The head of the game
By Matthew Fraser, Opinions Editor
The song begins with a man masturbating to Lil’ Kim. The same song might officially be the first time a woman openly put anal sex in music—maybe the first time anyone of any gender did it so openly.
There has been much hoopla and taboo regarding sex and music. Whether from the artist formerly known as Prince’s BDSM anthem “Darling Nikki,” to Madonna and Britney Spears sharing a kiss on stage—music has used sex to shock. But as I think about the history of music’s sex controversy, I’m reminded of exactly how much rap music has blazed a trail for the rest of culture to follow.
The 1990’s are oft called the “Golden Age” of rap. This was the era in which Tupac, Biggie, Snoop Dogg, and OutKast all emerged into the wide world of music. The illustrious list of rap royalty that would emerge from that era could be a book all on its own, but uncontested amongst the great rappers of the era is one who redefined female sexuality in music over just one album. Lil’ Kim’s 1996 Hardcore gives all that one needs know about the contents on the packaging and the lyrics leaves nothing unknown. The intro begins with a man masturbating to Lil’ Kim before she pivots into the first official song and compares herself to two porn stars of the time. This same song might officially be the first time a woman openly put anal sex in music—maybe the first time anyone of any gender did it so openly. In fact, her entire debut is a tour de force of sexuality narrated by a women hell bent on proving that misogyny isn’t the only way to talk about sex. It is not an understatement to say that Lil’ Kim kicked down the door for any and every woman thereafter to rap so openly (and with great detail) of their sex lives. Though Foxy Brown certainly played her part, the Queen Bee was Lil’ Kim.
Although lady rappers like Cardi B and Nicki Minaj have commanded the air waves and imaginations while filling others with consternation, a new generation of female rappers have taken rapping about sex in in a different direction. Young M.A. may have gained the most critical mainstream reception of any lesbian rapper thus far and her hard work earned her a place on the Forbes 2018 30 under 30 list. (Granted, other openly lesbian musicians have earned widespread fame through their work, but to do it in a genre that has been so historically misogynistic and homophobic I think is a feat onto itself.) Plus, she has opened the door for other lesbian rappers like OMB Bloodbath to shine. This is a place where rap music has set itself apart and above other genres of music; after 2 Live Crew, rap has always been comfortable with graphic depictions of promiscuity and arousal. Therefore, it has been far more able than other genres to depict the lives and lusts of the LGBTQ community.
Though it took awhile to get here, I would argue rap music is the vanguard of LGBTQ musical representation. With rap icons like Big Freedia exploring gender pronouns and Tyler, the Creator speaking to the boys he’s loved, rap music has done daringly what pop music has tried on the sly.
In a 2005 interview, then up and coming rapper Kanye West spoke out against homophobia at a time when homophobia was rampant in rap. Gay marriage wasn’t even legal at that time and was not seen as likely to happen by most people in the political arena. Whether or not you like sexuality intertwined with pop culture, rap music has been at the head of blending the two.