The Packaging of Female Empowerment in Popular Music

Cardi B releases her long-awaited debut album.

Drake releases his new song and video for “Nice For What.”

Janelle Monae releases her new song and video for “PYNK.”

What do these events all have in common? Easy answer, they all encourage women’s empowerment. There is, however, a slight problem in how these are being perceived and prioritized.

Cardi B has been a model for her care-free attitude and bright personality and I commend her for that. She is influencing women across the world to express themselves to a large extent while doing it on such a large scale.

The main focus here is between the efforts of Drake and Janelle Monae. Drake is obviously the bigger artist and the most influential. Janelle Monae on the other-hand is not as influential but uses her voice much more when it comes to socio-political issues and is also a more well-rounded artist (this is not up for argument).

When the “Nice For What” video came out, my suspension had just been lifted from Twitter, and I log on to see that Drake had dropped a new song. I checked out the video and didn’t exactly feel much from the song or the visuals but apparently, a ton of people did. Seeing popular female celebrities of color in a music video will always turn heads and catch the attention of cultured viewers, but what is the real message here?

Drake has always supported the empowerment of women, dating back to his first album with the record “Fancy.”

“Hit the gym, step on the scales, stare at the number. You say you dropping ten pounds, preparing for summer. And you don’t do it for the man, men never notice. You just do it for yourself, you the fucking coldest.” – Drake, “Fancy”

Aubrey hasn’t changed his sentiments when it comes to supporting women’s ambitions and goals, as he says in his newest single,

“You been inside, know you like to lay low. I”ve been peeping what you bringing to the table. Working hard girl, everything paid for. First, last phone bill, car note, cable.” – Drake, “Nice For What”

If you even listen closely these two even sound similar in flow and cadence. Point being, this isn’t anything new from Drake, and people treat it as if it’s groundbreaking content when it really isn’t (not to mention this isn’t Drake’s best song either but of course it’s going to do numbers.)

So now let’s talk about Janelle Monae, the multi-talented artist, vocalist, songwriter, actor and activist. She has released three songs in preparation for her new album, Dirty Computer, and each of these songs is about women’s empowerment.

“We gave you life, we gave you birth. We gave you God, we gave you Earth. We fem the future, don’t make it worse. You want the world? Well what’s it worth?” -Janelle Monae, “Django Jane”

Janelle shows her versatility on this song by ONLY rapping and keeping that female power narrative. In her next two songs she explores women’s sexuality from a personal perspective:

It’s like I’m powerful with a little bit of tender. An emotional sexual bender. Mess me up, yeah, but no one does it better. There’s nothing better.” – Janelle Monae, “Make Me Feel”

“Pink like the inside of your, baby. Pink like the walls and the doors, maybe. Pink like your fingers in my, maybe. Pink is the truth you can’t hide.” – Janelle Monae, “PYNK”

Obviously, Monae is speaking from the perspective of being a woman, but that leads me to wonder; even though this is all just music, is it true that a male has more impact on woman’s empowerment than females? Not to mention, none of Janelle’s songs have charted while Drake’s will probably be top five by the end of this week.

Powerful women everywhere are living, breathing examples of what kind of power women can possess, especially women of color. A couple women who come to mind are Oprah, Michelle Obama, Viola Davis, and more recently, Cardi B, Tiffany Haddish and Issa Rae. I obviously can’t speak on behalf of women but it seems like these examples aren’t good enough for women to take action and empower themselves. Is it their fault? No, they are doing exactly what they’re supposed to.

Drake seems to be empowering women from a superficial point of view, mentioning things like being in shape, looking good, having a job and being able to pay for what they want. That is good and all but that narrative is counterproductive when you have most of the community that Drake is in stress the importance of materialism, which women in America have been accustomed to for years.

Then again, you do have records like “Look What You’ve Done,” by Drake, “Hey Mama,” by Kanye West, and “Dear Mama” by Tupac. These songs are way more sentimental and appreciative of the women in their lives, probably because they highlight the true power that mothers really have. Hell even “Daughters” by Nas celebrated women and of course didn’t receive the love it deserved. But that power should not be limited to just mothers and daughters. There is little power in putting on your makeup and having money to buy red bottoms than there is in having self-confidence and being self-reliant, especially in a time where cheating is almost expected in relationships.

Though songs like “Nice For What” and “Bodak Yellow” may be the women’s anthems in the club, we often undermine the subconscious effects these songs have on our mindstate and we often don’t care about the messages that promote intrinsic power in women. Though Drake may have much more influence over women in music, I believe women like Janelle Monae and Cardi B are more important voices for women because they are living their truth. I think these past couple of days are just an example of how the patriarchy is still very prominent in popular music and it’s time for a change. Embrace your womanhood, embrace your sexuality, realize that men do not own you and most importantly, realize your true power, which is more than any man.

-DW

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