Damon Young of Very Smart Brothas has done a piece for Complex magazine’s website on the art of the male response song, particularly the many (and I do mean many) responses to Nicki Minaj’s “Lookin’ Ass Ni**a,” and how it all exudes extreme “butthurtness” as he calls it. Damon Young also writes that all the responses are redundant and comical, considering how those in hip-hop address women in their music.
Of course, the comment section is full of folks who weren’t trying to hear that “respect women” bull crap. As one commenter noted:
“I’m also very suspicious of men like you who (rightly) point out instances of misogyny in rap, while at the same time, try to excuse, or turn a blind eye to the slew of misandric/ female supremacist material filling the catalogues of artists like Beyonce & Taylor Swift.”
I have heard this reasoning before: Female singers and rappers have as many man-hating songs as rappers have their woman-hating hits. But is it true? A casual listen to the radio would say, hell no! But in the name of pseudo-science, I decided to find out if songs performed by women in music were equally “misandrist.” The answers will surprise you – but likely not.
For this research, I decided to focus on the two “urban” radio stations here in Philadelphia. WUSL, better known to listeners as “POWER 99FM,” is owned by Clear Channel Communications. As evident by its signature, “Bangin’ Hip Hop and R&B,” Power 99 caters to those who listen to hip-hop as well as those who listen to R&B music. And according to the station’s marketing material, its audience is 54 percent women and 44 percent men. Therefore, if I were to find misandrist music anywhere, it would likely be on a station, which appeals largely to women.
The other station is WPHI, which is known locally as Hot 107.9 FM. Like POWER 99FM, WPHI is known as an urban station. Although demographics on the station were hard to come by in the short amount of time I allotted for this study, judging by the similar musical format, I assumed that its audience is also reflective of that of 99FM – with slight variations.
Since radio today tends to be repetitious (which might have something to do with the fact that only six companies control 90 percent of mainstream media), I limited my research time to two hours. To be specific, I listened to 99FM on Saturday from 4 to 6 p.m. The playlist was as followed: YG, “My Hitta (My N-Word) Remix”; “NaNa” by Trey Songz; Drake feat. 2 Chainz and Big Sean, “All Me”; Young Thug, “Stoner”; Kid Ink feat. Chris Brown, “Show Me”; T-Pain feat. BoB, “Up Down”; Rick Ross feat. Jay Z, “The Devil is a Lie”; Rich Homie Quan, “Type of Way”; Miguel, “Adorn”; “All of Me” by John Legend; “Que” by OG Bobby Johnson; ScHoolboy Q, “Man of the Year”; Rico Love feat. Trey Songz, TI and Tiara Thomas, “They Don’t Know”; Beyoncé, feat. Jay Z, “Drunk in Love”; Mack Wilds, “Henny”; and finally, Sage the Gemini, “Gas Pedal.”
What struck me the most was in spite of 99FM’s listening audience being slightly more female, its playlist for those two hours was heavily dependent on male-performed content. Because of that, I decided to tune in again on Sunday, from 11 to 1 p.m. The only other differences were old school songs Like DJ Khaled’s “All I Do is Win” as well as the following: Mack Wilds, “Own It”; Beyoncé feat. Jay Z, “Part II (On the Run)”; Wale feat. NickiMinaj, “Clappers”; Chris Brown, “Loyal”; and French Montana, “Ain’t Worried About Nothin’.”
On 107.9FM, which I tuned in to from 9 to 11 a.m. on Sunday, there was more of a gender balance in the playlist, but only slightly: Rico Love, “They Don’t Know”; Beyoncé, “Yoncé/Partition”; Janelle Monae, “Primetime”; Tamar Braxton, “All the Way Home”; Aaliyah, “Try Again” (throwback classic); Beyoncé feat. Jay Z, “Part II (On The Run)”; “Happy” by Pharrell; Ariana Grande feat. Mac Miller, “The Way”; Kid Ink feat. Chris Brown, “Show Me”; Beyoncé feat. Jay Z, “Drunk in Love”; Sevyn Streeter feat. Chris Brown, “It Won’t Stop”; Rick Ross, “Sanctified”; August Alsina feat. Chris Brown and Trey Songz, “I Luv This S**t”; John Legend, “All of Me”; Bruno Mars, “When I was Your Man”; Jay Z feat. Rick Ross, “F**kWithMeYouKnowIGotIt”; Jhene Aiko, “The Worst.”
