Friday, January 11, 2008

Hip Hop: Masculinity, Power, and Dominance

In "Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes", filmmaker Byron Hurt takes an in-Depth look at manhood, sexism and homophobia in rap music and hip-hop culture; the program features interviews with Mos Def, Chuck D, Busta Rhymes and Russell Simmons.
"Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes" is a personal and heartfelt documentary that goes beyond the bling to explore gender roles in hip-hop and rap music through the lens of filmmaker Byron Hurt, a former college quarterback-turned-activist.

Reflection Questions
(include the questions in the phrasing of your answer but do not restate the question itself!)

How does the genre of hip hop reinforce stereotypes of masculinity in today's society? (Consider lyrics, images, behaviours, and attitudes)

Producer Russell Simmons says that the poetry reflects society. Therefore, his message is that society is the issue, not the music. Do you agree with this comment? Doesn't the music create and solidify behaviour as much as it reflects it?

Finally, can there be change in this media? If so, what changes need to be made and how can they reasonably, and realistically, be implemented. Does there even need to be change.

Do some real soul searching and, as always, use the media as your evidence - ALWAYS substantiate your claims, your ideas, and your suggestions for change. Explain yourself really well!

Helpful Links

PBS: Independent Lens

Rotten Tomato Review of the Film

Director Rips Hip Hop Sexism, Homophobia in New Documentary

Masculinity in Hip Hop


Michelle said...

I never really thought that hip-hop enforced a stereotype, but after watching the documentary definitely change my mind. I think that when men see the way the rappers and hip hop artists act in their videos and the lyrics of their songs, it really does reinforce stereotypes of masculinity. I think it all depends on how you interpret and take in the videos and lyrics, but they all have an effect on men in some way. When men see the rappers being all tough and muscular and having all the ladies in the video, it makes it seem like all men need to be that way. Men are supposed to get all the girls, and men are supposed to be muscular. If you’re scrawny and haven’t had a girl in your life, they make you out to be a “pussy” or a “wuss”.

Producer, Russell Simons, says that the poetry reflects society. Therefore, society is the issue, not the music. I don’t think I agree with this, because when you look at the way rappers and hip hop artists act in their videos, you don’t see that everyday. I don’t think society is like that at all, and yes maybe some people do have that mentality, but not enough to classify it as society in general.

As much as some people would love to change the way rappers and hip hop artists make their music and their videos, you just cant. The society now has come to enjoy and love the genre of music that they create. Our generation finds it engaging and entertaining. If you wanted to change they way rappers and hip hop artists make their music, you’d have to change how a lot of people make their music. Everything would change, and that’s not money companies are willing to spend.

Rachel said...

As I am not a huge hip hop fan, I had never really examined many aspects of it. After watching this video, I have come to realize just how badly these artists are trying to defend their masculinity.
In almost every hip hop video you see, there are three things: money, cars, and girls. All of these things show power and the control that these artists have over their life.
In the film, we saw many girls being what I believe borders on sexual harassment. Some might argue that the girls were "asking for it" with the why that they are dressing, but is that really any excuse? A girl should be able to wear what she pleases without having men grabbing them. But young men think that this is acceptable because they see these kinds of images in music videos every day.

Russell Simmons said that "the poetry reflects society". I cannot agree with this statement at all. Look back 50 years, you would never have seen these actions occuring in society. As hip hop came around, African American men began forming an image for themselves. The music formed a lifestyle of the artists. Eventually, to fit into the classification of a hip hop artist, your music would have to reflect this "tough guy" lifestyle. Songs about killing and videos with girls being no more than a man's play thing.

It was said on WireTap Magazine that "Beyond Beats and Rhymes can have a huge impact on a wide variety of Americans if we let it." I agree with this statement entirely. If people watched the film with an open mind and saw just how degrading this lifestyle really is, I think there would be room for change. How many women you can get, or how much money you have does not show what kind of person you are. There are much more important things that make a person.
The only downside to this is that hip hop makes too much money to start changing. The image has been created, and once our society has that image in our heads, it will be almost impossible to change. For some reason, we will pay money to hear these explicit lyrics. By supporting hip hop, we reinforce our our "tough" image.

Simi said...

