David Lister: Jay-Z might be rethinking his degrading lyrics, but why do women in hip-hop stay silent?

The Week in Arts


The hip-hop star Jay-Z has apparently vowed to stop using the word "bitch" in his lyrics now that his wife and fellow superstar Beyoncé has given birth to a daughter, Blue Ivy. He was reported to have made his pledge this week in a poem, one verse of which reads: "Before I got in the game, made a change and got rich / I didn't think about using the word bitch / I rapped, I flipped it, I sold it, I lived it / Now with my daughter in this world I curse those that give it / No man will degrade her and call her names."

Well, good. It may not be up to the mark of this week's T S Eliot Prize for Poetry, but it gets the point across well enough. Some of the world's best-known rappers – and none is better known than Jay-Z – have had bitch (or its even less pleasant cousin "ho") as a sine qua non of lyrical composition for some time. And if Jay-Z is now setting the trend in eschewing that particularly lyrical device, then most of us would applaud him. It is an "if", since Jay-Z's representatives now say he is not necessarily dropping the word "bitch" from his lyrics, and even the poem may not be by his own hand.

The world of hip-hop is a mysterious one. But I certainly hope that Jay-Z will drop the word from all future songs. It would be a great boon to music and better relations between the sexes. I find it odd, though, that Jay-Z would have to wait until the birth of a daughter before the blinding realisation that misogyny isn't very nice. Why, I wonder, did he not experience this Damascene conversion on his marriage to Beyoncé? Was it OK to "degrade" her? And why did she never have a word with him about it?

Why do the women in the hip-hop world not challenge this form of degradation more? Hip-hop artist Queen Latifah did try to in one song, which had her insulted by a group of men. "I punched him dead in his eye and said 'Who you calling a bitch?'," was her response in the song. Actions can speak louder than rhetoric sometimes, though that musical riposte clearly wasn't enough to stop Jay-Z in his tracks, or change many other male hip-hop minds.

The real force for change, as Jay-Z may have realised, is among the hip-hop stars' nearest and dearest. He cannot stomach the idea of the word being used in relation to his daughter, even if strangely the same thought never occurred to him as regards his wife.

Beyoncé must be breathing a sigh of relief that her little girl might grow up in a musical era in which she and her generation do not have to suffer such lyrics. But she should have made more of an effort over the breakfast table to get such epithets dropped long ago. Still, we're getting there. We can only hope that more of the hip-hop musicians who rely on such language in their lyrics also have daughters, gaze upon them and suddenly see the light. Family life has unexpected bonuses.

Not just credit-card companies at fault

As someone who has campaigned for quite some time now against booking fees for theatres, concerts and cinemas, I certainly welcome the Government's decision to crack down on credit card companies that impose such charges at the last minute.

But it's not enough. Easy as it is to blame those credit-card companies, theatres, concert halls and cinemas must also take some responsibility for the annoyance (and expense) they cause to everyone who books tickets. The blame for booking fees, handling charges and all the other ridiculous names that are really pure greed cannot just be laid at the door of those wicked credit-card companies. The arts, too, need a government crackdown on ticket-selling practices.

National Gallery plays into the hands and pockets of the touts

What's it like to try to get in to see the Leonardo exhibition at the National Gallery? Independent reader Paul Davies shared his experience with me. He and his girlfriend queued for four hours from 7.15 in the morning, only to be told just as he reached the front of the queue that there were no more day tickets left. He was then offered two tickets by a tout (at £40 each!) who claimed he had "over-bought" in purchasing four that morning.

Mr Davies was able to see the show, but he wonders, as do I: a) what happened to the National Gallery's much-publicised claim that tickets bought off touts would not be valid (there were no checks on this at all, he says, and no one patrolling to stop any touting); and b) why on earth the National Gallery is selling four per person. Surely, two per person would be sufficient. Four simply plays into the hands, and pockets, of the touts. The National Gallery management is losing friends fast.



React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: In House Counsel - Contracts

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This leading supplier of compliance software a...

Recruitment Genius: Associate System Engineer

£24000 - £30000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The Associate System Engineer r...

Recruitment Genius: Executive Assistant

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: An Executive Assistant is required to join a l...

Ashdown Group: Marketing Manager - B2B, Corporate - City, London

£45000 - £50000 per annum + benefits : Ashdown Group: A highly successful, glo...

Day In a Page

Read Next
Zoe Sugg, aka Zoella, with her boyfriend, fellow vlogger Alfie Deyes  

If children are obese then blame food manufacturers, not Zoella

Jane Merrick
Amos Yee arrives with his father at the State courts in Singapore on March 31  

Singapore's arrest of a 16-year-old YouTuber is all you need to know about Lee Kuan Yew's legacy

Noah Sin
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police
No postcode? No vote

Floating voters

How living on a houseboat meant I didn't officially 'exist'
Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin

By Reason of Insanity

Louis Theroux's affable Englishman routine begins to wear thin
Power dressing is back – but no shoulderpads!

Power dressing is back

But banish all thoughts of Eighties shoulderpads
Spanish stone-age cave paintings 'under threat' after being re-opened to the public

Spanish stone-age cave paintings in Altamira 'under threat'

Caves were re-opened to the public
'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'

Vince Cable interview

'I was the bookies’ favourite to be first to leave the Cabinet'
Election 2015: How many of the Government's coalition agreement promises have been kept?

Promises, promises

But how many coalition agreement pledges have been kept?
The Gaza fisherman who built his own reef - and was shot dead there by an Israeli gunboat

The death of a Gaza fisherman

He built his own reef, and was fatally shot there by an Israeli gunboat