From 2 Live Crew to the City Girls, what does it mean to be an ardent fan of ratchet music?
I can’t remember how old I was when I first heard the opening line of 2 Live Crew’s ‘Hoochie Mama’, the only thing I was sure of is that it was not for me. At least, not at that age. I couldn’t believe my ears. Not only were the lyrics incredibly lewd, but the rappers also sounded so gleeful. Of course, I had no idea Luther Campbell ‘Uncle Luke’, Fresh Kid Ice, Amazing V, and Mr. Mixx were once at the center of subjected censorship. So serious was this case that it went all the way up to the United States Supreme Court, where it was held that despite the graphic nature of their music, there was artistic value.
This has not been the first time that certain types of music have been the cause of moral panic and apprehension. Prince was also at the center of controversy in relation to one of his most salacious songs; ‘Darling Nikki‘. It was so controversial in fact, Tipper Gore who was the wife of the American Senator Al Gore, held a senate hearing decrying ‘The Filthy Fifteen‘, a list of sexually explicit songs. So intense was the scrutiny, the music industry created the parental advisory label’.
Sexually suggestive music has always existed, but in Hip Hop it flourishes and takes center stage in a way that it doesn’t in other genres. Originally, it was mostly men who were the face of this type of music. We heard things from their point of view. No one can underestimate the power that ‘Back That Azz Up’ still has or the fevered waiting to hear if your name made it on ‘Freek A Leek‘. There were however, a few female rappers who made this type of music like Shawna, Foxy Brown, Missy Elliott, and of course, the Queen Bee Lil Kim.
Generally speaking, I didn’t appreciate the gradual popularization of ratchet music; I was too young. By the time I was old enough to really enjoy it, the only female rapper on the scene for a long time was Nicki Minaj. I considered myself a casual fan at best. But then, Cardi B came along and with her, an explosion of female rappers. City Girls, Megan Thee Stallion and Maliibu Miitch are just some of the female rappers whose music isn’t just sexually explicit, it’s confident, brash, tongue in cheek and yes-ratchet.
My taste in music tends to come as a surprise to many people who do not know me that well. I perform femininity and what it means to be a ‘good lady’ as a young Nigerian woman as a means of survival and guaranteeing social capital. In other words, I perform respectability politics. However, the music and the musicians that I most enjoy are the antitheses of that. These women embody the freedom that I feel I’ll never be able to fully embrace. They shrug off the sexist expectations put on them with incredible ease. And their bars are fire.
To be a fan of ratchet music in this day and age is to embrace aspects of yourself that are often seen as unsavory or unladylike. There’s a defiance in that, which can be traced to the very genesis of many genres of music that we love today, but especially Hip Hop. To love ratchet music is to thumb your nose at society’s restrictive expectations of womanhood. And there’s nothing more rebellious than that.
By: Yoruba Mermaid
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