It is 2007 on a Thursday night, and I am at the old Phuture on Zion Road. “Smack that, all on the floor,” Akon’s hit single Smack That is booming from the club speakers. “Smack that, give me some more,” the song continues. The club is brimming with barely legal teenagers. Couples are gyrating on the crowded dance floor; some of the girls’ bodycon dresses are riding up and the boys pump their fists in the air. I feel self-conscious as I am sandwiched between two tall figures. Even so, I find myself dancing; the air is heavy but the beat is thick.
It is 2017 on a Saturday night, and I am late for Checkpoint Theatre’s Thick Beats for Good Girls.
I am brisk walking in the light drizzle and my earphones are blasting Migos’ Bad Bitches Only. As the Drama Centre looms ahead, I think about how hip-hop seems to always conform to its own lazy stereotype of girls as hyper-sexualised beings. Or at the very least, girls who have no issue with bending over to Akon, Migos or whomever. This cliché even applied to me back then, a teenage girl dancing to Smack That, which contains the line “Women just hoein’, big booty rollin’”. It feels wrong or hypocritical of me to take part in this, doesn’t it? Since its birth in 1970s New York, hip-hop has a long, complicated history of how it treats women and women’s bodies. From Dr. Dre’s Bitches Ain’t Shit to Cardi B’s Bodak Yellow, it is difficult to pinpoint exactly how women are positioned or even welcomed in hip-hop. Girls in hip-hop can be sexy, empowered, naughty… but can they be good?
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Side note: Thick Beats made me realise that I’ve actually grown up with hip-hop, and I’ve only started really appreciating it a few years ago. Hip-hop is a messy, exciting genre, and I’m so glad to be able to even witness it.