Rock Therapy: Two Fantastic Feminist Rap Songs by 2Pac and Queen Latifah

Too many rap songs about women are unfortunately misogynistic. Here are two fantastic counterpoints to that trend by 2Pac and Queen Latifah, both from 1993. Feminism is not just about women—it's about all of us. Men and women must both stand up for the rights of women. Standing up for women is standing up for us all: Men, women, children, families and communities. 


Keep Ya Head Up

2Pac (Tupac Shakur)

Here's why I love music and lyrics: They can get a point across in a way like no other. Listen to 2Pac's argument here. I think it's pretty solid: 

"And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies."

Kind of like, "No duh!" right? So why do so many miss something so darn obvious?

Here are all the lyrics.

Keep Ya Head Up
2Pac (Tupac Shakur)

Some say the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice
I say the darker the flesh then the deeper the roots
I give a holler to my sisters on welfare
Tupac cares, if don't nobody else care
And uhh, I know they like to beat ya down a lot
When you come around the block brothas clown a lot
But please don't cry, dry your eyes, never let up
Forgive but don't forget, girl keep your head up
And when he tells you you ain't nothin' don't believe him
And if he can't learn to love you you should leave him
Cause sista you don't need him
And I ain't tryin to gash up, I just call em how I see em
You know it makes me unhappy
When brothas make babies, and leave a young mother to be a pappy
And since we all came from a woman
Got our name from a woman and our game from a woman
I wonder why we take from our women
Why we rape our women, do we hate our women?
I think it's time to kill for our women
Time to heal our women, be real to our women
And if we don't we'll have a race of babies
That will hate the ladies, that make the babies
And since a man can't make one
He has no right to tell a woman when and where to create one
So will the real men get up
I know you're fed up ladies, but you gotta keep your head up

[Chorus:]
Keep ya head up, oooo child things are gonna get easier
Ooooo child things are gonna get brighter [2x]

I remember Marvin Gaye, used to sing ta me
He had me feelin like black was tha thing to be
And suddenly tha ghetto didn't seem so tough
And though we had it rough, we always had enough
I huffed and puffed about my curfew and broke the rules
Ran with the local crew, and had a smoke or two
And I realize momma really paid the price
She nearly gave her life, to raise me right
And all I had ta give her was my pipe dream
Of how I'd rock the mic, and make it to tha bright screen
I'm tryin to make a dollar out of fifteen cents
It's hard to be legit and still pay tha rent
And in the end it seems I'm headin for tha pen
I try and find my friends, but they're blowin in the wind
Last night my buddy lost his whole family
It's gonna take the man in me to conquer this insanity
It seems tha rain'll never let up
I try to keep my head up, and still keep from gettin wet up
You know it's funny when it rains it pours
They got money for wars, but can't feed the poor
Say there ain't no hope for the youth and the truth is
It ain't no hope for tha future
And then they wonder why we crazy
I blame my mother, for turning my brother into a crack baby
We ain't meant to survive, cause it's a setup
And even if you're fed up
Huh, ya got to keep your head up

[Chorus]

To all the ladies havin babies on they own
I know it's kinda rough and you're feelin all alone
Daddy's long gone and he left you by ya lonesome
Thank the Lord for my kids, even if nobody else want em
Cause I think we can make it, in fact, I'm sure
And if you fall, stand tall and comeback for more
Cause ain't nuttin worse than when your son
Wants to kno why his daddy don't love him no mo'
You can't complain you was dealt this
Hell of a hand without a man, feelin helpless
Because there's too many things for you to deal with
Dying inside, but outside you're looking fearless
While tears, is rollin down your cheeks
Ya steady hopin things don't all down this week
Cause if it did, you couldn't take it, and don't blame me
I was given this world I didn't make it
And now my son's getten older and older and cold
From havin the world on his shoulders
While the rich kids is drivin Benz
I'm still tryin to hold on to survivin friends
And it's crazy, it seems it'll never let up, but
Please... you got to keep your head up

 


U.N.I.T.Y

Queen Latifah

Queen Latifah sings about needing to stop demeaning women by calling them "bitches" and "hos." Amen! I have often said, "Weak men call strong women 'bitches.' Strong men call strong women 'strong.'" I was raised by a strong woman. My sister is a strong woman. My wife is a strong woman. I have two girls who are strong young women. My two boys have learned to honor, respect and be attracted to strong women. 

