Gender, sexuality, and objectification in Lil Wayne's 2009 performance of "Lollipop"
This post examines the live performance of "Lollipop" from the 2009 "America's Most Wanted" tour. I think it's safe to say that the above video and this post are NSFW. The lyrics are explicit.
Please note that yes, I identify as a feminist, and as such will not tolerate "you can't be feminist and like rap music," for two reasons: 1). my feminism is not negated by my support or patronage of a genre of music in which I have no control, and 2). sexism and misogyny are not exclusive to the rap genre (I notice when I say I like rock music, no one says "omg but you're a feminist!" to which I can't help but think there's a touch of racism in there, which is also not to be tolerated). That said, enjoy the post.
I wrote a post yesterday discussing the Lil Wayne concert I went to Wednesday night, and in it I briefly touch on Lil Wayne's use of women in the show, and I wanted to delve further into presentations of gender in the performance, specifically in the performance of the hit "Lollipop."
Before I get to it though, you should all know that I love love love this song. I love how the words sound, I love the beat--and in this performance especially with the electric guitars. It's a wonderful work. I start this out with praise only because oftentimes people mistake my discussion of gender presentations as negative criticism, rather than what it is: pointing out what is right in front of you.
What's interesting about this song, is that it tends to objectify both men and women. In the beginning of the song, we hear "I say he so sweet make her wanna lick the rapper. So I let her lick the rapper." This makes him the passive object, one which is sexually desired by women. Yet he's still the one in control. The men (the band members, DJ 45, and Lil Wayne) embody the aggressive masculine objects--dressed in tight-fitting tanks, the men display their bodies as masculine objects for the women (both onstage and offstage), and also for the homosocial gaze as a display for other males (onstage and offstage). The men exude typical rock-hard hypermasculinity, which tends to go hand in hand in regards to rap and hip-hop.
But the women serve as typical feminine objects throughout, both in the performance and in the lyrics. A couple lines focus on parts of the women's bodies, such as "ass" and "pussy." In several instances we have "bring that ass back," and of course there's mention of her "lovely lady lumps," which pretty much covers all bases. The lyrics of lollipop reduce women to their parts, and this is even evident in the performance of the song. True enough, the women are, not surprisingly, dressed in tight-fitting, revealing clothing, accentuating the typical lady assets: legs, breasts, and ass. In one song of the concert, Nicki Minaj was fully clothed, but in a skin-tight leather outfit that appeared painted on.
And then we have the lyrics and the performance simultaneously objectifying the women, where Lil Wayne sings "I'ma hit it hit it like I can't miss," while thrusting against Shanell from behind. In the background, we see the pole-dancers (all women, as this is understood to be a feminine sexual dance), which add to the whole rapper sex party image. A number of times during the concert, women dancers would come on stage to grope Lil Wayne, sometimes kneeling on either side of him to pull on his belt in a suggestive manner. The lesson? Lil Wayne has droves of sexy women at his disposal, illustrating his masculinity through the command of female bodies.
While the women's expression of sexuality is their own business, it is still evident that it is not a personal expression, but rather an expression that is for the heterosexual male gaze, uplifting Lil Wayne's own expression of masculinity in such a way that it completely overshadows the women's obvious talent as singers and dancers beyond the scope of their sexual parts.