The genre of hip hop reinforces stereotypes of masculinity in today’s society by mostly their attitudes because men think they are tough and powerful and think they can treat or do whatever they would like because they have those qualities. If you listen to rappers music they talk about how they get women and what they call women. Men are portrayed in doing those tough and powerful things and in music videos you see all this. Them shooting people and having all the ladies etc... If men are not tough and powerful then they will be referred to as a “pussy” and men don’t want to be called that so they try being tough and independent. Singers like 50 cent talk about women in their songs like they are trash "Man this hoe you can have her, “when I'm done I ain't gon keep her Man, bitches come and go, every nigga pimpin know" Now these songs and lyrics from songs reinforces stereotypes of masculinity. There are so many other songs out there that have these kinds of lyrics.

I disagree with Russell Simmons comment about “Society is the issue, not the music” because I think music is where people learn this kind of stuff from like how to treat a women, how to talk and how to dress etc... We should be blaming the music not the society. I don’t think you would see a whole bunch of people doing things from music videos but it is possible there may be a few people who maybe do such things but not many.

I don’t think there can be change in this media because people have grown to this kind of music and how people act. Changing it would make a big difference. I don’t think people would accept the change and making rappers change the way they do things will probably mess them up because they have been doing this rapping for probably a long time and they mostly sing about their lives, about how they had nothing and how they have everything now. If it were to change, I think it would affect the music industry. People would just stop listening to music and people do enjoy the rappers music even though it has negative things in it.

caroline said...

Anything can influence people and stereotypes. If a man sees a billboard on the street of some really fit, muscular man then he could feel that's how he's supposed to be. Well that's how hip-hop and rap videos affect men, but on a bigger scale, they're shown that you're supposed to be big and muscular and you're supposed have a lot of cash and you're supposed to have loads and loads of girls surrounding you. Well, that's not realistic, unless you do in fact have that kind of money and hire women to wear skimpy clothing and dance around you.
If poetry does in fact influence society then we'd be seeing women being treated like tramps and men showing off their guns and their money. Well, that's not realistic and that doesn't happen.
Music changes all the time and there's that slight possibility that hip hop will change for the better, but it is doubtful with the progress society is making now. Hip Hop is a big industry and it makes a lot of money, so, there's no reason for it to change, people just have to realize that realistically that's not the way life is.

Mike McNally said...

The genre of hip-hop, in my eyes, reinforces the most stereotypes of masculinity out of any other genre bar none. The tough, womanizing lyrics of its songs, images of drive by’s and massive “orgies” so to speak of its videos, very violent behaviour wherever they go, and in your face attitudes inside, and outside of the studio, are all brought to the table when talking about hip-hop.
To some extent I have to agree with Russell, not much but, there’s some truth to that sentence. Society in the ghetto, where most of these artists are from, might be the society that Russell is talking about. The violence, the toughness, the womanizing, all takes place in these ghettos, but is it really their fault? Can these artists just forget what they had grown up with for so long? But of course, “our” society will think otherwise, due to the lack of violence and womanizing that takes place where we live, so with that being said, yes, he is wrong when it comes to our society, but I personally think he is right when it comes to ghetto society.
Some rappers have already started implementing change in their music. Chamillionaire has kept his album clean, with no swearing, no explicit sexual references, no violence, and N-word free. This album actually avoided the Parental Advisory logo on the album cover, which is literally a first in the hardcore hip-hop scene. Yes I do think there does have to be a change. Okay, its always nice to be able to say what you feel, and what your used to feeling, that’s the greatness of free speech, but other people do not need to hear that, especially the women that are being “vandalized” in these artist’s music. I think more and more rappers will look at artists like Chamillionaire and try to produce change to an ever evolving hip-hop scene.

samburns said...

I feel that the stereotype that society has put on men about their masculinity is mostly because of rap and hip-hop. I feel that hip hop does need to change. The only way this will happen is if the society decides its time for change. I don’t agree with Russell Simmons when he said that the poetry reflects society. I feel that society is part of the issue, but not the only issue. What the music says influences the society and the society influences what the artists sing about. It’s a vicious circle and the only way to break it is if society changes what is wants to hear. If society says, we don’t want to hear about guns, murders, women, drugs, and then the artists might change what they are singing about. Until then, as long as society accepts this type of music and supports it, than that’s what the artists will sing about.

