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Representation of Gender in Hip Hop Music Videos

Representation of Gender in Hip Hop Music Videos

Haezell Alison Claudius discusses why women are increasingly being exploited by the very same community that is supposed to protect them.

“More and more African American rap artists have begun to exploit African American women, including female rap artists”

– Melissa Connerly, “Hip-Hop: Reconstructing the Image of the African American Woman”

In a world, where money commands and holds such high prominence amongst the people, continuous innovations are perpetrated to generate income. Music videos were cultivated for artists to promote their songs. “The first proto was likely created in 1894 when George Thomas combined music and images on glass slides; these “illustrated songs” were designed for public viewing in theatres and quickly became popular, causing great profit for music publishers” (Moller, 2011).

The Cambridge Dictionary defines music video as a “short film made to advertise a popular song”. Music videos grew exponentially with the birth of MTV in 1981. Although airing music videos is not the focus of MTV these days (Sharp, 2008), music videos are readily accessible through and on its sister network, MTV2, as well as other platforms such as VH1, BET, iTunes and YouTube (Aubrey and Frisby, 2011). Nowadays, the most common medium for music videos is YouTube.

Although gender issues and commonalities such as sexism and sexualisation are ample in all music genres, this article focuses on the representation of gender in the hip hop scene; utilising Nelly’s ‘Tip Drill’ music video to properly convey stigmas attached to the characteristics of this genre’s music videos. When appropriate, however, focus will be placed on other videos for comparison of differences and similarities to ensure significant representation and clarity. Also, it is important to note although the focal point of this paper is on gender, it involves a great influence of race.

Firstly, it is important to address the definition of ‘Tip Drill’. The most voted definition on Urban Dictionary (2004) claimed the “term comes from basketball where players line up at the free throw line and tip it off the backboard consecutively” essentially meaning a group of men having intercourse with the same woman one after another. The lyric “I said it ain’t no fun unless we all get some, I need a tipdrill, we need a tipdrill” certainly displays women as tools of sexual accommodation for amusement and pleasure to be shared pick n save pharmacy amongst friends. During this lyric, the video displays a woman in a position where she can be easily penetrated repeatedly.

Another explanation presented ‘tipdrills’ canadian pharmacy review as women with unattractive faces but pleasing figures being bent over during intercourse (Urban Dictionary, 2004). This definition is seen within the lyric “I said it must be your ass cause it ain’t your face, I need a tipdrill” – connoting that he is only interested in the woman’s sexual assets – her glorious physique surpasses his displease towards her unattractive face. Also, Connerly suggests this lyric indicates that Nelly wants a female who is licentious and isn’t reluctant to perform unconventional sexual acts (2005) further degrading the value of the woman insinuating she is worth only as an object of sexual arousal.

The following verse “I said if you see a tipdrill point her out, where she at, point her out” giving nuance that women that have voluptuous figures but displeasing faces should be highlighted and recognised for all those negative notions mentioned above.

During the chorus, the focus of the video was almost completely on the female posterior. Most of the time, the women’s faces could not be seen as only their backs were being filmed. There were scenes where the torsos of the women were completely eliminated; they were bending forward so that a better caption of their posterior could be taped. The role of the women was to dance scantily, sometimes around the men. The dance being performed is colloquially known as twerking. Lewis (2010) claims that rap videos present “scantily clad women primarily posing seductively and/or being groped and fondled”, which happens in the Tip Drill video as the men touch, kiss, remove their clothing with teeth and almost have their faces in contact with the posteriors of various women. Misogyny is indefinitely persistent throughout the video and lyrics. Armstrong (2010) claims “Eminem pursues a heightened misogyny in his music to prove his authenticity as a gangster to fit into a vastly African American associated music scene”. His observation suggests that the hip hop scene requires misogyny to assert their value lucidly explaining why Nelly chooses such an approach.

