TNT: Exploding Misogyny in Hip Hop

Feminist rapper Miss Eaves has a new video out for her single TNT where she explores misogyny in hip hop videos but flipping it on its head and asking what the lens of the female gaze would look like in a rap music video. She told Impose, “female gaze is more than just abs and muscles, it is also men being thoughtful (baking a cake), intellectual (reading Feminism is for Everybody) or making eye contact with the camera.” But of course, there are still some abs too! Her work uses catchy dance music to spread feminist ideas, both preaching to the choir at Lady Economist and seeping into the minds of people typically listening to dance-y rap who might not be as regularly outraged at daily sexism (like being objectified through catcalling).

She talked with Lady Economist recently about her work and her broader social and political goals with hits like TNT. Feminism is the main motivation behind her work, but making fun music is the method.

Your rap is explicitly feminist and in this video you are attempting to address sexism and subvert common narratives in rap videos that objectify women. Who is the audience of the video?

My audience for this video is anyone who has ever watched a sexist mainstream music video. People are walking around life in a haze, and I need them to wake up. I want them to question why they may be slightly sensationalized by a male being objectified, while they have learned to mindlessly live with the objectification of women.

Do you get any negative feedback by addressing sexism through a medium that is itself often sexist? Do you think creating feminist rap might make you an outsider? I ask this from the perspective of someone who has struggled with whether to identify myself as a feminist economist for fear of alienating people who I might otherwise be able to engage with.

Typically the negative feedback I get from any of my videos is about my physical appearance which is illuminating itself. Why are women first judged harshly for their bodies before their ideas & talent, especially when presenting themselves as an artist? I am a total outsider. I make dance music which is typically a misogynist genre, with feminist lyrics. It is my hope that I make songs that are catchy enough that people will dance to them while my feminist ideas seep into their brains.

Do you hope to make a living off creating feminist rap and what do you imagine that would look like? Once I asked Kathleen Hanna at a Q&A for the Punk Singer how she makes compromises in a “white supremacist capitalist patriarchy” (bells hooks’ phrase) so that she can support herself while also making a living given that what she is selling is feminist art. Do you feel like you have to compromise your work to make it more marketable in any way?

I would love to make a living off feminist rap, but the industry is not currently set up in a way that benefits independent artist. It is more feasible for me to use the momentum behind my music to promote my other creative endeavors. I design eco-friendly recycled earrings for instance, and I sell them on my Miss Eaves merchandise store. I have survived this way as a freelance artist by cobbling together lots of varied revenue streams. I refuse to water down my message for my music but I do make other compromises (like in my design) to make ends meet.

How has the success of explicitly (albeit sometimes problematically) feminist rapper Nicki Minaj changed the game for women like you? If at all?

Nikki Minaj is all about women working hard without needing men. In that way she empowers me.

Making art like your rap is often a labor of love. Miya Tokumitsu has recently published a book called “Do What You Love: And Other Lies About Success and Happiness” that was brilliantly reviewed by labor journalist Sarah Jaffe for Dame Magazine, where she argues that the narrative of doing what you love reinforces individualism and disempowers workers, both those who are lucky enough to do work they love and those who are doing work that is less lovable, like flipping burgers. Do you see you music as work? As pure expression? As both? What would professional success as a rapper look like? 

Music is a mix of art and work. Making the music is pure expression and happiness. But I also need to promote the music to get my message out there which is work. For me, I never wanted to be a famous person, I wanted to be a person who made famous art. So to me success will look like people knowing my works, but me remaining somewhat of an enigma. If I can free myself from the trap of a public persona, I can exist as a free being, without being crushed by the harsh beauty expectations that media places on women.

And if you’re in NYC, check out her album release party on September 18th!

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Categories: Arts and Entertainment-1

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