"Music was our only weapon": protest, misogyny, and hardness in the music of NWA
LE3 .A278 2016
Bachelor of Arts
This thesis examines the ways in which reality rap group NWA’s (Niggaz Wit’ Attitudes) music functioned as protest in Los Angeles, United States, throughout the 1980s and 1990s. They did so primarily by providing social commentary on police brutality and racism, asserting control over Black American women through misogynistic lyric content and through the sound of musical “hardness,” a quality in their music which bolstered a masculinity they adopted in order to survive. An intersectional feminist methodology is applied to develop how misogyny in NWA’s music directly affects Black American women. This thesis draws from a wide range of Black feminist scholarship and hip-hop and rap studies. For NWA, music was a means of creating power in a social, political, and cultural climate in which they were otherwise powerless. While their lyrics regarding Black women are blatantly derogatory, misogynistic, and sexually violent, it is not simply because the members of NWA were inherently sexist: historically-ingrained controlling images and stereotypes of Black American women permeate American society so deeply that it is quite likely NWA did not realize they were reproducing these controlling images and stereotypes through their music. It is ironic that they protested against police brutality towards Black men while simultaneously oppressing Black women through their lyrics; however, by oppressing Black women, in part, NWA facilitated their rise to power, fame, and success.
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