Pop singer Kesha was recently denied her preliminary motion to be released from a recording contract with Kemosabe Records, brainchild of her alleged abuser Lukasz Sebastian Gottwald a.k.a. Dr. Luke.
The contract states Kesha must fulfill her duty to record a significant six more albums under the Sony-owned label. Her motion was denied due to lack of medical evidence and “no showing of irreparable harm.”
This verdict has sparked outrage among fans and celebrities alike, who have started protesting in favor of her freedom and rights as a female artist in the industry. Taylor Swift recently donated $250,000 in support of Kesha’s trial and well wishes have come from the likes of Lady Gaga, Ariana Grande, Wale, Brandy and Lorde.
Kesha first filed a lawsuit against Dr Luke in 2014 for sexually and physically assaulting her when she was 18 years old, shortly after she signed the deal with him in 2005. He subsequently counter-sued her, condemning her allegations as “outrageous and untrue.” She now awaits the rest of the trial against the songwriter/producer while stuck within her contract with him.
Sadly this instance of “rape culture” is not a rarity within the music industry and sexual violence remains a hot topic within rap lyricism and other genres also. Rappers like Eminem, Rick Ross and Action Bronson have been criticized for derogatory terminology and nonchalant attitudes towards rape and domestic violence in their music.
The Teflon Don even lost an endorsement deal with Reebok in 2013 after fans took offense to this predatory bar: “Put molly all up in her Champagne, she ain’t even know it, I took her home and I enjoyed that, she ain’t even know it.” Ross now says it was one of his “biggest mistakes and regrets.”
Despite protests from fans and female artists who have become the punch line of said sadistic raps, most rappers tend to get away with this behavior consequence free. When a lyric is questioned, most rappers become defensive rather than apologetic. They’re mad Hip Hop as a genre tends to take on the burden of a lot of society’s problems, whereas other genres continue unscathed. Hip Hop has also been a forerunner in terms of its social awareness and enlightenment on certain issues, yet this fact gets largely ignored.
Rappers argue that rap is an artistic form of expression meant to stimulate a reaction rather than be taken literally. Many fans can (and often do) pick and choose which artist can get away with risqué lyrics and which artists cannot. It is possible to like a song while ignoring its lyrical content, therefore should rape related lyrics be seen as an endorsement of the criminal act? Perhaps they’re merely an observation over a tight beat? This undermining of the role rappers play as role models within society is the reason why President Obama has had to clarify “rape is rape” twice within three months and why celebrities like Amber Rose have had to continually speak out about the issues of consent and sexism.
An estimated 1.3 million women are raped in America every year, 54 percent of cases go unreported and the chance of a woman being raped in America is one in five. These figures are particularly high for Black women in America, who are also the most likely ethnic group to not be believed when assaulted.
Too $hort recently felt the wrath of this silenced group of women when he made a comment on a video posted by XXL. The video post teaches young men how to sexually assault women under the pretense of playfulness. A protest movement ensued among Black and Latina women, as they chanted: “we are the 44 percent” (the percentage of rape survivors under 18). Too $hort later apologized and expressed his remorse in a candid interview with Ebony magazine.
Despite Hip Hop’s progress with removing homophobic slurs, increasing the number of female rappers and being more active in the fight against racism, it still has a way to go in how it talks about women. As art reflects life, this says a lot about the pace in which society is tackling sexism across other platforms as well.
Perhaps with artists like Eve, Ludacris, Immortal Technique and now Angel Haze, with her powerful track “Cleaning Out My Closet,” speaking out on their experiences and perspective on rape culture, the genre will continue to be a trailblazer for mainstream and underground artists alike to speak out against misogyny. We must continue to learn to “heal our women,” like the late Tupac Shakur preached in the 1993 classic, “Keep Ya Head Up.”