What’s Sex Got To Do With… Eminem and Tyler, The Creator?

What do you think of when you picture a rapper?  The answer to this may vary from person to person but I think we can all agree on one characteristic: rappers are masculine.  They grow up in rough neighborhoods, know how to fight, and above all, know how to humiliate anyone and anything with words and a sick beat.  Some people are socialized to use homophobic slurs, rape fantasies, and the objectification of women as ways to signal masculinity.  Words like “faggot” and “bitch” are thrown around inside and outside of the rap world, but it is important to analyze who is being targeted at the other end.  Eminem and Tyler, the Creator are two rappers who use these methods in a rap culture known for homophobia and the degradation of women.

In the article, “Guys are Just Homophobic”, CJ Pascoe explains that, “through making homophobic jokes… boys attempt to assure themselves and others of their masculinity” (177).  She even addresses Eminem and states that he “doesn’t call people faggot because of their sexual orientation, but because they are weak and unmanly” (178).  Eminem is known for homophobic slurs, but sometimes his lyrics suggest that he actually does hate gays:

My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge

That’ll stab you in the head

whether you’re a fag or lez

Or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest

Pants or dress – hate fags? The answer’s “yes”

Homophobic? Nah, you’re just heterophobic

 

Clearly, based on this song, he is dissing gays and pretty much anyone who isn’t straight.  Yet in this interview with Anderson Cooper he defends his use of these slurs:

 

 

Tyler, the Creator is another rapper who uses homophobic slurs, the objectification of women, and most disturbingly, rape fantasies in his lyrics and videos.  In “Wait… Hip Hop Sexualities” Thomas DeFrantz states that “Some hip hop… connects audiences through boastful stories of sexual encounters staged as bragging rituals about near-impossible events” (DeFrantz 326).  In the music video and lyrics for “She”, Tyler, The Creator fantasizes raping a girl and watches her while she sleeps.

 

 

 

Tyler then defends his obscene lyrics in this interview (First 3 minutes):

 

 

Are Eminem and Tyler using these offensive actions as strategies to gain respect in the rap community, or do they really feel that women and gays are inferior?  Are they defending their lyrics and actions in these interviews to save their own backs?  This is a little more broad, but what is masculinity to you, and do you think these rappers portray a masculine image?  Perhaps we need to re-consider the definition of masculinity.

 

 

 

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5 thoughts on “What’s Sex Got To Do With… Eminem and Tyler, The Creator?

  1. What’s Sex Got To Do With…. Eminem and Tyler, The Creator? The first thing that I would like to ask is why did you decide to pick these two rappers out of all rappers? In the beginning you said one could see rappers as masculine and they know how to humiliate anyone and anything with words and a sick beat. I agree that these two rappers fall into this category, but I don’t see these two rappers falling in the other examples you mention. For example, “They grow up in rough neighborhoods, know how to fight.” I feel like there are other rappers that would fit under all these characteristics instead of just a few you mentioned. Just something I wanted to ask, but I totally agree with the idea that these two rappers use homophobic slurs, rape fantasies, and the objectification of women as ways to signal masculinity. I personally feel like Tyler The Creator is one of those rappers that try to fit in and gain respect from the rap community, so he figures that he should disrespect women like other popular rap artist and this would give him more street and rap credits. I claim that Eminem on the other hand really feels that women and gays are inferior. You gave a good example from one of his songs when he said “My words are like a dagger with a jagged edge that’ll stab you in the head whether you’re a fag or lez or the homosex, hermaph or a trans-a-vest pants or dress- hate fags? The answer’s “yes” Homophobic? Nah, you’re just heterophobic.” In my opinion no one says anything like this and not mean it. I know for a fact Eminem has a background of disrespecting women and having bad relationships with women. In one of his songs “Cleaning Out My Closet” he talks about his own mother. He calls her all types of bitches, he even says, “Nathan is getting so big now you should she him he’s beautiful, but you’ll never see him he won’t even be at your funeral.” If Eminem talks about his own mother like this I know for a fact that he has a problem with gays and women. I would have to say that Eminem and Tyler interviews were them defending themselves and they were bullshitting the whole time in these interviews. When I think of masculinity I see a professional football player, you know someone that is very muscular and powerful. I wouldn’t consider a rapper as a masculine image. I actually find it funny that someone would even consider a rapper as masculine. Most rapper nowadays can’t even go to parties without security, if they were so masculine they would be able to hold their own ground. Think about it what type of man has to down grade women to have a so call successful career? Rappers are not a masculine image; name me one thing that is masculine about a rapper. 99 percent of rappers fake their lives anyways, meaning that the stuff they rap about is not the lifestyle they’re actually living.

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    • @Turnerxe: I wonder what motivates your question of songmw? Are you suggesting that these two rappers are not representative of the dynamic of hyper-masculinity within rap music culture, as songmw suggests, or that they don’t use homophobic slurs, rape fantasies, and the objectification of women as ways to signal masculinity in representative ways? Though it seems you agree that such signaling circulates within rap music more generally, yes? Also, you mention that you don’t consider rappers to be particularly masculine. How are you defining masculinity here? Pascoe warns us that singular and hyper-aggressive understandings of masculinity contribute to the construction of rape culture, but it sounds like you pushing against that argument. Can you say more?

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  2. @Turnerxe: To answer your first question, I chose these two rappers because they are known especially for their controversial lyrics and objectification of women. Yes, there are many other rappers who fit these categories (which is why I addressed rap culture as a whole) but I feel that Eminem and Tyler not only accurately depict the categories that I addressed, but they have a huge mainstream influence over two time periods. Eminem’s peak of controversy was during the 1990’s and early 2000’s, and Tyler, The Creator is controversial now. In response to them not fitting into the last two categories, I have to argue that both of these rappers had incredibly difficult childhoods: Eminem grew up in 8 mile, a rough part of Detroit, with only his alcoholic mother. He is known for his temper and has gotten into multiple fights, which often end up being the subject of some of his songs (he addresses punching a bouncer for kissing his wife in the song “Sing For The Moment”). Tyler also grew up with a single mother and was bullied often (his dark childhood is the subject of the song “Bastard”). He also had multiple fights and acts of violence. I agree with you that many peoples’ perception of masculinity is skewed.

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  3. It is possible that Eminem and Tyler, the Creator are homophobic and sexist. However, I think it is worth noting the context. Rap culture, in general, comes across as homophobic and sexist. Eminem and Tyler, the Creator are saying the same things as every other rapper. Does that make it right? Not at all. But you can’t judge something completely out of context. They have a job to do and they know how to do it, which comes across as homophobic and sexist. I think rappers portray a hyper-masculinize image by society’s definition. Personally, I think masculinity is a spectrum open to infinite interpretations. I don’t view a man who beats his family as more masculine than a man who loves and cherishes his family more than life. Quite the contrary, I would consider the latter much more “manly” than the former.

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  4. Thank you so much for posting this article. In any type of music, but especially rap, songs can have extremely offensive content, but it is lost among heavy beats and fast paced rhythms. Like others have said, Eminem and Tyler are by no means the only rappers to engage with homophobic/misogynistic ideas, but these were two very clear cut examples. I hope that these types of lyrics within rap music become less and less popular moving forward and artists are encouraged to rap about more than enforcing heteronormative ideology.

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