Language and Societies

ANT/LIN 5320 at Wayne State University

Sassy, Moody, Nasty: The Performance of Sexuality through Language by Black Women in Hip-Hop

Sassy, Moody, Nasty: The Performance of Sexuality through Language by Black Women in Hip-Hop

Mariah McClendon-Smith

On the topic of hip-hop music, scholarly debates have ensued for decades about whether sexually explicit lyrics of Black female rappers are degrading to women or a means of empowerment. In taking the stance that these lyrics and explicit performances of sexuality are empowering, this essay uses Black feminist theory to go beyond the debate and explore how such expressions combat racial and sexist stereotypes and expectations of Black women. Furthermore, this essay explores how explicit sexual performances can be empowering while also demonstrating how the spectrum of sexual expression has been broadened by contemporary female rappers. What linguistic strategies do these rappers employ for combating negative stereotypes in their music? How do such performances fit into racialized expectations of Black women? How are these performances perceived by the public and how do these artists respond? What implications do these performances have on how Black girls and women shape their sexual identities? If we are to move beyond the degrading/non-degrading binary, how might answering these questions help us do that? To build on previous research by H. Samy Alim, Valerie Chepp, and others about Black women in hip-hop this essay uses rapper Megan Thee Stallion as a case study by delving into a thematic analysis of her lyrics, exploring critiques of her work, and unpacking her responses to them. Ultimately, women like Megan Thee Stallion are multifaceted; judging Megan, and artists like her, solely based on sexually explicit lyrics, reduces them to stereotypical characterizations and undermines other potentialities for these expressions.

April 12, 2021 - Posted by | abstract

1 Comment »

  1. This topic definitely deserves more credit and focus. The depiction of Black females in media is often limited and underlined with stereotypes. This will be an interesting read into the exploration of Black female artist’s lyrics and their overturn of stereotypes to empower and overcome misogynistic and racist views. Far too often, Black female artists are criticized in ways that are not seen in Black male artists. I think your piece is important to characterize how Black female artists have re-envisioned their expression.

    Comment by Antione M | April 25, 2021 | Reply

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