Black Men vs. the Stereotype of the Hyper-Masculinity vs. Hardness of Rappers

Tuesday, May 3rd, 2016

The stereotyping of black men based on his masculinity and hardness is something that has been going on for a long time. The black man has been viewed in a specific way since he is expected to behave in a certain way. Influences of rappers have significantly affected the way the black man is considered. This paper seeks to explore the stereotypes of black men. More often than not, a black man is expected to portray a particular form of hardness to qualify as a real man. Many are the times that people have implied that black rappers are less of credible and valuable artists especially when they fail to meet the criteria of being gangster enough. A good example is when Drake is accused of being a lesser rapper because he does not pass as a gangster, which is the society’s expectation of the black man (Lewis, 2008).

 A common modern stereotype is that a black man is supposed to exhibit characters of a gangster or thug who hails from a ghetto or other related neighborhoods. It is also another trait that is associated with rappers. It is expected that a person should be a gangster not only because they are black but also because they are a rapper. This misconception needs to change. Just because a black man raps, that should not automatically qualify him as a gangster. After all, there are different types of raps. Gangster rap is just one of the genres. While it is perfectly acceptable, judging every black musician based on it is not only unfair but also biased. In our case, Drake being used as an example of the failed black man just because he does not associate with gangster rapping is a stereotype in itself. In most cases, people who stereotype black rappers are the same people that never listen to any other kind of rap thus can only identify with gangster rap. Unless you choose to ignore a big chunk of modern rap, it is impossible to sideline black male rappers and claim that they need to be thugs or gangsters to be acceptable.

Unfortunately, such people choose to ignore the alternative for reasons only known to them. While the truth is gross in it simplification, this stereotyping could be because they do not want to believe that rap is more than theft. It is the refusal to embrace that the black man can be more than a thug and that black men are complex and multifaceted which makes them exciting and diverse compared to other people. The stereotype tends to give freedom to white men and kids to be who they want, but the same privilege is denied for the black man.

The effort of the African American to recover from emasculation caused by their strivings from past years has been taken to the extremes in the past years. It could be because the African American male was denied a chance to perform his role during the slavery regime. While this may have happened a long time ago, there a have been continuous efforts by black philosophers, scholars, and musicians to resuscitate the position held by the black man in the society. The need to prove this seems to be deeply rooted in Americans and is well show through the works of the black male artist especially the rappers. Unfortunately, these efforts have been marred with incidences of pride, violence against women and self-assurance, which do not promote cohesion in the society which was the intended purpose. It is impossible to look at the hyper-masculinity elements in the Black culture if you are to ignore the influences of violence in their music. It is a common argument that America is built by violence and crime, which is what affects the reflections seen in music and art. However, there is more to such claims as the argument goes even further to imply that the suffering the black man endured in the past could be fuelling this stereotypes (Cunnell, 2005).

The black man’s voice was silenced in the past meaning that he had to struggle for to achieve two important things. The need to establish his position as the provider for the family in a highly difficult situation is what could be behind the troubles in the black community. It is believed that this could be contributing to the high rate of violence and crime among the black male population. This reaction follows failure and frustrations as the black male tries to find an easy way out to fend for his family. Secondly, the way a black man turns out could be influenced by the society’s problems. When the society makes it tough for him to take care of his family due to its biases, then the black man in most cases turns to crime and violence as the easy way out.

The discrimination and stereotyping black males as only being good in the ghetto are what led to the development of the ‘bad nigga’. It is only when we understand the damage of masculinity on the black male as influenced by slavery that we can appreciate the images of the black males as presented in music and literature of today. Interpreting and analyzing American culture with a bias to rap music will help understand why the black make subconsciously feels that he has to overcompensate for his lost masculine identity. By categorizing hip-hop into narratives we can describe a variety of masculinity that is reflected in the whole genre that is rap music.

