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Open Access Publications from the University of California

In the Same Boat and at Each Other’s Throat: Gender Politics in Female-Male Collaborations in Hip Hop Music, 1996-2006


It is no secret that both female and male Hip Hop artists often participate in the overt objectification of women’s bodies. On any given day, one can turn on BET or MTV and catch a glimpse of several scantily clad women dancing or gyrating at the disposal of one or more male rap artists. These visual images are also present in Hip Hop magazines, such as The Source and XXL, one that showcases a section called “Eye Candy,” in which female models are featured wearing skimpy bathing suits and lingerie, while there is no such alternative featuring male models in the same manner. However, these women, whose counterparts are called “video hoes,” have no voice; they never enter into a dialogue with the male rappers or audiences; they strictly serve as “eye candy,” objects used to stimulate sexual desires. On the other hand, female rappers do have a voice, and they often enter into a dialogue with male rappers in the form of collaboration, also known as a “collabo.” These collabos are important, because as Hip Hop critic Tricia Rose writes, Dialogism resists the one-dimensional opposition between male and female rappers as respectively sexist and feminist. It also accommodates the tension between sympathetic racial bonds among black men and women as well as black women’s frustrations regarding sexual oppression at the hands of black men. As Cornel West aptly describes it, ‘the pressure on Afro-Americans as a people has forced the black man closer to the black woman: they are in the same boat. But they are also at each other’s throat.

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