Music, Sexuality and the Double Standard

Amidst the Lil’ Kim and Nicki Minaj beef,  I thought about how so often I hear from bloggers, celebrities, and radio personalities that Lil’ Kim should throw in the towel, that its Nicki’s time to “shine.”  While Nicki may be the “it girl” of the moment, we should not forget the contribution Lil Kim made to the world of hip-hop, as well as female sexuality.

Yes, female sexuality!!!

Before Kim, the message of female sexuality in hip-hop was always conveyed through the perspective of a man. For example, see:

2 Live Crew's 1989 album, "As Nasty As They Wanna Be"

Too Short's 1992 album, "Shorty The Pimp"

In general, sexuality has always been a taboo topic for discussion amongst black women. Let’s rewind back a few of years, shall we?

For women, particularly white, the 19th Century was all about true womanhood; maintaining piety, modesty, submissiveness, purity and all that other sense and sensibility mumbojumbo. A woman’s power was her virtue, her purity.  Since black women were slaves, and were considered “sub-human,” the ideals of womanhood excluded them. Thus, they spent the next hundred years trying to gain the image of  what was deemed as “womanhood” by going hard to prove their piety and virtuousness.

Fast forward a few hundred years and you hear:


The only way you seein’ me is if you eatin’ me
Downtown taste my love like Horace Brown
Tryin’ to impress me with your five G stones
I give you ten G’s nigga if you leave me alone, screamin’

-“Not Tonight,” Lil’ Kim

Kimberly Jones, a.k.a., Lil’ Kim burst onto the rap scene and redefined not only the image of female emcees, but also redefined female sexuality amongst black women.  While there were some rap tracks by female artists long before Lil Kim that were suggestive, like Salt-N-Pepa’s, “Push It,” and Adina Howard’s “Freak Like Me,” Kim’s debut album title defined her lyrics overall: Hardcore.

The sound: blunt, direct and explicit. The look: sexy, sultry and confident. The female emcees before her downplayed their femininity, while she embraced hers. She would mark the beginning of a new female voice- the voice of the sexually liberated, confident, brash and brazen female emcee.

However, her presence wasn’t welcomed by all women. She was labeled everything from a “hoe, slut, etc., etc.,”  by some women, and surprisingly, some men. Which frustrated me. Sure, her lyrics were raunchy, but what about Biggie’s? Or Tupac’s?  Why is it that when male artists release songs that are sexually explicit, we shrug it off as just another hip hop song, but when a female emcee does the same thing, she’s met with contempt?

While there are some who may disagree, and will argue that Kim perpetuated the stereotype of the hypersexualized black female, I say Kim used her sexuality as a form of empowerment. Her lyrics showcased a woman who used her sexuality as a way to control and dominate in an unapologetic way.

Case in point: “I don’t want d*ck tonight, eat my p***y right!”

So before we write Kim off as a “has-been,” we must give credit when credit is due. From Lil Kim came similar emcees like Foxy Brown, Trina, Khia, and whether or not you want to admit it, you too Onika. These artists embraced their sexuality and femininity in their lyrics without having to bare the brunt that Lil’ Kim had to endure. Hopefully this has gotten someone to think about the double-standards in hip-hop in terms of sexuality.


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