I'd like to start by saying that I grew up listening to hip hop music. I was a competitive dancer from eight years old up until my teen years, so I love anything with a good beat. I also had a terrible rebellious spirit, and even against my dad's (super Christian) advice and better judgment, I always found a way to slip the explicit tracks of everything onto my iPod Nano back in the day.
As a teenager, hip hop was my genre of choice. However, as time progressed, and that "old age" (mid-twenties) wisdom started to set in, I began to actually listen to those classic lyrics I'd been "rapping" along to for so many years. And that's when I finally started to see the error in my teenage ignorance.
I guess the real problem started when I began working with a nonprofit organization in the Houston area that provided both healing and recovery for sex trafficking survivors. Working in such an unusual field completely changed the way I view women, and more importantly the women most often referred to as "prostitutes". I don't like to use that terminology anymore. Now, I unapologetically refer to them as women. Not hoes, not bitches, not hookers, and not prostitutes. They are women. And they deserve to be treated with the same respect you would give your mother, your sister or your wife.
After almost a year, I have seen and heard it all at this point. I've heard stories about physical or sexual abuse history that started within families in children as young as one and two years old. I've talked to women who were forced into "the life" as teenagers because they were pushed out of their homes, and felt like they didn't have any other options. I've learned about women who were forced by their significant others to partake in prostitution, as well. No story surprises me at this point, but that doesn't mean that my heart does not break into a million pieces every time I hear one of these stories. Because for them, it is not just a story, it's their reality. It is the only truth and the only life that they know up until this point.
So over the course of the last year (since first starting that job), simple tasks like turning on the radio have taken an emotional turn for me. I am absolutely astounded at this thing called "pimp culture" and how it has quite literally taken over the hip hop music industry over the course of the last few decades. EVERY young person out there is either listening to hip hop music or has a friend or family member who listens to it. And I'm not just talking about young boys, I'm referring to the young girls, too.
The young men of this world (as young as 8 or 9 onward) are learning what a "hoe" is before they even start middle school. And these young girls, of the same age are learning all about "pimps". Not only that, these young, naive, and under-developed girls are observing just how quickly the world will turn on them and call them a "bitch". If you do not see the problem yet, let me expound on this with seven detailed examples and explanations of hip hop music and how much it is exploiting our sex trafficked sisters. I'll keep them in chronological order, so you can get an idea of the impact this has had on society over time. We will begin in the year 1992 with Dr. Dre.
1. 1992 - "Bitches Ain't Shit" by Dr. Dre
"And turning them trick ass hoes the fuck out now"
Explanation: In "the game" (another word for the commercial sex industry), when you "turn a girl out", you are turning her out as a prostitute, and turning her into the perfect "hoe".
*Please see urban dictionary's "turning tricks" top definition for further clarification.*
2. 2001 - "Always On Time" by Ja Rule ft. Ashanti
"I got two or three hoes for every v
and I keep them drugged up off that ecstasy"
Explanation: Women have been fighting the "date rape culture" for years, so you can imagine what a surprise it was to finally listen to these lyrics loud and clear. It makes me sick to my stomach to know that I've been singing along to this catchy tune for so many years. Not to mention, yes, many prostitutes are in fact drugged by their pimps, so that they can avoid taking breaks for food, sleep, etc. and so that they will continue "working" 24 hours a day, sometimes for multiple days at a time.
3. 2003 - "P.I.M.P" by 50 Cent ft. Snoop Dogg
"Bitch, hit that track, catch a date, and come and pay the kid
Look baby this is simple, you can't see
You fucking with me, you fucking with a P.I.M.P."
"Bitch, choose me, I'll have you stripping in the street
Put my other hoes down, you get your ass beat
Now Nikki, my bottom bitch, she always comes up with my bread"
Explanation: Where do I even begin? The "track" is often a reference for a street, block, or multiple blocks of a street where prostitution is extremely prevalent. And if you live anywhere near a major city, there is probably a "track" within 1 hour from your house. Surprise, welcome to reality.
A "date" is really just a buyer who is paying for sex, and the "date" could also be the time they spend together before, during, and after the "transaction" (ie. sex). Some pimps will limit their girls' "dates" to 30 minutes or an hour (if they're really pushing them to make a certain amount of money that night).
And a "bottom bitch" is a pimp's main girl, the one who makes the most money, and in some cases does recruiting and might even be treated slightly better than his other girls. So in case you're confused, no, this song is not some "cute, catchy, let me spell out a random word in the chorus" type of song; it is ACTUALLY ABOUT A PIMP, the sick lifestyle that he lives and the women that he explicitly exploits over and over again.
