Originally published for Broadly.
It felt predatory. In a resurfaced two-minute clip, rising Houston rap phenom Megan Thee Stallion (b. Megan Pete) is interviewed by a man named DJ Smallz Eyes. Instead of sticking to questions about her lauded freestyle ability, ascent in the Southern rap scene, or currently being a student at Texas Southern University, he questions the 23-year-old about elective surgery. At an especially cringe-worthy moment, Smallz Eyes asks her “Did you develop early?” —a question that seems to have no other purpose than to fulfill the school-boy fantasies of anyone watching.
The original video—titled “Is Megan Thee Stallion’s Body Real? She Gets Honest Here”—has since been pulled from DJ Smallz Eyes’ Youtube channel following the backlash. But a quick perusal of the channel over the past year will show that Megan was far from the only case of lascivious consumption: Searching the keyword “body real” on the rap channel’s Youtube page returns over a dozen videos, the majority having women rappers “confessing” to whatever cosmetic work they have or have not done.
In short —Megan’s video may have been pulled, but “Is Trippy Tiffy Boobs Real? She Gets Honest Here” has not, with nearly the exact same line of questioning.
“Men almost NEVER get asked these kinds of questions. The blatant sexism is showing, and the interviewer should be ashamed of themselves,” user Natalie Mariaher tweeted. “She’s a rapper — talk about her music, her work ethic etc! Her body is not the only thing going for her.”
Misogyny in music journalism is far from exclusive from this incident; it is not uncommon for women rappers to deal with the double bind of being sensationalized for everything except their actual musical skill. Take this interview that Megan Thee Stallion did in February for a local Houston radio station The Box. Not only did it take eight minutes for the hosts to ask her a question—initially enamored by her label manager who’s a former professional baseball player—but the discussion rapidly went to lecherous questioning over her sexual proclivities and physical shape. The pretense was that her music, covering sexual topics, provides carte-blanche to rampantly infringe upon invasive questioning on her personal life.
Mind you: Access to promotional opportunities on national media platforms is limited for up-and-coming talent, save for superstars, which makes a salacious line of questioning akin to a Cosmo quiz a disservice to her fan base.
But the pervasiveness of misogynistic questioning in music journalism isn’t exclusive to young talent. Even our legends fight to dictate the conversation on their own terms.
In a radio interview last August, Lil’ Kim expressed her frustration with being unable to promote her music, because she was asked to weigh in Nicki Minaj’s Queen album, merely two minutes into the discussion. After pointedly retorting on the fact that she was continually asked about Nicki by media while simultaneously being misrepresented as bitter, her message was simple: Let each woman shine. “When Remy [Ma]’s up here, ask her about her bars. Ask her what she got going on. Ask her about her life,” Kim said.
Remy herself echoed similar frustrations on a recent episode of the Revolt’s State of the Culture. In a discussion that explored the consistent media sensationalism of women rappers as opposed to respect for the craft, she pointed out that it comes down to a fundamental dismissal of women’s presence in rap. “They’re never gonna talk about the skills when it comes to females,” Remy says. “They don’t even respect our pen. If you write or say a verse that’s too crazy, automatically they start questioning who actually wrote it.”
Co-host Joe Budden responded that women writing rhymes is “not the rule, that’s the exception,” following it up with a demand to name “four females” who wrote their own music in “the history of rap,”—further corroborating the pervasive, disparaging narrative that women in rap simply exist as a construct of men’s whims. Budden also neglected to mention that many men in hip-hop do not write their rhymes as well.
In a 2017 interview with The Breakfast Club, Rick Ross was asked about the lack of women artists on his roster, to which he replied, “I never did it, because I always thought that, like, I would end up fucking the female rapper, fucking the business up […] if she’s lookin’ good and I’m spending so much money on her photo shoots, I gotta fuck her.”
Ross’s response, which later apologized for, was an accurate reflection of how women in hip-hop are regarded in many circles where their attractiveness and sexual proclivity are prioritized over their talent.
“The Queen Latifahs, Salt-N-Pepas, Lil Kims and Nickis aside, at its core, hip-hop is inherently derogatory and unapologetic―especially when it comes to its women, who serve as both the muse and misused,” writer Kai Miller said in an op-ed for BET. “Whether being referred to as bitches, hoes, and gold diggers or toted around like cuff links, there aren’t many safe spaces for women to simply exist in this culture.”
For women in rap navigating agency in an industry that still defaults to the consumption, interests, and demands of men continues to be a tough balancing act. We have arrived at a point, however, where this feigned ignorance has been exposed as wanton disregard for the actual capabilities of the women involved beyond their potential use as an object for unrestrained gawking or tabloid fodder.