The one scene in “Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes” really got me thinking, just how much does hip-hop and rap influence our society. This part was where Byron Hurt went to the BET summer festival in Florida and the men were treating the women with no respect. They were treating them exactly the same way that they are treated in most hip hop videos. Although people like to argue that the girls at the festival were asking for it because they were wearing bikinis or a little less clothing, that shouldn’t be a problem. Anyone should be able to wear anything without fearing that they will be touched inappropriately or harassed at all. The sad part about this part in the film was that there were police officers all around that weren’t doing anything about this harassment because almost every man there was doing it and if they were to arrest one, they would have to arrest all and it would become a riot.

New and upcoming hip-hop artists can only sing about money, woman, cars, guns, and murders because it is what is popular. If they sing about anything other than that than the record label won’t hire them. Most labels, like we saw in the movie, are generally owned by white men who will do whatever it takes for their label to get money in their wallet.

Cassidy.. said...
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Cassidy.. said...

Before watching this video, I did think that hip hop affects its listeners; we can see this in our everyday life. In our generation you look around see a lot of “gangsters” or what ever they believe they are, but even as little as 6 years ago, OP was dominated with mostly skaters and punks. Although, I have thought about our music before I never realized how bad it actually was until watching this documentary. I definitely do listen to hip hop, but I am not a die hard fan. I find that most hip hop songs are all beginning to sound the same.

Hip hop definitely reinforces stereotypes of masculinity in today’s society, considering the lyrics are always talking about girls, money, guns, or “beef”. By talking about these things it shows that guys have to be tough, stand there own ground, be in control, etc. Music videos always have girls shaking there bottoms, along with lots of money and usually there muscles bulging out to show how ‘tough’ they are.
Russell Simmons stated that poetry reflects society, which I think is partially true; yes it is a problem as our society is so accepting to this music, but it is just as much a problem that our artists produce all of this for the society to see. It’s kind of like they are trying to mold our society. Our society as a whole definitely doesn’t look anything like music videos. There aren’t guys walking down the street surrounded by girls wearing next to nothing.
Personally, I definitely believe that change is needed as hip hop today is getting ridiculous. All songs talk about the same things over and over again and all artists need is a solid, catchy verse with a good beat and there set. If all artists rapped the way Tupac use too, hip hop wouldn’t be the same. Tupac actually rapped about things against the masculine stereotypes. For example, in his one song “Keep Ya Head Up” he sings

“You know it makes me unhappy (what's that)
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but keep your head up”

Tupac’s songs actually have meaning and messages. They are not just showing off money, or showing women as sex objects, or ‘rollin’ in rich cars.
Rappers need to take a stand individually step by step in changing their music. Even if they don’t change their lyrics; they just don’t write music contaminated with swear words, it would still be a small step in change. Why do rappers feel the need to talk about their “gats” and “hoes” anyway? If they really are talented, they should be able to sing about other things and still be popular. Personally, I love Tupac, and he will always be high in my books and I respect him greatly for his music.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to notice the difference in young men in society since the Hip Hop craze began. With the continuous drilling of stereotypical messages in popular culture, there is no doubt the ones who are most likely to suck it all in will eventually start believing it. Meaning, the harder the message is sent, the greater the chance of followers. For example, the reinforcement of masculinity in today's society. From carefully worded music lyrics, to graphic movies and CD covers, we see the increase men trying to prove he is a "real" man. When popular artists and well known celebrity figures show their support in this strive for masculinity, their fans being to follow in their footsteps. From the beginning of time it was the man's job to be the tough guy who brings home all the bacon. However, now it is politically accepted for a woman to be the working parent, while the male stays home. This could be the reason as to why men feel like they need to prove themselves. Possibly, they feel like their jobs are now being taken over by women, so the only other option is to be tougher, and manlier than their competitor. And as we see in many hip hop music videos, this is the exact role all males play -- tough, big muscles, lots of money, and women are only their "play things."

Although I feel like the hip hop artists do contribute to the problem of unnecessary acts of masculinity, they are not the core and reason for it. The male race has always been known as very insecure and constantly trying to prove something that was never needed to be proven. The hip-hop genre does promote the act, but did not create it. If men were to realize how naive and juvenile they look creating a personality such as the "tough guy," the hip hop genre we know today would be no longer be around. Of course, the style does not need to change, just the message. Although hip hop did not initially create this need for muscles and money, it amplifies its meaning to a ridiculous point.

