No Trivia

Spin: “Rap, Rape, and R&B, The Battle of the Sexes.”


I’m sure quite a few of you are sick and tired of reading about this stuff, but I thought a good way to conclude a lot of the things I’ve been trying to parse out here is to partially hand it over to somebody else. So, here’s the first part of a two-part discussion/debate/argument between myself and Latoya Peterson of Racialicious.

To get a distinctly different take on all the talk in this space during the past few weeks about misogyny and sexual violence in rap and R&B, we’ve invited Latoya Peterson, owner and editor of the website Racialicious, “the intersection of race and pop culture,” to join the discussion. Latoya is, well, way better at navigating these issues than I am, and right at the beginning of our exchange, she pointed out two glaring errors on my part: First, when I referred to “R&B” in my previous writing, I actually meant male R&B, and when I discussed misogyny, I never directly addressed the very charged concept of masculinity, a crucial oversight.

Over the course of several days, the two of us e-mailed back and forth, examining my assertion that there’s been a notable shift in the treatment of male-female sexual relationships in the songs of rap (for the better) and R&B (for the worse). Latoya was doubtful, but we soldiered on, and the results of our conversation will appear here over two columns – Round One and Round Two. Unsurprisingly, Kanye West has something or other to do with all of it…

Written by Brandon

May 4th, 2011 at 3:45 am

Posted in Spin, Spin column

4 Responses to 'Spin: “Rap, Rape, and R&B, The Battle of the Sexes.”'

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  1. Killer conversation.

    I think my take on a lot of this is that the core issue is both genres getting more comfortable getting out of their comfort zones and fans letting them do so. Not every rapper has to be tough and not all male R&B talent has to pander to women. The result of that is that you have creeping guys singing sweetly and some rappers spilling their guts. But to say rap might be “more mature” may be an overstatement. Jamie Foxx made Blame It but was also singing Fall for Your Type. And for every artist like the Weeknd you can find three like Foreign Exchange (well maybe not THAT mature). Trey Songz is still crooning about love very often. And to put it more flatly it might just be about hits. Alcohol and sex filled party songs just seem to do better in the charts and perhaps that’s why big named R&B males are going for those. As for rap, even the more tame guys like J. Cole still rap about fucking bitches. Hell emo-rapper Childish Gambino is still talking about how many girls he’s fucked on tour. So while each genre may step outside their comfort zones, what I see as a few cases and maybe even a slight trend doesn’t make R&B suddenly less mature overall.

    Then there is the topic of which is worse, overt rape references and objectification of women or the more subtle Weeknd type rape matter. I’d have to agree with you that the subtle, much closer to reality “have a few more shots babe” type songs are far worse. Listening to Tyler the Creator go on about raping pregnant women is so far removed from people’s reality that it has to viewed as pure fiction and entertainment. But guys and girls often enter situations where rape is in the air but not completely tangible. That’s why The Weeknd songs are so damn… creepy. They’re believable. The problem is irresponsibility and maturity aren’t one in the same. Ranting about big booty hos is immature but no more irresponsible than an action movie. The subtle drug seduction rape is more grown up if only because of its closeness to reality.


    5 May 11 at 2:09 am

  2. But irresponsible like fox news.


    5 May 11 at 2:20 am

  3. Akin-
    Thanks for the comments, man. I kinda ask everyone on earth this question: What do you think The Weeknd is doing? Like are they these deconstructionists? These creeps? What?

    I think you could maybe even file Childish Gambino along with Weeknd into this kind of post-moral urban music, you know?

    Glad you’re kinda feeling me on the date rape & b discussion though. Maybe I wasn’t clear but your final comment in your first comment confuses me: I’m definitely not saying date rape & b is more mature.


    5 May 11 at 5:16 am

  4. sorry i wrote that pretty quickly without proof reading. I meant rap in that final comment of my first.

    As for the Weeknd, I think it sounds cliche, but it just sounds like applying a musical style to a glamorization/dramatization of a lifestyle. Maybe not a lifestyle that he (they?) live, but one they occasionally live around and observe. I think Latoya had it pretty dead on when she compared them to Dov Charney. If that guy was a 20 something year character in a movie, this shit would be the soundtrack that he crept to.

    Another trite comment but genres evolve. Dudes who go to these crazy ass drug filled parties and grew up listening to R&B and who can sing and who hang out with weirdo producers just might end up making music like that we hear on House of Balloons.


    5 May 11 at 2:07 pm

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