On Miley Cyrus, Hip-Hop, and the Objectification of Black Women

This piece is not to demonize girls like Miley Cyrus. I respect her art, but I cannot respect what she has represented.

***This article was inspired by a thought-provoking conversation between my boyfriend and I.

 Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus, and Juicy J;  Rolling Out  magazine

Wiz Khalifa, Miley Cyrus, and Juicy J; Rolling Out magazine

 

Last week, in a recent interview with Billboard magazine, Miley Cyrus explained how she would return to her musical roots. But she also indirectly admitted to appropriating hip-hop while promoting her “new” sound. When asked if Melanie Safka influenced her new music, Cyrus responded with the following:

“She did, and I grew up with her. But I also love that new Kendrick [Lamar] song [‘Humble’]: ‘Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks.’ I love that because it’s not ‘Come sit on my dick, suck on my cock.’ I can’t listen to that anymore. That’s what pushed me out of the hip-hop scene a little. It was too much ‘Lamborghini, got my Rolex, got a girl on my cock’ -- I am so not that.”

Her words circled my mind around three conclusions. The first one was obviously how Miley Cyrus profited off hip-hop in order to make a hit record. Whether she wants to admit it or not, Cyrus used hip-hop only when it was convenient for her. Her words in the interview cemented the idea that her grandiose display of twerking, trying-to-hard-to-be-blackness and association with prominent hip-hop artists was just a phase of typical, non-intersectional white feminism. I can go on and on about how Cyrus reflects the trend of whiteness admiring black culture by appropriating it and explain the historical significance, but I will not shower her with that much attention. She simply isn’t worth it. There are many blogs, facebook posts, and twitter threads that have been written within the past 48 hours that accurately explain how Miley Cyrus is a representation of peak white womanhood. But this blog is not one of them. Instead I will focus more on my next two points---hip-hop and the objectification of black women.

The next conclusion that came to mind was how much black men validated Cyrus’ phase. Popular rappers and producers like Future, Juicy J, Mike WiLL Made It, and others clearly didn’t think that Cyrus’ appropriation was enough for them to stop working for her, which is very problematic. Their gracious welcome to the singer illustrates how black men are complicit in this cultural appropriation in terms of white women. Black men’s instant acceptance of white girls who wear hip-hop and black culture as a costume only perpetuate the occurrence. The sad thing is that those white women are equally aware of this. They know that if they get those butt injections, wear their hair in a style that is typically seen on black women, and display the littlest glimpse of them being “down for the culture”, they will automatically be welcomed with open arms by black men who will perceive them as alternatives to black women.

The saddest and most unfortunate aspect of this situation is that black women will call out the white woman before calling out the black men who accept them. I have been a victim of this. I would automatically be disgusted with the white woman who appropriated our culture. Instead of being mad about the existence of Kylie Jenner’s popularity based off of black culture and black women’s style, I should have been just as upset with Tyga and other black men who acknowledged her and chose her over black women. White girls like Kylie Jenner and Miley Cyrus would not have gained as much hype within the black community if black men would have shown even a little bit of adamance in not normalizing them. But that just reflects black women’s unrequited loyalty to black men.

The fact that black hip-hop artists are offenders of this speaks volumes. It only adds to the narrative hip-hop failing black women and the larger trend of black men not protecting black women, which brings me to my next point. Regardless of how hypocritical Miley Cyrus’ statement was, which it was very hypocritical, she did have one point------hip-hop is very misogynistic. Furthermore, hip-hop has especially been that way in terms of black women. For instance, I think the Notorious B.I.G. is among the top three rappers of all-time. But I cannot gloss over his highly misogynistic lyrics. In “Me and My Bitch” from the iconic Ready to Die album, Biggie raps a love song to the one he loves by emphasizing the point that she will always be there to protect him: “Love me when I’m broke or when I’m filthy fuckin’ rich and I admit, when the time is right, the wine is right, I’ll treat you right, talk slick, I beat you right”. Biggie loves the girl because of her devotion to him regardless of anything that he does, even beating her, basically treating her as his bitch ( thus, the song title). Another example of Biggie’s misogynistic lyrics are found in the songs “Fucking You Tonight”, which features R. Kelly on the chorus. Now, R.Kelly’s popularity in R&B is problematic in itself, and it will be discussed in another post for another day. But, the song basically talks about the guy spending his money and on the finer things in life so much that she has owes him sex.

Lyrics such as those have been used throughout hip-hop for years, and the perception of black women as sexual objects has unfortunately played a huge role in hip-hop culture to the point where it is ubiquitous in almost every song. I only used Biggie as an example because he is hip-hop royalty, and his lyrical and stylistic prominence should not erase his misogyny.

In order for hip-hop to escape this perilous theme, there needs to be a black woman’s perspective. “But there’s Nicki Minaj”, you say. Yes, Nicki is significant in her own right and has done a lot for women in hip-hop in terms of building their own empire, but she certainly is not woke enough to handle the issue. I’m not saying that she needs to be; everyone isn’t called to be woke. And as political as Kendrick Lamar is, he can’t even be the one to offer the female narrative, which was shown by the controversy in the same lyrics that Miley Cyrus referenced. But in order to tackle hip-hop’s degradation of black women, we need a woke female hip-hop artist. This is why LAURYN HILL WAS SO ICONIC! This is also why I’m mad at her for not making any more music. We need another Lauryn Hill to offer the female perspective in hip-hop because this certainly needs to stop. With The Miseducation of Lauryn Hill, Lauryn Hill is illustrated a black woman’s identity through the lens of love.

We don’t get enough of that in hip-hop. Instead, a black woman’s identity has been demoted to an object that is subservient to black men. It all illustrates the general idea of black men simply not protecting/defending black women enough.