There is no doubt in my mind this problem can be changed. Not over night mind you, but is possible. Just like the women’s movement, and the civil rights act, anything can be changed with a little patience. And to make this change, not much needs to be done. All we have to do is reshape the minds of every man on the planet...but that could difficult. Instead, I propose small changes, on a smaller scale. For example, make more room for rap artists like Shawn Kingston or Chamillionaire, who denounce womanizing and violent language in their lyrics. Even simply raising your young boy without using the phrase "be a man." For, he does not need to be strong, built, and fearless to be a man. This action needs to be done because is it clinically proven that one is likely to do whatever they are told in a group, or pressured situation. For example, a study done by psychologist Stanley Milgram done in 1963 shows that 63% of all his experimented persons would kill another if told too. This shows that there is a clinical reason as to why young men today are so obsessed with their image. If the message was not seen as fluently maybe the obsession wouldn't be as great.

alyssa said...

You never really think how anything influences yourself and others, but I realized that music really influences people a lot by watching this documentary. Young rappers who are trying to make it in the business think that being rude, and raping about how they are going to kill someone, and how the are going to rape their women, is the only way that they will be able to make it. Its sad because it is true, but it should not be like that, because when you see the rap videos, it is just degrading women, which we think that it never goes on, but it does. When the young kids watch those videos they may grow up as not knowing anything else but degrading people or women. Though it may influence each man differently, it will still influence them in one way or another. Rappers always rap about homosexuals and how it is wrong, and how that if you are a homosexual you are a “pussy” or a fag” You may notice that the men in society try to be better then the other man, but it is the total opposite for women, they are trying to be the same as other women to fit in.

What Russell Simons said about how poetry reflects society so really it is the society that is the issue and not the music. I do not agree with that one bit, because not every male degrades women like how it is portrayed in the music videos. People who listened to hip-hop or rap over 50 years ago were called a certain name though I cannot think of it off the top of my head. So if music has changed since then it obviously can change back, some of the hip-hop artists are already starting to change like for example Chamillionaire, his new album was able to hit stores without the parental advisory label on it. I think that if more people step up and show the other people what this music is doing to our society, I think it can start to change other artists, and then the album record companies may refuse to put their name on an album that has to have a parental advisory label on it.

Steve... said...
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Steve... said...

Like Michelle, I too never thought about what sterotypes rap music influences except for the "black gangster" sterotype. Now when i look at the lyrics and realize that most of them are about money, sex and violence, I can see how they do influence a masculine sterotype. Today, men are supposed to be strong, tough, or rich and if you're not one of these things then you can't be a real man...or atleast that is what these songs tell us.

The videos have to be the worst part. Always portraying the rappers with money and women. I mean, sure, money and women are pretty awesome but if you're rapping so that you can wipe 100 bills all over skimpy dressed dancers, you're rapping for the wrong reasons. When rap first started it was'nt about degrading women, it was about getting your message out.

What message are rappers sending out today? Are they saying that money and women and cars are evrything? Personally I dont listen to a lot of rap music and the fact that the videos are this degrading and the lyrics are this pointless doesn't make me want to turn on some 50Cent.

The point I'm trying to make is that rap shouldn't be about masculinity or who has the most women or what gang has won the most fights or who shot the most people. It should be about real issues because that's what is was about when it first started and thats why people started listening to hip-hop.

Marko Jovicic said...

Hip Hop as we know it, is strongly masculin, atleast many think so. Money, strength, girls, guns, yes very masculin, but how many of us actually have that to begin with? Lots of you may agree with me that there's more to masculinity than hip hop. We just don't manage to see it. We tend to stick with what the "crowd" chooses. It's like in our generation people don't set goals for themselves, but follow goals of others such as gettin' outa jail, makin' some dough, and gettin' them honeys. What ever that means... I'd rather not follow goals that could get me shot. Or in some "beef" with other people. What's with people and thinking that's ok? If I were to get shot or something, and I lost an eye, would that make me masculin? I'd rather be called names by someone who I believe, just like in hip hop, and its stereotypical roots has no education, than losing my life. 50 Cent says he got shot, people may believe him. I mean, what "gangster" would go home and do some research on that? I do enjoy hip hop, but it'd never make me go out and do such things to put my life in danger like 50 Cent says happened to him.