Hip-hop was birthed from the oppression Black and brown people have been subjected to. With the then-new genre, the society-imposed limitations and eons of racialized cruelty could be addressed in a language that resonated with the youth. With this hope and innovation quickly came the same tired contempt of Black women that has colored the American experience. In the business (because let’s be clear, hip-hop is just that), women artists and power players alike have had difficulty having their voices heard. They’ve had fears of being blackballed for talking about the harassment that stains the back end of the industry. Knowing these stakes didn’t stop Latto, who has an album due on March 25, from speaking up.
On Friday, March 18, a clip of the rapper speaking out about her experience with harassment went viral. It was a painful reminder that hip-hop is overdue for a reckoning.
Latto was not afraid to speak about the sexist hurdles women have to go through just to have a working relationship with artists. The history of such is far reaching.
Latto, who is currently engaging with the press around the release of her sophomore album, recently spoke with Big Boy on LA’s 92.3. She talked about the process of completing her project, mentioning that one male rapper in particular gave her a difficult time about clearing his verse. She asserts that he wanted to do the song in exchange for a more personal interaction with her and retaliated when she wouldn’t relent.
“Dealing with men, they don’t know how to keep it business,” Latto said during the interview. “It’s a feature on my album that was difficult to clear because they tryna drop they nuts on me because I won’t respond to a DM.”
People have rhetorically questioned why Latto would include a person who harassed her in her big moment. She mentioned that the album was due (and that she therefore didn’t have time to rework it to exclude him) and that she “love[d] the song.” Since Latto confirmed that the person was an artist, and not an executive or producer, fans have tried to piece together who did this to her, but she has not said who the person was.
Latto was not afraid to speak about the sexist hurdles women have to go through just to have a working relationship with artists. There is a history of such.
The treatment Latto detailed overlaps with the ways male artists have spoken about working with women in hip-hop. During a 2017 interview with The Breakfast Club, Rick Ross said the following about signing women to his label: “I never did it because I always thought that like I would end up f–king the female rapper—fucking the business up. I’m so focused on my business. I gotta be honest with you. You know, she looking good and I’m spending so much money on the photoshoot. I gotta f–k a couple times.”
Ross issued an apology via Facebook on July 27, 2017. He is not featured on Latto’s album.
Kodak Black offered up a similar statement on The Breakfast Club as well, in February 2022. He said that he expects women that he works with to want to be involved with him on a personal level, or they shouldn’t reach out to him at all. Co-host Charlamagne Tha God balked and said, “You can’t expect them girls to give you some just because you doing music with them, Kodak,” to which the rapper responded, “Yes, mhmm. So, why you expect a n—- to just do music with you then?”
A week prior, on Valentine’s Day, Black posted a photo of himself tying rapper DreamDoll’s shoes with the caption, “I’ll tie yo shoes & open yo doors..I wanna be yo friend b4 yo man..” DreamDoll responded, commenting, “Y’all need to stop gassing this n—-[,] this is [behind the scenes] from our video shoot.” She also added, “You will never be my man Kodak please stop.” Black responded in video form, alleging that the two “have history.” He also said, “I struck a nerve in [DreamDoll] back then and sh– like that, basically I told her…y’all gotta let me smash cause the music is a little trash.”
Black has said that he is not the rapper Latto is speaking about.
As long as men view working on music with women as a stepping stool for any type of non-business related transaction, we will continue to have a culture that degrades women of the craft. Again, this is not new.
Nona Hendryx, a member of soul-funk fusion group LaBelle, sat down for a group interview in 1975. She outlined that is is common for some men to believe that they can sleep with artists in exchange for giving their material an ear. When the group’s representation, who was a woman, would enter an office in hopes of presenting their music, she would be met with misogyny.
“When a woman walks into an office and says, ‘I have an act and I’m their manager,’ they go either, “Oo wow, what boobs,” or “How quick can I do so and so?,” Hendryx said. This attitude predates hip-hop and is a likeness of the industry, showing the landscape that the burgeoning genre was exposed to from the beginning. So I must ask, was hip-hop ever destined to be a welcoming space for women?
Tricia Rose’s “The Hip Hop Wars: What We Talk About When We Talk About Hip Hop–and Why It Matters” questions the public response to sexism in hip-hop. She implores us to engage in authentic conversation about what the future can resemble, rather than let outrage be the extent of our concern with the topic. In that vein, I ask readers to do the same. So what will be our next steps as we try to untie the work of misogynoir? What does the music industry need to do to let people know that this type of behavior is demeaning and harmful? Is a better space even possible? The promise that hip-hop once had to be a rebellion against all that was wrong in the world is dwindling. Until we have answers to our burning questions, and the support of those truly in power, women will be gridlocked with a culture that hates them.