As they move on to the verse, Nelly says “We throwing money in the air like we don’t give a fuck, looking for a tipdrill, I mean a tipdrill” linking to the video when money is continuously thrown at the women implying they are a commodity to be bought. Another incident that implies this is when a woman’s posterior begins to shake provocatively, being stimulated, after a credit card is swiped through her gluteal cleft. A lyric further emphasises on this point as a female sings “It must be your money, cause it ain’t your face, you a tipdrill” meaning she has consciously

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chosen to apply the role of a jezebel for the sake of luxury being provided by the men sexually objectifying her. The men also refer proudly to themselves as pimps suggesting they enjoy having a status of wealth to be able to “afford” various women as sexual products.

Smith (2005) found that females are more likely to be dressed in provocative clothing, especially in videos of sexual content. All the women in the Tip Drill video are dressed in either bikinis or G-String highlighting their cleavage, buttocks and pelvis. Some scenes even featured strippers completely naked. However, the male rappers are fully clothed from head to toe wearing oversized t-shirts and sagging jeans. Even their heads were covered with bandanas or caps accentuated by jewellery and expensive watches. The men are not sexualised at all; on the contrary they are placed in a position of wealth and control. It begs the question, why aren’t men being sexualised to attract over the counter viagra at walgreens a female audience? Vernallis (2004) mentions that “imagery of eye-poppingly beautiful African American women’s bodies are often used in music videos not only because it attracts the men but the women as well”. Hence, it becomes a great marketing strategy that successfully receives attention from both men and women, concluding in more sales and revenue for the artist. Also this resulted in white-centred visual music outlets (MTV and VH-1) dedicating more programming time to hip-hop by creating late night programs to broadcast uncensored videos (Brooks & Hérbert, 2006). The infiltration into a white audience increases their recognition undoubtedly prompting hip hop artists to continue on with their misogynistic videos.

Hill Collins proposes that the objectification of black women’s bodies is for the voyeuristic pleasure of men (Brooks & Hérbert, 2006). Pleasure is further heightened when nudism and sexual behaviour occurs between multiple women therefore, this approach is also applied in rap music videos. Nelly’s video displays three women showering together in a bath tub, rubbing naked bodies against each other whilst being watched. This scene is accompanied by “Now mama girl you got a friend that don’t mind joining in” further extending their greed for more women. Fitts (2008) alternatively suggests that a “women’s primary function is often to ‘‘flank’’ male artists so as to portray an image of sexual bravado in which the artist is seen as powerful in his ability to ‘‘collect’’ attractive women” upping his standards within acquaintances and presenting a well off social status such as a pimp. Although being a pimp has a negative denotation conventionally, many glorify the word as it symbolizes skills to obtain many women.

Interestingly, even in female artist videos, the artists sexualise themselves. Fiske (2013) mentions that “popular culture typically involves the art of making do with what is available” which could possibly explain why even female rap artists follow in the footsteps of their male counterparts. Since it is has been proven to work, not every artist dares to challenge the norm. A fitting example would be Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda video which broke the record for the most views in 24 hours, gaining 19.6 million clicks in the first day of its release (Billboard, 2014) probably because the whole video has the spotlight on the female posterior. It has nudity, seduction and just like Nelly’s ‘Tip Drill’ a lot of twerking. This was the video that managed to top Miley Cyrus ‘Wrecking Ball’ for the most views within 24 hours. However, Hill Collins (2004) notes that many African American women rappers “identify female sexuality as part of women’s freedom and independence”, verbalizing that being open about sexuality doesn’t necessary mean that the woman is a ‘slut’ or a ‘skank’ as what many might think. The artists could be genuine about this statement or they simply could be using it as justification for using their body image for fame and fortune whilst deceiving to portray a more open-minded feminist approach. Moreover, music video research has suggested that a female artist’s commercial value is particularly evaluated based on her sexual appeal (Andsager & Roe, 2003) prompting these artists to shed even more pieces of clothing and act in a more lustful manner.