Development of the ‘Bad Nigga'

The African-American oppression contributed to the elaboration of the bad nigga. This is a term developed when a black man did not follow the rules imposed upon him by the white master. Ignoring the rules was a sign of how tough the black man could be especially when standing against acts of atrocities and discrimination. The bad nigga was respected in the community although he meant a threat to the entire community. The nigga was a man who was considered a danger to both the white and black community (Du Bois, 1994). The beginning of such violence was not random. It was after the realization that the black man had no other alternative but to use force and violence to resolve quarrels because the white man back then believed that he was above the law thus could not respect the opinion of others, more so if they were black. The black man then realized that he was outside the law.

As such, the bad black man was born out of the desperate and helpless moments. Bad black men were tough and rough. They were the voice of the society because they fought against oppression. They dealt with opponents without remorse. However, they were not celebrated because of being heroes because they killed black and whites alike as long as they were against them in one way or another. What they did was more inclined to their personal gratification as opposed to caring about the society’s needs. The impact of the bad black man still contributes towards the segregation of the black man in the current society. Because of the actions of these men, most people who stereotype the black man believe that he is meant to be violent just because he is a black man. The segregation of the black man is something that is told in stories. The misplaced notion has been passed down ever since the era of slavery. The images of bad nigga and ‘hustla’ are seen as the representation of the black masculinity just as most black movies and rap industry portrays. The black man seeks street recognition and as such is forced to be involved in crime and violence, which sometimes leads to destruction. Hustlers and street niggers command a certain type of respect in the streets thus forming a significant part of the black man’s hero. The nigga is not a leader meant to set an example for the others. His trait of began rough and unruly is important since it is what makes it possible for him to stand against political and other kinds of injustice.

Rebellion and Criminals

The bad nigga is considered a rebellious figure, which is a representation of the black man that continues to affect the perception of most people even today. The bad nigga is a mark of how far the law can go. He is seen as a force to be feared and avoided. For a long time, the bad nigga was painted as a person who destroys things. It may have been true in the age of slavery. However, it should not be used to judge every black male in society today. However, the fact that rap artists use the lack of morality as an identity in their songs does not help matters but rather fuels the misconceptions that most people have about the black male. What most people do not realize is that this moral crisis stems from the oppressions, ghettoization, and discrimination against the black male. It should be given the attention it deserves, but instead the community is quick to judge and condemn the black man for being unlawful and out of hand. According to Perry, hip-hop outlaw representation is multifaceted (Perry, 2004). It is a representation of the outcry against rules and laws that deliberately sidelines the black community. It represents the alternatives that the black man opts for even if they are contrary to what society considers morally right. It explains why the outlaw is considered differently in the community where he could be seen as the hero for the society while other people could find him the figure to be celebrated and emulated.

The black Americans seemed to have accepted the derogatory stereotypes that were branded over time. One such stereotype is the conscious adoption, which is the core attitude that most gangsta rappers portray today. These artists’ agenda is to exaggerate the stereotype by taking to another level in addition to revealing what they truly see in the black male. When you listen to most of the rappers, they claim identity from the stereotypes that have been passed down to them. Some of the artists use these songs to correct the stereotype. Hardcore rap portrays the black man to be influenced by hyper-masculinity. It shows that this man is hyperactive aggressive, hypersexual in addition to emphasizing on the appearance of wealth and lack of persona accountability. It is believed to be the representation of manhood in these societies.

 References:

Cunnell, H. (2005). Condemned men: compulsive masculinity and the convict ethic in the writing of Edward Bunker. Prose and Cons: Essays on Prison Literature in the United States. Edited by D. Quentin Miller, 95-110.

Du Bois, E.B (1994). Of the Dawn of Freedom.  The Souls of the Black Folk. New York: Dover Publications, Inc.

Lewis, T. L. (2008). The Modern Athlete, Hip-Hop, and Popular Perceptions of Black Masculinity. AmeriQuests6(1).

Perry, I. (2004). Prophets of the Hood: Politics and Poetics in Hip Hop. Duke University Press: Durham,