In total, I heard 32 unique songs in a span of six radio hours. Despite the gender imbalance of both playlists, quick research showed that the playlists were more aligned with the national top 20 lists for popular urban music. Therefore, this was as good as it was going to get. In terms of misogyny, here are some of my observations as followed:
- Nineteen out of the 23 unique male-performed songs referred to women as either b**ches or hos or a combination of both.
- At least 10 of the male-performed songs had direct themes revolving around using money as economic power over women, particularly using it to lure a woman home or entice them to shake body parts. “Gas Pedal” gives you that much in the title without even having to cite a single lyric. Equally as direct was T-Pain, who reminds us that “she don’t even like girls but a stack will make her kiss her.” However, Trey Songz was a little more smooth in how he financially finessed himself closer to the “NaNa.”
- At least half of the male-performed songs were keen on establishing boundaries for women, and usually of lesser importance, even when the song itself had little to do with male-female relationships. For example, Chris Brown tells us directly about how he “done did everything but trust these hos” in “Loyal.” However, Young Thug, who focuses most of his lyrics in “Stoner” on his drug use, takes a bar or two to make clear that you can “can suck my banana, but I won’t eat your pudding.”
- At least 12 of the male-centered songs contained lyrics, which treated women as possessions, in particular, collectible items. For example, in “Devil Is A Lie”, Rick Ross brags about “switching old b**ches for new b**ches” and more. Whereas ScHoolboy Q couldn’t see women outside of disembodied body parts (“Titty, a**, hands in the air, it’s a party over here”) in “Man of the Year.”
- While not necessarily misogynistic, at least 10 of the male-centered songs had lyrics, which focused on non-committal relationships with the opposite sex. In “They Don’t Know,” Rico Love tells us about the very special yet secret relationship he has with a side jawn, who he is willing to wine and dine, just as long as she keeps her mouth shut.
- Only five of the male performed songs featured lyrics that were non-authoritative, combative and expressed healthier sentiment with the opposite sex. The majority of those songs were R&B, including Miguel’s “Adorn” and John Legend’s “All of Me” – or duets performed with a female performer. Even when the topic was about heartbreak, male-centered R&B songs were more likely to engage in self-reflection compared to their rap counterparts. The unique exceptions to that included R&B singer Chris Brown, who blames the cheating girls he willingly has relationships with in “Loyal” for his trust issues and rapper Big Sean, who seems willing to own up (slightly) to his paranoia in “All Me” with the following lines: “Like I got trust issues, I’m sorry for the people I’ve pushed out. I’m the type to have a bullet-proof condom and still gotta pull out. But that’s just me, and I ain’t perfect, I ain’t a saint but I am worth it…”
So the misogyny is well-documented, but what about the misandry? Well, according to my observations:
- Out of the nine female-performed songs on the radio, I found two examples, which could possibly be interpretative of misandry: the first is in Jhene Aiko’s “The Worst,” when she says of her deceiving significant other, “Please don’t take this personal, but you ain’t sh**t…” The second is Nicki Minaj’s verse on “Clappers” when she says,“Where your money? Let a b***h evaluate. If you ’bout big money, elaborate.” However, Minaj’s lyrics on “Clappers” seemed to be aligned with misogyny more than man-hating in that particular song.
- The vast majority (eight in total) of female-performed songs involved themes of love: how to get it and how to keep it. In “Drunk in Love,” Beyoncé told us sordid tales of all-night sex and drinking babies (as she also did in “Yoncé/Partition”). Tamar Braxton is so in love in her song she thinks about her man on her drive all the way home. Ariana Grande’s track was about being in love, as was Sevyn Streeter’s.
- All of the female-performed songs were more likely to focus on keeping and maintaining relationships with the opposite sex as opposed to their male-performing counterparts, whose songs were on varied topics (note: I included Janelle Monae in that number because “Primetime” was a duet with Miguel).
Again, this is not to sit in judgment of the artists and their individual songs, but rather, to smack down the silly notion that female-performed contemporary music is filled with just as much misandry as hip hop is filled with misogynistic lyrics. The most interesting side note to this experiment is that if you take the female-performed songs and put them between the male-centered songs, you get an interesting mix of mostly men saying, don’t trust these girls – unless you can pay them to dance and have sex with them – while female performers are begging these guys, who don’t seem to care about them at all, to stay. I guess it is true what Beyoncé says, “who wants that perfect love anyway – cliché, cliché…”