To conclude, hip hop music videos generally are a medium of bigotry and sexism, asserting Connerly’s statement of more African American women being exploited by both sexes of hip hop artists. The most prominent reason for so is simply because it is a strategy that works within the target audience of hip hop – attaining a sizable amount of people being exposed to the artist’s music. Oversexed fantasy objects are one the most constant representation of black women (Edwards, 1993). Hip hop has definitely played a part in ensuring the music video medium remains to project women as jezebels proving Edward’s point.

List of References

Alexander S. Legros. (2014) Tip Drill – Nelly. [Online Video]. 23 super viagra July. Available at: [Accessed: 01 December 2014]

Andsager, J. & Roe, K. (2003). ‘What’s your definition of dirty baby: Sex in music videos.’ Sexuality and Culture, vol. 7, no. 3, pp. 79–97

Armstrong, E.G. (2004) ‘Eminem’s Construction of Authenticity’, Popular Music and Society. New York: Routledge [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 26th December, 2014].

Aubrey, J, &Frisby, C 2011, ‘Sexual Objectification in Music Videos: A Content Analysis Comparing Gender and Genre’, Mass Communication & Society, 14, 4, pp. 475-501, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 December 2014.

Brooks, D.E. & Herbert, L.P. (2006) ‘Gender, Race, And Media Representation’, The SAGE Handbook of Gender and Communication. pp. 297-318 [Online] Available at:

Cambridge Dictionaries Online (2015) Definition of Video [NOUN] Also Music Video [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 9th January 2015]

Connerly, M. (2005) Hip-Hop: Reconstructing the image of the African American woman. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 26th December 2014]

Conrad, K, Dixon, T, & Zhang, Y 2009, ‘Controversial Rap Themes, Gender Portrayals and Skin Tone Distortion: A Content Analysis of Rap Music Videos’, Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media, 53, 1, pp. 134-156, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 December 2014.

Edwards, A. (1993) From Aunt Jemima to Anita Hill: Media’s split image of Black women. Media Studies Journal, pp. 214–222.

Fiske, John. “PopularCulture.”Critical Terms for Literary Study.2ndEd. Ed. FrankLentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin. Chicago: U of Chicago P, 1995. 321-35.

Fitts, M. (2008). “Drop It Like It’s Hot”: Culture industry laborers and their perspectives on rap music video production. Meridians: Feminism, race, transnationalism, 8, 211–235

Hill Collins, P. (2000) Black feminist thought: Knowledge, consciousness, and the politics of empowerment (2nd ed.). New York: Routledge.

Hill Collins, P. (2004) Black sexual politics: African Americans, gender, and the new racism. New York: Routledge.

Lewis, L. (2010) “White Thugs & Black Bodies: A Comparison of the Portrayal of African-American Women in Hip-Hop Videos,” The Hilltop Review, vol. 4, no. 1, [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 26th December 2014]

Moller, D. (2011) Redefining Music Video. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 9th January 2015]

Sharp, R. (2008). MTV: How Internet killed the video star. The Independent. [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 14th December 2014]

Smith, S.L. (2005) ‘From

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Dr. Dre to “Dismissed”: Assessing Violence, Sex, and Substance Use on MTV’, Critical Studies In Media Communication, 22, 1, pp. 89-98, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 January 2015.

Smyth, JE 2006, ‘Experiencing Music Video: Aesthetics and Cultural Context edited by Carol Vernallis (Columbia University Press, 2004)’, Quarterly Review Of Film & Video, 23, 5, pp. 437-440.

Urban Dictionary (2004) Tip Drill [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 9th January 2015]

Urban Dictionary (2004) Tip Drill [Online] Available at: [Accessed: 9th January 2015]

Vandenbosch, L, Vervloessem, D, & Eggermont, S 2013, ‘“I Might Get Your Heart Racing in My Skin-Tight Jeans”: Sexualization on Music Entertainment Television’, Communication Studies, 64, 2, pp. 178-194, Communication & Mass Media Complete, EBSCOhost, viewed 14 January 2015.

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