Nathan Rabin’s series “Hip-Hop and You Do Stop” is fantastic, both for its musical and emotional musings on the music that helped define his youth, and for his sociological archaeology. I hadn’t, for example, known that Will Smith pulled out some ugly homophobic lyrics and AIDS-bashing earlier in his career. But I wanted to highlight his latest meditation on N.W.A. and the Fresh Prince not just for that, but for this brilliant breakdown of some of hip-hop’s ugliest gender politics, which applies equally well to some of our conversations about misogynistic nerd culture and sexual entitlement:
There’s a wonderful line from the musician-narrator of Stew’s musical Passing Strange about the sublime absurdity of spending your adulthood living out the consequences of decisions you made as a stoned teenager. In the same respect, it’s absurd—and not in a sublime way at all—that gangsta rap still largely hews reverently to the poisonous gender politics expressed by primary N.W.A. lyricists MC Ren and Ice Cube while they were still angry teenagers.
There are few things in the world more terrifying to teenaged boys than the power of teenaged girls. On the Straight Outta Compton Ice Cube spotlight track “I Ain’t Tha 1,” the rapper attempts to negate that terrifying power by fundamentally denying the humanity and agency of women, reducing the complicated, messy, and crazy-making dance of sex and romance to a simple formula: Men want sex, women want money. And it’s every real man’s solemn duty to get the sex he craves without sacrificing any of his hard-earned scratch.
When men are taught that sex is the commons (hell, that sex is a commodity), and women are taught that it’s an emotional experience, you’re not going to end up with a functional market or a set of norms for establishing relationships. Instead, you have a recipe for anger and entitlement.