‘Free Tory Lanez’ was all about misogyny
OPINION: Why can’t a superstar like Megan Thee Stallion get more support in the boys club that is hip-hop?
Tory Lanez performs on stage at Prudential Center on Sept. 13, 2019 in Newark, New Jersey. (Photo by Manny Carabel/Getty Images)
Editor’s note: The following article is an op-ed, and the views expressed are the author’s own. Read more opinions on theGrio.
The first time I ever heard of Tory Lanez was when his freestyle for “She Make It Clap” blew up about a year ago. It stood out to me because it confused me. People were flipping out over the verse and, yeah, in the short clip that went viral, Lanez is flowing in the pocket in a way that’s really hot.
When he goes into “She make it clap / I got the strap / 21 gats, feel like I’m Savage…” it’s giving us that rhythmic interplay that hip-hop fans love. It feels good to my ear to hear him all up in the rhythm there. Rappers, at their best, are like drummers, and Lanez is definitely drumming with his mouth in that spot. But at the same time, the rhymes in that verse are Dr. Seuss simple. Clap, strap, gat… It’s mostly monosyllabic words that don’t really add up to much. What’s he saying in this clip? I’m gonna get with a hot chick tonight? He throws a shot at Megan in there, but that’s not why this verse was beloved. Overall, he isn’t saying anything, and I prefer hip-hop that hits me on both a rhythmic level and an intellectual level. That doesn’t mean that it must be some high-minded discourse about politics but that the rapper should be making a point rather than just stringing words together.
But, regardless of my opinion, that clip represented a career highlight for Lanez. I dare say a lot of people learned his name because of that clip more than from the five albums he put out before it. But even more people learned his name after he went on trial for shooting Megan Thee Stallion. That, being on trial, more than his music, is what he’s most famous for. As Buzzfeed said, “The strength of Lanez’s support seemingly trumps his reach as an entertainer: The artist has never had a No. 1 debut for any of his nine projects that charted on the Billboard 200, and has never made it to the top 10 of the Hot 100 with any single where he’s the lead artist.” I say that to say this: When Lanez went on trial, he was not really a famous rapper, which leads to my next bit of confusion.
Megan Thee Stallion, who Lanez was convicted of shooting, is a very famous rapper. She’s one of the most famous and successful rappers of her era. She’s one of the people who have defined this era. She’s had lots of viral hits and as far as income, branding power and virality, she’s one of the elite rappers of today. She’s at a level of people like Drake, Cardi and Kanye — she’s someone who could headline a massive tour, who could jump on your song and make it a smash, or star in a campaign for a high-fashion brand. One might think that given her elite status in hip-hop and in the culture at large, Megan would be one of the boys, as in, someone who big stars like Drake stands by when there’s a major conflict. Standing by your people is a critical element of hip-hop culture. But that did not happen.
One would think the boys might stand by her because not only is she famous, but she’s also a woman who performs femininity in a way that men like. In her rhymes, style and performances, she’s aggressively sexual in a way that makes the boys’ mouths water. She is exactly the sort of woman the boys want to have around. One would think that when she was attacked, men in hip-hop would’ve stood up for her, but when Lanez was put on trial for shooting her that did not happen.
Lots of popular male rappers stood up to defend Lanez, including Drake, who said on a song, “This bitch lie ’bout getting shots, but she still a stallion,” as well as 50 Cent, Joe Budden and more. Media figures like DJ Akademics spread fake news maligning her credibility. Lots of non-famous men defended Lanez, too. It was like the boys club of hip-hop pushed aside their female friend so they could rally around a boy they’d barely cared about before. This wasn’t the continuation of supporting Lanez. This was leaping to Lanez’s side — he became an icon of toxic masculinity. It’s like the new way of saying “bros before hos” was to say “stop lying about Tory” or “free Tory” or whatever. The famous guys broke ranks with another truly famous person in order to support a bro. It was a toxic masculinity follow-train, and it was crowded. This was acutely painful for Megan, who testified during the trial, “I wish he would’ve just shot and killed me if I knew I was going to have to go through this torture.”
What I see is this: It’s nearly impossible for the boys club of hip-hop to fully accept a woman. Women are accepted as long as they don’t rock the boat. The guys loved Meg when she was rapping about twerking and sex, but when she said a man shot her, many men abandoned her. And if Meg can’t maintain male support in a moment like this after all the booty shaking and all the sexy rhymes and all the money she helped men generate, then what woman stands a chance?
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