Real Talk: Is Hip Hop’s Overconfidence Hurting or Helping Us?

It started with Kim, then moved to Trina, and has been taken over by Nicki Minaj. The Bad Bitch. Many have written about this ongoing battle between female empowerment and lack of self-respect from this title.

I grew up with Kim, and in the second grade my mother was embarrassed when she came to Open House and found that I had completed a questionnaire and put down (cough: smdh) Lil Kim as my role model. I was 7 years old. Kim was my role model; precisely because she was the bad bitch that I knew. She was the confident brown girl on TV. I identified with brown very early on in my life thanks to my family.

Kim was confident. She was in control. She spoke quickly and cleverly. I didn’t see this anywhere else. I was into words. I was into empowerment even then. I couldn’t deny what I liked. Needless to say my mother wasn’t too happy when she came home.

So the saga continues because millions of little black and brown girls have listened to female rappers boast of their bad bitchness in ways that lead some to raise an eyebrow. With such a limited amount of female presence in hip hop to begin with it does lead some to wonder why they had to go the expletive route when Queen Latifah got the same message across with let’s say, Ladies First and UNITY.

However, the men aren’t any better when it comes to this confidence and sometime arrogant boasting a la Lil Wayne calling himself, The Best Rapper Alive, to Jay- Z’s second name of Hova, and recently Kanye West dropping his latest album, Yeezus.” These three are all good in their own right, but never will Kanye ever compare to my Jesus! No matter how good I think he is. So what is it with hip hop’s fascination with confidence….more like OVERCONFIDENCE?

yeezusKanye’s Cover Art for New Album, Yeezus

Is this doing more good or harm to those who listen? Honestly, I believe it really depends on the consciousness level of the individual who is indulging in this music.

Female rappers use of “bad bitches” is not particularly disempowering to women. In fact, it could be noted that it gives women a sense of empowerment, assertiveness, and confidence. The problem lies in the listener who actually thinks they are to look and act just like the rapper in order to gain credibility and men; which in turn means they have an “underdeveloped context” of womanhood and the cultural and stereotypical implications this implies as Lupe Fiasco cleverly notes in his song, Bitch Bad.

Therein lies my own issue with the overconfidence that hip hop exudes, but is it hip hop’s fault that they can’t help but boast their goodness? Is it arrogance? Or is it confidence? Is wrong to boost your own genius? You be the judge. Whatever it maybe I don’t think it is totally wrong.

But, I do, however feel as though young listener’s lack of consciousness makes this a dangerous combination as Lupe’s song beautifully notes. Young people want to enjoy their music not analyze it. But, when you are being fed certain messages you begin to believe these messages after a while.

As a conscious African American woman I don’t cringe when I hear “baddest bitch” in a song. In fact, you’re liable to catch me singing right along. Does this mean it’s right? No. I do think that female rapper’s find empowerment within agencies such as sexuality that can be over the top at times. I do think that male rappers promote patriarchy, misogyny, and their over confidence gives unconscious young men false perceptions of success and blackness. I feel like I’m torn between two worlds.

At the end of the day I still love me some hip hop. I do still like Kim. Jay-Z will always be my number one. Kanye will never cease to amaze me with his lyrical genius. Always have and always will love hip hop despite its many flaws.

I can’t knock their hustle because they are confident at their craft. My love for hip hop and my love for female empowerment will always put me against the two in a double consciousness type of way. It’s just how it is. Feminist contradictions, we all got em’. I’m no different.

REGAL RESOURCE: Yeezy Taught Me: 4 Lessons From Kanye West’s New York Times Interview

I want to know:

  • Do you think hip hop suffers from overconfidence?
  • Do you think this is negatively impacting society especially young people?
  • Hip Hop Lovers: Do you experience these contradictions at all?