'Are real women just bad porn?': women in Nigerian hip-hop culture.

Author:Oikelome, Albert O.


David Wolper, in an interview about his production of the Los Angeles Olympic ceremonies stated: "we are going to have lots of music, because music is the United States' gift to the world" (24). This statement shows the overwhelming influence of American music on music of other world cultures. The last two decades have witnessed tremendous growth in the Hip-hop music culture in Nigeria. Numerous studies have equally demonstrated the significant rise and development of the genre among the youth. (Omoniyi, 2008; Omojola, 2006; Ssewakiryanga, 1999). Because of its enormous appeal, it has also been used as a medium for expressing a variety of ideas, feelings, and emotions. However, there has been a growing concern on the negative impact of the music on the perception of women in the society. In spite of the seeming financial success and popularity of the musicians, hip-hop culture is frequently condemned for its misogynistic exploitation of women.

This paper examines the misogynistic ideologies expressed in Nigeria's Hip-hop and rap and its implication on the larger society. It will also examine the effects Hip-hop lyrics and videos (which contains images of women in sexually subordinate roles) on the youths, stemming from its focus and promotion of sex, drugs, crime and misogyny.

Theoretical Concepts

The theory of inter-culturation and trans-culturation is used as the framework for this study. Inter-culturation is the formation of a new culture based on encounters from multiple cultures interacting together (Gault 15). This is significant today for social theorists working outside their cultural boundaries for interpreting the dynamics of cultural change globally. The term transculturation was coined in the 1940s by sociologist Fernando Oritz to describe the process by which a conquered people choose and select what aspects of the dominant culture they will assume (Pratt 589).The development of popular music over the years is hinged on cultural changes which, according to Hall are the product of "negotiation, resistance and transformation" (23). This statement was also corroborated by Said who stated that "All cultures are involved in one another. None is single and pure. All are hybrid, heterogeneous, extraordinarily differentiated and unmonolithic." (45). Rice identified two categories of musicians in world music--those who seek to strategically position themselves as locally authentic and those who seek to embody or reconnect with ethnic or national traditions and histories (151). He however stressed that there are those who seek to become transnational performers or, at best, seek to resist any sense of bounded or fixed identity (Rice 157). Of this group, in my opinion, is the position of Nigerian Hip-hop music.

Hip-hop culture evolved from the United States of America. However, the concept has found its way into developing countries as a result of acculturation which introduced new styles and communities of taste, negotiating cultural differences through the musical manipulation of symbolic associations (Waterman 47). Consequently, the changes reflect new contexts, technologies, opportunities and performing situations.

Origins of Hip-hop

There are several positions on the origin of Hip-hop. On the evolution of Hip-hop music, Kevin Powell states that "Hip-hop's roots are not Jamaican, nor Puerto Rican, nor African-American, but African (Powell 2010). This was further substantiated by Keyes who observed that "the distinctive vocal techniques employed in rapping can be traced from African bardic traditions to rural southern game songs and allied forms--all of which are chanted in a rhyme or poetic fashion" (40). However the conceptualization of the present day Hip-hop phenomenon originated in New York during the early 1970's as a form of African American street culture (Bernett 78).

Aware of the inner city tension that were being created as a consequence of urban renewal programs and economic recession, a street gang member, who called himself AfrikaBambaaka, formed Zulu Nation on an attempt to channel the anger of young people in the South Bronx away from fighting into music, dance and graffiti (Lipseitz 26). Hip-hop has since become better known as rap music, which has been most widely publicized and marketed all over the world. Rap is a narrative form of a vocal delivery often spoken in a rhythmic patois over a continuous backbeat, with the rhythms of the voices and the beat working together. The initial appeal of rap for young African Americans related to the possibilities for instant creativity and expression which it offered. Thus, by relying only upon the ability to 'talk the rhythm', the art of rapping became the perfect vehicle for pride, anger, and for asserting the self-worth of the community (Beadle 85).

The origin of Hip-hop in Nigeria dates back to the late 80's and early 90's (Joseph 256). According to Abiodun Adebiyi the emergence of an African American rapper on exile in Nigeria, Ibrahim Salim-Omari led to the release of the first Nigerian rap album titled "I am African" (248). This opened the floodgates for other artistes like "The Remedies" and the "Plantation Boyz" in the early nineties. The first generation of Hip-hop artistes at first copied their counterparts in the United States of America. However, the trends in the late 90's till date showed a transformation with the evolution of "NaijaHip-hop". Thus, Nigerian Hip-hop music is categorized into two main divisions--indigenous and foreign. The indigenous Hip-hop styles are those which derive their elements mainly from indigenous musical sources which include the native, traditional, neo-traditional and spiritual derivatives. The Hip-hop artistes also derive some source of materials from local African folk tradition drawn from village or ethnic boundaries with the folkloric phenomenon seeming to be a major trend in their lyrics.

Hip-hop and Gender

Feminism and gender studies have been a focus of scholarly work since the 20th century. While some see men and women as two often hostile groups locked in an unending and unequal struggle for power, others view them as complementary. The Hip-hop world tilts towards the second assumption. However, the complementary role being played by the two is being benefited by men where the women are portrayed as dangerous objects of desires (Wallach 222). This, according to Daniel Innim is purely a transfer of gendered meanings saturated by class differences and global popular culture influences (201). Even though we have a few Hip-hop female artistes in the industry, men are in the majority while women often feature as dance troupes performing in the background to the music. This has resulted in the misuse of the gender role of women in these musicales as sex symbols. The term "sex symbol" was first used in 1910 to describe beautiful stars in the film industry. Since then, the film industry has been playing a role in the further projection of sex symbolism through its dissemination of beautiful people all over the world (articleworld.com). However, sex symbolism is taken to an alarming dimension in the music industry where women are seen as a commercial venture, basically useful for commercial purposes.

This is because generally in Western culture and societies that follow the West, a woman's body is considered sexually provocative to man, and thus there is a growing concern over the near-naked female postures in some music videos. Writing on the...

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