R&B star Ne-Yo recently stopped by The Cruz Show to discuss lyrics in music and how songs towards women have become more derogatory. The hit-making songwriter is an expert at penning songs and is known for keeping things romantic and sensual on his records, so it would make sense that he would take issue with the nastier side of songwriting. According to him, if women do not want to be called out their name, they should stop listening to these songs.
During his sitdown with the radio show, Ne-Yo expressed how as a man, he takes some responsibility for the ways in which women are referred to in urban music because he has participated in it. He has featured some colorful lyrics in his repertoire, including the Juicy J assisted “She Knows,” but for the most part, the crooner bigs ups women and champions them on records like “Miss Independent” and “Let Me Love You.”
“The more misogynistic the lyrics get, the more yall accept it, the more that’s gonna happen,” he said to the female listeners tuning in. “If you want men to stop calling you b*ches, stop dancing to those records.”
It is true that popular music does not always frame women in the best lens. Since rock music in the mid-’80s and the dawn of the music video, women have been treated as props and objects of admiration on our television screens. With the rise of hip-hop in the ’90s, this trend only increased as themes of misogyny became commonplace on rap records. Groups like NWA and Geto Boys used derogatory language towards women to assert their masculinity and dominance. This became a calling card for the genre and quickly, you could not separate it from the music. Even worst, it seemed to be a go-to for anyone hoping to score a hit song.
In hopes of combating this, female rappers began to own their sexuality and the language surrounding women in music in an attempt to empower and uplift each other. Acts like Salt-N-Pepa helped turn the tide and eventually paved the way for much raunchier stars like Lil Kim, Nicki Minaj and Cardi B to follow.
The trend spilled over into R&B music as well. As crooners began to use racier vernacular to make their music cooler (i.e., Jodeci and H-Town), female vocalists adapted (TLC, Xscape). R&B eventually influenced Pop, and now we exist in a pretty genreless world where derogatory language towards women can pop up in just about anyone’s songs. Right now, the Billboard Hot 100 features records like Kodak Black’s “Super Gremlin,” Gunna’s “Pushin P,” Drake’s “Knife Talk,” and more that feature some bad lyrics about women.
How are these records becoming so successful? Why are artists allowed to continue talking about women like this and being rewarded with number 1 records? Furthermore, it adds to a culture where women are being disrespected in real life. The cases of mistreatment towards women are higher in urban communities and amongst those who listen to hip-hop. Many connect this underlined narrative with how black women, in particular, are treated by the media.
Many point at the lack of support towards Megan The Stallion when she accused Tory Lanez of assaulting her. Or how some people did not believe Keke Palmer when she discussed R&B singer Trey Songz using his masculinity as a way to bully her into being in his video. It is so fine to dismiss women that it is rarely questioned why no one has a problem with it.
Recently, New York City mayor Eric Adams openly criticized the hip-hop subgenre, drill music, and discussed hopes to remove it from social media where it can’t influence children. Drill music features a heavy focus on drugs, violence, and misogyny.
Despite all this evidence of how negatively these songs can impact women and how they are treated, some fans still jumped into the comments to clown Ne-Yo, refuting his point. “I didn’t wanna hear nothing from this man respectfully,” said one follower. Others defended their right to listen to rap music despite not agreeing with its message. “Dancing to a specific type of music doesn’t justify or in no way make it ok to be called derogatory names. That’s like saying, ‘if you listen to rap all the time, you’re instantly a thug.’ Ne-yo please 🙄” “He’s featured on the very music he’s telling us to not dance to….. ok Lil bust it babbyyyyyy” pointed out another. Does Ne-Yo have a point or is he the wrong messanger?