My fav line from this song is simply, "Ya gotta let him know" which I hear as "Ya gotta let them know" meaning everyone has to know: Women are women, not a name or a label. They are not to be idealized nor to be demeaned. They are just to be respected. The same with men. People are to be respected. So why focus on women? Sadly, the long history of the world too often has subjugated and dishonored women. So yeah, I'm focusing there. As a man I cannot stand for the lessening of anyone.

And as I, as a man, respect women I also simply respect myself. "Ya got to let them know" means the men need to know the worth of a woman, the women need to know the worth of a woman, the boys and the girls need to know the worth of a woman. Truly: "Together we stand..."

"U.N.I.T.Y."
Queen Latifah

[chorus]

Uh, U.N.I.T.Y., U.N.I.T.Y. that's a unity
U.N.I.T.Y., love a black man from infinity to infinity
(Who you calling a bitch?)
U.N.I.T.Y., U.N.I.T.Y. that's a unity (You gotta let him know)
(You go, come on here we go)
U.N.I.T.Y., Love a black woman from (You got to let him know)
infinity to infinity (You ain't a bitch or a ho)
U.N.I.T.Y., U.N.I.T.Y. that's a unity (You gotta let him know)
(You go, come on here we go)
U.N.I.T.Y., Love a black man from (You got to let him know)
infinity to infinity (You ain't a bitch or a ho)

Instinct leads me to another flow
Every time I hear a brother call a girl a bitch or a ho
Trying to make a sister feel low
You know all of that gots to go
Now everybody knows there's exceptions to this rule
Now don't be getting mad, when we playing, it's cool
But don't you be calling out my name
I bring wrath to those who disrespect me like a dame
That's why I'm talking, one day I was walking down the block
I had my cutoff shorts on right cause it was crazy hot
I walked past these dudes when they passed me
One of 'em felt my booty, he was nasty
I turned around red, somebody was catching the wrath
Then the little one said (Yeah me bitch) and laughed
Since he was with his boys he tried to break fly
Huh, I punched him dead in his eye and said "Who you calling a bitch?"

I hit the bottom, there ain't nowhere else to go but up
Bad days at work, give you an attitude then you were rough
And take it out on me but that's about enough
You put your hands on me again I'll put your ass in handcuffs
I guess I fell so deep in love I grew dependency
I was too blind to see just how it was affecting me
All that I knew was you, you was all the man I had
And I was scared to let you go, even though you treated me bad
But I don't want my kids to see me getting beat down
By daddy smacking mommy all around
You say I'm nothing without ya, but I'm nothing with ya
A man don't really love you if he hits ya
This is my notice to the door, I'm not taking it no more
I'm not your personal whore, that's not what I'm here for
And nothing good gonna come to ya til you do right by me
Brother you wait and see (Who you calling a bitch?)

[chorus]

What's going on in your mind is what I ask ya
But like Yo-Yo, you don't hear me though
You wear a rag around your head and you call yourself
a "Gangsta Bitch" now that you saw Apache's video
I saw you wilding, acting like a fool
I peeped you out the window jumping girls after school
But where did all of this come from?
A minute ago, you was a nerd and nobody ever heard of ya
Now you a wannabe... hard
You barely know your ABC's, please
There's plenty of people out there with triggers ready to pull it
Why you trying to jump in front of the bullet (Young lady)
Uh, and real bad girls are the silent type
Ain't none of this work getting your face sliced
Cause that's what happened to your homegirl, right? Bucking with nobody
She got to wear that for life (Who you calling a bitch?)

[chorus]