Why a 40-year-old white woman only listens to rap music
If I wanna take a guy home with me tonight
It's none of your business
If she wanna be a freak and sell it on the weekend
It's none of your business
In 1993 when Salt-N-Pepa reclaimed feminine sexuality getting right to the point unapologetically and without mincing words, I thought, “Yes!” Women’s suffrage was a movement about eschewing the image of women as the pious submissive to a man, thereby embracing every behavior that reeks of equality — specifically, desire. It was the first time I heard music that actually spoke to me, my generation and our experiences.
I had already gotten on board the Dr. Dre and Eminem train and wrestled with my love of their music against the barrage of misogynist imagery, and their portrayal of women as disposable, potential rape victims, or at least deserving of slut-shaming. I reconciled this with the notion that Marshall Mathers taking on so many personas to distance himself from the characters he raps about (Eminem and Slim Shady) meant that he too was not celebrating these ideas, but the opposite, using the harshest words and imagery to shame women haters while somehow exorcising the demons from his childhood in the most artistic way he could. Most of his lyrics are about a pathetic soul who doesn’t deserve love or our attention, something very anti-rap-hero. A refrain we can all relate to:
“Cause if I wasn't me I probably wouldn't want to play with me neither… Hateful and genius, this inconvenience. And for the record, you wouldn't want this kind of static” — "Detroit vs. Everybody"
Rap music’s image is that of confident people, who no longer answer to anyone other than themselves and are no longer willing to suffer fools. More importantly, they have their own money, which they choose to spend on luxury brands — all things a white woman in her 40s can relate to. This all came to me in December of 2008 when I heard the Eminem, 50 Cent and Dr. Dre release, "Crack a Bottle": "Fat ass Birkin bags, some classy shit, Jimmy Choo shoes, I say move a bitch move.” I thought, that’s me from my head to my Choos. Heck, Kanye’s music alone makes reference to every luxury brand on the market. And more recently, Nicki Minaj nails it in "Feeling Myself":
"…a good girl in my tax bracket. Got a black card that let Saks have it, these Chanel bags is a bad habit."
White people embracing rap music is woven into the fabric of the history of the genre. From the very beginning, women like me have been a part of the rap music scene. In the 1970s when Bronx teenagers were creating the genre, their white friends were figuring out ways to make them famous. It was the perfect synthesis. Then by 1984, rap music began to explode. From Run DMC signing their first deal with the help of Russell Simmons and a white Jewish kid from NYU named Rick Rubin, to legendary music agent, Cara Lewis. Lewis, a white woman who took a chance on a bunch of unknown acts in the '80s, staged an arena tour that would sell out and make history. She’s represented, and continues to represent, everyone from the Beastie Boys to Rihanna and even Eminem.
If I haven’t sold you yet, consider the narrative of the music that is targeted at my age group. Taylor Swift, for example, who plays the victim in many of her relationship scenarios, waiting for a man to make a decision about their future rather than the other way around. Or any number of songs from Ed Sheeran, Maroon 5 or Michael Bublé that, to me, are just inspirational quotes set to easy listening music; non-confrontational, safe and oh, so boring. It’s a one size fits all philosophy that is the antithesis of the telling of relatable experiences in a more unique way; Like my favorite artist J. Cole.
I remember the first time I heard his "Wet Dreamz," I was moved to tears by its honesty and realness. Cole’s amazingly empathetic storytelling abilities define him as an artist and can be heard throughout one of the most important albums in rap music to date: 2014's Forest Hills Drive. In this particular song, he tells of a young boy, afraid to confront his own innocence in a sexually charged culture. He doesn't admit to the girl of his dreams that he is chaste for fear of alienation; only to learn that she is just like him; a virgin as well. Who can't relate to that? Or Future and Drake’s latest "Where ya at?," about fair weather friends who are around only when you have status and money, but are nowhere to be found when you’re at your worst.
And finally, I think about music writer Ben Westhoff who says that as a white guy who writes about rap music, “The implication that hip-hop is a racist black fraternity where outsiders aren't welcome… or at least aren't… comfortable around white people… doesn't make a bit of sense if one has even a passing familiarity with the media or celebrity or life in the 21st century.”
So, white women, get your Dej Loaf on, pop in the new Missy Elliot, and enjoy all that Drake has to offer, and take the advice of rapper, Gucci Mane, “When singing along to rap songs with the n-word, substitute "ninja."