Why The Backlash Against Rick Ross Both Confuses and Encourages Me
Rapper Rick Ross has been the target of sustained criticism for a few weeks now in response to the following lyrics: “Put Molly all in her champagne. She ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoy that. She ain’t even know it.” He later issued an apology in which he said that the lyrics were misinterpreted and reminded everybody that he never used the word “rape.” He also asserted that “the streets” do not condone rape though the apology only seemed to further annoy his critics. I agree that the lyrics were worthy of criticism and believe that his critics did the right thing in condemning the casual celebration of violence that occurs all too often. I also agree that Ross’s apology was far from satisfying. I would have particularly liked to hear him state what the proper interpretation of the lyrics was supposed to be since so many of us had it all wrong. I would have also liked to hear him explain why exactly he believes that “the streets” do not condone a crime that annual incidence surveys tend to measure in the hundreds of thousands.
With all of this said, the backlash directed towards Rick Ross greatly confuses me. I cannot figure out exactly what he did to earn criticism that has never been heaped on his peers though many of them have uttered similar lines countless times before. As long as I’ve been listening to hip hop, I’ve come across verses that sound to me like the acquisition of sex through force, drugs, or coercion. And, considering so much of Ross’s defense revolved around a reminder that he never used the word “rape”, I am even quite used to artists outright identifying acts as rape. Allow me to present a few examples:
X is Coming For You – DMX (1998)
I’m comin in the house and I’m gunnin’ for your spouse/Tryin’ to send the bitch back to her maker/And if you got a daughter older then 15, I’ma rape her/Take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you/Then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?/Frustratin’, isn’t it?/Wanna kill me, but I’ma kill you/Now watch me fuck just a lil’ while longer, please, will you?
Freestyle Over “Give Up the Goods” – Funkmaster Flex feat. DMX (1999)
Night time is the right time for creepin’/Vandalize your crib, rape your wife while she’s sleepin’
As the World Turns – Eminem (1999)
All I wanted to do was rape the bitch and snatch her purse/Now I wanna kill her
Kill ‘Em – Juelz Santana feat. Cam’ron (2005)
It’s my duty doc, you try to sue me, stop/How you try to judge me, I get Judge Judy shot/Now sue me ock, I just lay and smile/I’ll rape your child, they won’t make the trial
That’s Me – Cam’ron (2000)
Who else in a hurry to murk/We kill girls, rape em’, bury their skirts
Niggaz – Fabolous feat. Joe Budden & Paul Cain (2003)
Fuck wit me, and I’ma alter ya fate/Send some wolves after ya girl, I specialize in torture and rape
We Don’t Give a Fuck – DMX feat. Styles P & Jadakiss (1998)
We all make mistakes, that’s part of the breaks/But you can still call the apes we bringin’ the duct tape/And the broomstick them bitch-ass niggaz is gettin raped
Bubble Music – Cam’ron (2004)
The games and the chick/Like kobe I’ma rape the bitch
Rolling – Young Jeezy feat Fabolous (2011)
You got ass, then shake that/Them ones drop like Lees ho/Tell somebody rape that
Rape a Bartender – D12 feat. Maestro (2008)
Seen this white bitch that I wanted to rape/So I said “fuck it” and I asked her on a date…/Now it’s back to this bitch getting raped/2 chainsaws and some black duct tape/Said she was sorry, didn’t want me to take her life/I said “fuck that” and stabbed her with a knife
These are just a few examples that I have come across or dug up with some quick research. The examples come from mixtapes and studio albums but most are from studio albums with extensive distribution and production networks behind them. I’m sure that there are hundreds more throughout hip hop’s archives. Keep in mind that I ignored those lyrics that described non-consensual sex without using the word “rape” just as I ignored the casual usage of “rape” to refer to other acts. I only looked at the kind of lyrics from which Ross meant to distance himself – lyrics in which “rape” is both said and meant to be understood as sexual violation.
So, yes, I am slightly confused. Where was the backlash before Ross’s misstep? I’m sure that there was some but it was not very pronounced. Had resistance been generated, we would have had to hear about these men’s freedom of speech, how this is just entertainment, how people are misinterpreting lyrics, how folks need to lighten up, or any of the other usual arguments used to excuse entertainers from social responsibility. I’m sure that none of these men openly condone rape, but they would be hard pressed to argue that these lyrics were meant to satirize, criticize, or document rape culture. I also think that most of the above references are pretty clearly narrative storytelling rather than genuine commentary; but I don’t see this particular brand of storytelling doing much more than desensitizing listeners to rape. Nonetheless, the point is that a conversation on the appropriateness of these lyrics never occurred. This is all the more glaring given just how many repeat offenders I turned up and just how many of the aforementioned songs are collaborations between multiple artists where you might expect at least one person in the studio to express some hesitation with his brand’s connection to rape.
Were anti-rape activists just asleep at the wheel for decades? That’s one conclusion but more hopeful interpretations exist. Perhaps the consumer base has hit a tipping point after listening to different variations of misogynistic drivel for decades. Perhaps people who need their music to provide more than temporary escape are finally ready to vote with their voices and wallets in mass. Like most empires, hip hop is unable to fathom the possibility of its own demise and none of the industry figures that I saw respond to Ross’s lyrics considered that some genuine and long-time fans of hip hop might have become sufficiently disgusted with hip hop’s content monotony to walk away from it. I suspect that they have miscalculated.