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Sam Golter

Sam Golter is a PhD student at the University of Virginia where he studies Critical and Comparative Studies in Music. He recently completed his MA in Musicology at the University of Oregon and wrote his thesis on the sexual politics of Los Angeles gangsta rap. Sam is also a contemporary classical flutist and is the editor of Pauline Oliveros’s Anthology of Text Scores.

"'You Don’t Hear Me Though, You Better Listen' Putting Women MCs on the Los Angeles Gangsta Rap Playlist"
 Fans, critics, and scholars alike tend to define ‘gangsta rap’ as a hypermasculine and violent subset of hip hop musical culture, but women rappers were an integral part of the original Los Angeles gangsta rap scene in the 1980s and 90s. Rappers like Bo$$, NiNi X, and Yo-Yo, as well as groups like H.W.A. (Hoez With Attitude) and Menajahtwa, have been largely excluded from our conversations about the genre’s sound and politics. And this is a shame, because adding their voices to the gangsta rap playlist changes the ways we can talk about the genre. Deeply misogynistic songs like N.W.A.’s “A Bitch Iz a Bitch” no longer stand uncontested when we hear Bo$$ depict herself “speakin’ on how ya dick’ll be gettin’ shot clear the fuck off if ya keep talkin’ that shit cuz all bitches ain’t hoes.” The politics of gangsta rap extend beyond the streets of Compton when we listen to H.W.A. rap about living in a heavily-surveilled “Hoe House.” The assumed sexual antagonism that fundamentally underlies the genre gets called into question when we listen to Yo-Yo describe pulling a gat out of her skirt while police pat down Ice Cube in the “Bonnie and Clyde Theme.”

While cultural critics such as Robin D.G. Kelley and Eithne Quinn are generally comfortable recognizing depictions of violence in gangsta rap as an important part of the genre’s oppositional politics, even its fiercest advocates find it difficult to come to terms with its misogynistic content. I do not intend to defend the rampant sexism that is associated with the genre. Rather, I emphasize the more complex sexual politics that begin to emerge when we place the voices and self-representations of women gangsta rappers in dialogue with their male counterparts.