4. 2003 - "Big Pimpin'" by Jay-Z
"Now get yo' ass to the back as I'm flying to the track..
That's the track that we breaking these hoes on"
Explanation: He is literally talking about taking his "hoes" (another word for prostitutes) to the track.. He could not be more clear if he tried. Oh and fun fact, people now praise this man and his wife. They call them royalty, and most Americans would gladly attest to the fact that his wife is a "powerful symbol for feminism". Which is ironic, since her husband has been rapping about the illegal sexual exploitation of women for over a decade.
5. 2005 - "Hard Out Here For A Pimp" by Three 6 Mafia
"Wait I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they'll both do you
That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin'
Gotta keep my hustle tight, making change off these women"
Explanation: Let me start by reminding you that this song actually WON AN OSCAR in 2006 for Best Original Song. It was originally written and performed by Three 6 Mafia, but Terrence Howard and Taraji P. Henson performed it in the film, Hustle & Flow. This song was thoroughly celebrated by a rather large audience at the 2006 Academy Awards. Just let that sink in.
Do you think that those same people cheering would be so careless and crude if their sister, daughter, or friend were sexually exploited like these lyrics suggest? Sure, they might think that it's just a song, or it's just a beat. But is it really "just a song" when there are 12 year old girls forced into prostitution everyday in this country? Shouldn't we be fighting this as a nation? But instead we openly glorify it at fancy award shows. The hypocrisy is so real.
6. 2006 - "Pimp Slap Dat Hoe" by Soulja Boy
"I told you trick, better have my money off 'da rip
Reach back like a pimp, slap dat trick in her lip"
Explanation: If you look up the lyrics to the full song, in the beginning, it tells the story of a man who is aggravated, because his girl isn't treating him right. The other guy proceeds to tell him that he should "pimp slap dat hoe" so that he can "get his respect". Not only does this promote domestic violence, as if that wasn't bad enough. It brings the commercial sex industry into the equation, by including the words "hoe" and "pimp" in the title, and continually throughout the song. Is this what you want your young boys and girls listening to? Think about the impact songs like this can have on society as a whole.
7. 2016 - "For Free" - DJ Khaled ft. Drake
"I always wonder if you ask yourself
Is it just me, is it just me
Or is this sex so good that I shouldn't have to fuck for free?"
Explanation: Now with this song, you kind of have to read between the lines to see the connection. But from my perspective, Drake is saying that this girl is so good, that she should start "charging" when she has sex, ie. prostitution. And surprise, surprise, young women (yes even underage girls) all over the country are singing along, saying that they "shouldn't have to fuck for free". Please tell me that you see a problem with this. Sure, this song might not be promoting sex trafficking directly, but it's certainly glorifying prostitution. And in my experience with trafficking victims, the two go hand in hand more often than not. This song was on the radio EVERYWHERE in 2016, we are all singing along, and no one has bothered to look at the bigger picture of what this sound actually stands for. Is it just me, is it just me, or is this world we live in complete and utter garbage?
No, I do not hate hip hop music. I think there are definitely some incredible songs out there that inspire, challenge, and motivate the public in a really positive way. But my question is, why are there so many like this? There is a real problem here, yet nobody seems to care. And in all honesty, I only mentioned a select few of the songs that reference sexual exploitation. There are SO many songs that reference prostitution and the commercial sex industry (in the title alone), including but not limited to "Gangstas and Pimps" by Lil' Wayne (2002), "Pimp Juice" by Nelly (2002), "Like A Pimp" by David Banner (2003), "Pimpin' All Over The World" by Ludacris (2004), and "Pimp Mode" by Chamillionaire ft. Bun B (2007).
I love you Hip Hop, but why do you hate women so much? And why are you making sexual exploitation a trend for young boys and girls to follow? Middle-aged Americans and millennials alike are continually questioning why and how this generation got so messed up. Let's look at the progression of hip hop music from the time millennials were born, up until right now in the year 2016. It really isn't that much of a mystery anymore. We are all simply products of our environment, victims of our own generation. We can do better than this, America. We can fix this.
I would like to close with the lyrics from one of my favorite songs to this day, even after so many years, this song is called "Keep Ya Head Up" by Tupac (1993). Hip hop music is not the problem. You can speak rhymes and produce a good beat without having to verbally beat up women. Tupac is proof of that.
"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 woman
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"