Since the earliest stages of Hip Hop’s development as a global subculture inextricably tied to Rap music’s emergence as a multi-million dollar industry, questions of gender, sex and identity have arisen. Often times those questions have gone unresolved. The ways in which gender and sexual identities are expressed within the culture have been shaped by a myriad of internal and external forces, leaving us with a history of fundamentally rigid masculinity.
I want to use this piece as a space in which some of these questions can be revisited while exploring the contradictions and challenges that they pose. Of particular interest are the ways in which masculinity is expressed in Hip Hop culture. Hip Hop is often mischaracterized as a “Man’s game” by practitioners within the culture and blanketly labeled as “Hypermasculine” by outsiders. Neither of these characterizations are sufficient. The former erases the past, present and future contributions of Women and Gender non-conforming Hip Hoppers while the latter is loaded with a history of racist tropes used to stereotype and marginalize Black & Latinx Males. What are the ways in which Hip Hop’s concept of masculinity have developed historically? Has masculinity as it is commonly expressed in Hip Hop culture evolved at all? What does a less toxic, more whole expression of masculinity in Hip Hop look like? Is it even possible? In addition to my own thoughts on these questions, as well as an analysis of the ways in which masculinity has been expressed in Hip Hop’s past and present, I interviewed a handful of Men: Rappers, DJ’s, B-Boys, Fathers, Queer and Hetero identifying, each of them intimately involved in Hip Hop culture and asked them to speak to the ways in which the culture has shaped and informed their sense of manhood and masculinity and how Hip Hop’s future expressions of masculinity can blossom beyond the narrow and rigid hetero-patriarchal forms we see today