Constructions of Gender and Dialogues on Relationships in Rap Music

  • Gwendolyn D. Pough


Iremember the first time I heard LL Cool J’s soulful rap ballad “I Need Love” (1987). While it was the first rap love song I had ever heard, it will not be the last. Rap and rap artists’ never ending quest to “keep it real” is not limited to real life struggles on American streets. Some rappers show an interesting dedication to exploring aspects of love and the struggles of building and maintaining intimate relationships between black men and women and maintaining “a strong public dialogue between male and female rappers.” The beginnings of this public dialogue can be seen in the love raps of the 1960s made famous by Issac Hayes, Barry White, and Millie Jackson. As William Perkins notes:

This genre used a lengthy monologue over a simple melodic line to recount the pain and peril of love. Hayes’s eighteen-minute rap, “By the Time I Get to Phoenix,” from his debut album, Hot Buttered Soul, revolutionized rhythm and blues (or soul music). The Hayes sound provided a cool, passionate, and mellow ease to the dance music that characterized the golden era of soul. Hayes’s female counterpart at Stax Records, Millie Jackson, known for her x-rated raps on men, cheating, love, and sex, pioneered female lovers’ rap, and her catchy duets with Hayes became legendary.... Finally, B arry White’s romantic raps of the disco era set his deep baritone against a complete orchestra complemented by French horns, violins, and cello…. This soulful trio made the rap genre acceptable to the Black consumer market and White’s raps were one of the firsts to cross over into the white middle-class mainstream.1


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  2. Eisa Davis, “Sexism and the Art of Feminist Hip-Hop Maintenance,” To Be Real: Telling the Truth and Changing the Face of Feminism, edited by Rebecca Walker (NewYork: Anchor Books, 1995) 127–42.Google Scholar
  3. Foxy Brown, Ill Na Na, Def Jam, 1996.Google Scholar
  4. Lil’ Kim. Hardcore. Undeas, 1996Google Scholar
  5. Method Man, “I’ll Be There For You/ You’re All I Need To Get By” Tical, Def Jam, 1995.Google Scholar
  6. Micheal A. Gonzalez, “Lil’ Kim and Foxy Brown: Mack Divas,” Source Magazine, February 1997, pp. 62–67.Google Scholar
  7. Notorious BIG, “Me and My Bitch,” Ready to Die, Bad Boy, 1994.Google Scholar
  8. Russell Potter, Spectacular Vernaculars: Hip-Hop and the Politics of Postmodernity (New York: SUNY Press, 1995).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Gayle T. Tate and Lewis A. Randolph 2006

Authors and Affiliations

  • Gwendolyn D. Pough

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