On a Saturday night, you and your girlfriend are working it on the dance floor in your backless dresses and four-inch heels, not paying attention to the eye-gawking, lip-licking madness surrounding you. Just as you’re about to pop, lock and drop it, you feel dollar bills flutter around you from the balcony above. Your friend darts down to gather the bills and shove them in her purse. You quickly snatch her arm and drag her to the other end of the club, ignoring the chorus of pleads for you to stay.
This scene is all too familiar to women trying to enjoy a night out with their girls. Some men interpret the way a woman dresses or the way a woman moves as an invitation to watch, touch, or in this case, “make it rain.”
We live in a society where masculinity is determined by how much power and possession a man can obtain. Black men have historically been castrated and made to feel less than their white counterparts. To challenge this sense of powerlessness, black men over-assert their manhood.
At the very core of hip-hop, an already male-dominated space, is this notion of hyper-masculinity. A rapper’s credibility rests largely in his ability to fit this very limited construction of maleness. Male members of the larger hip-hop community culture also try to fit within this box.
“…In order to be in that box, you have to be strong, you have to be tough, you have to have a lot of girls, you gotta have money, you have to be a player or pimp, know you gotta be in control, dominate other men, other people…” filmmaker Bryon Burt explains in the documentary Hip Hop: Beyond Beats and Rhymes.
Hip-hop culture is about a life of excess—expensive cars, jewelry, and, of course, women. It’s about fantasy. Too often, the line between fantasy and reality is blurred. Like that night with your friend, the rappers, men, video vixens, women, strip clubs, music videos, and nightclubs all become one and the same.
For decades, the worlds of hip-hop and strip clubs have harmoniously met. Southern strip clubs, like Atlanta’s Magic City, have been where artists and records make their debut. “For me, musically, the strip club is equivalent to the whole mixtape scene in New York. You get exposed to records you’re never gonna hear on the radio,” rapper and producer Jermaine Dupri said in Crain’s New York interview.
Often, rappers will tip out a strip club DJ to guarantee that their record will be played. How the dancers and men respond to a track usually indicates whether it will be a hit or not. Sometimes it’s the strippers themselves that help make the record a success.
Chris Wongwon – a.k.a. Fresh Kid Ice, a.k.a. Chinaman, former member of 2 Live Crew told the Miami News Times, “Yo, we figured out early on, if you got 50 strippers all dancing and shaking they a**es to one song, saying, ‘That’s my jam,’ the guys in the club are gonna be like, ‘Oh sh**, that’s my jam too.'”
Strip clubs are also a place for rappers to cast women for music videos. Many of the women appearing in these videos have worked or still do work at strip clubs. Artists sometimes even shout out strip clubs in their songs.
Given hip-hop’s close ties to the strip club industry for commercial success, it is no surprise that there are several rap songs about throwing stacks of money at women. Songs like, Fat Joe’s “Make It Rain” (2006) declare, “Got a handful of stacks/Better grab an umbrella/I make it rain on them hoes/…She gets it popping with no hands/I’ll make it pour/I’ll make it rain on ’em.”
The sexual allusion to a man ejaculating over a woman is also apparent. The reference is even more explicit in the remix where R. Kelly sings, “So ask your girlfriend my name/I bet she go ‘Skeet skeet skeet, Weatherman ’bout to make it rain!’”
Music videos that feature men either throwing money at or pouring champagne on women shaking their behinds usually accompany these songs. Jay Z’s “Big Pimpin’” (2000), Nelly’s “Tip Drill” (2003), and Browz & Juelz Santana’s “Pop Champagne” (2008) are just a few of the videos where rappers objectify women by pouring money or alcohol over their bodies or insinuate male ejaculation. Like other aspects of hip-hop culture where men (and women) take their cues, black men emulate this glorification of strippers in lounges, bars, and dance clubs.
Until the accumulation of wealth and women stop being synonymous with masculinity, men will continue to think it’s permissible to equate women with sex, regardless of the context.