes assault seem more of a trivial topic than it actually is. Wealthy male artists who are revered by hundreds of thousands of teenagers taking a serious issue and putting it against a rhythmic beat almost glamorizes the issue and makes it seem like something cool or desirable, like “once you have money and power you can dominate women too.”
Not surprisingly, artists such as Chris Brown, Swae Lee, and recently Kodak Black have all been accused of sexual misconduct. Looking at these lyrics without the context of the synths and the bass always surprises me, and I sometimes feel uneasy listening to so much music from a genre that contributes to the perception of women as just another facet of a wealthy lifestyle or even just lifestyle in general.
Even poppy hip-hop star Post Malone has issues when it comes to respecting women, especially in his angst-filled “Over Now,” where he sings about a lover who he never wants to go back to. “I’ma put that b– p– in a mother–’ bodybag, so you know that I’m never ever coming back,” he says angrily. At his concerts, he has his fans chant “b–,” referring to his ex-girlfriend, which gets the crowd going, but somehow doesn’t feel quite right.
The thing about trap music is that as a result of the explicit wording, the frequent message of domesticating women can be more much more pronounced and derogatory. I’d say that creative license does exist and that the artist’s work doesn’t necessarily reflect the artist, but the words and phrases that are used by many rap artists can be triggering for many. While it’s unrealistic to expect the disappearance of misogynistic culture in general and thus misogynistic lyrics, being mindful of what we’re listening to can be the first step in diverging from a culture that automatically routes towards male dominance.