One morning, on my way to work, my neighbor--a gentleman in his 60s--commented on the Mos Def CD in my hand. After inspecting its 'explicit lyrics' label, he asked, "What kind of dirty music are you listening to?" I replied that Mos is a talented rapper/actor. "But rap is hard on women," he added. "It's so misogynistic." For the most part, he's right. It's hard to embrace all aspects of hip-hop, when so many artists would rather objectify than celebrate women. Sometimes, I find myself having to defend my love for hip-hop for this reason. Thankfully, there are quite a few MCs who still respect the ladies.
Krs-One falls into the category of the rare MC whose political ambitions were so great that they neutered any sexuality to be found in his rhymes. He did however, coin the expression 'Jimmy-hat' in what was arguably the first safe-sex rap song, along with the phrase, 'you can't trust a big butt and a smile.' Hey, he had to make folk wise up somehow.
9. Chuck D (Public Enemy)
They were fighting the power and believed women to be assets in the struggle. At the height of their career, they talked about young black men's confrontations with police and the destructive nature of crack cocaine in hoods across the America, but they never called the tragically crack-addicted mothers b*tches or h*s. Now Flav's exploits on Flavor of Love, well, that's another story...
8. Q-Tip (A Tribe Called Quest)
Q-Tip's solo-effort 'Vivrant Thing' with its glam video replete with models was still more respectable that 90% of the music out at the time. (Think Juvenile's 'Back That A** Up,' o.k., enough said) "Electric Relaxation" is probably Tribe's most sexually-charged hit and it still makes most of us wanna dance. 'Find a Way,' is the classic boy meets girl hip-hop song.
7. Andre 3000
As a total composition The Love Below is about how all of us need to acknowledge our needs for love regardless of how cool you may be on the surface. I don't know too many women hip-hop fans who don't love "Prototype." Andre's fearless fashion sense, which includes rocking the color pink and pearls, is also a reflection of respect for the XX-chromosome kind.
6. Talib Kweli
5. Black Thought (The Roots)
On "Don't See Us (from The Roots' 1999 LP Things Fall Apart)," Black Thought quips, "I'm not the average savage that curse queens." Later on the same album, Thought helped craft "You Got Me," which remains one of hip-hop's illest love songs ever.
4. Mos Def
Yes, one of Mos Def's biggest hits is called "Ms. Fat Booty," but he falls madly in love with the girl after meeting her in the club. The song is a story of boy meets girl, boy gets girl, and boy loses girl after finding her in a compromising position. All in all, Mos is one of the smartest, boldest MCs to pick up a mic and that makes us swoon.
2. Lupe Fiasco
1. LL Cool J
His very name means Ladies Love Cool James. He's been in the game long enough to have had his fun and then some, but these days he goes home to his high school sweetheart every night. Mama Said Knock You Out, perhaps his best album, is a testament to how his grandma helped him stay on top. He essentially dedicated his whole persona to keeping the ladies happy. Nowadays, LL doesn't have to rap anymore. If he simply doffed his shirt to a dope beat in a video, we'd be happy.