"I would never wife that"

And other words of wisdom from rapper Ghostface Killah's sexist rant

Published August 4, 2009 12:05PM (EDT)

As a lifelong music fanatic who prides herself on having fairly diverse tastes, I still have trouble getting past mainstream hip-hop's pervasive misogyny. But a bright spot has always been Ghostface Killah. One of the most talented and prolific members of the groundbreaking Wu-Tang Clan, he's been known to throw around words like "bitch" and "ho," but realism -- not sexism -- has always been at the heart of Ghostface's game. And he was one of the few male rappers to fully, publicly support Rihanna. He even went so far as to release a classy track dedicated to the singer and other domestic violence victims. "This is for all my women out there that be getting beat up, you know what I mean," Ghostface rapped, "struggling, welfare, sometimes the jobs ain't right, they going through mad trauma, especially with they man when they don't really need that shit."

But Ghostface's enlightened-dude shtick was right out the window with his recent appearance on Angela Yee's satellite radio show. (The likely NSFW video is posted below.) A discussion of the rapper's new artistic direction (apparently he's pursuing "some grown-man shit") made an abrupt turn for the disturbing and misogynist. As hip-hop blog the Boombox reports, Ghostface began with some derogatory comments about women who sleep with one new guy a month: "That's 12 niggas in one year that she fucked! For a female that's not nice." Yee wasn't about to ignore Ghostface's double standard. "Guys have done way worse!" she interjected. "But for a female," Ghostface insisted, "that's not nice." But Yee kept pressing: "It's not nice for a guy, either."

Unfortunately, that's nothing compared to the bomb Ghostface dropped next. "That's what's wrong with our people and shit," he told Yee. "They put our women equal to men. We're not equal."

The argument continued, with Yee struggling to keep things lighthearted. Eventually, the subject turned to Karrine Steffans, the hip-hop video model who recounted her promiscuous adventures in the book "The Vixen Diaries." Ghostface didn't hesitate to reinforce the idea that there's one kind of girl who's OK to sleep with but another kind of girl you marry: "I would never wife that," he said of Steffans. "She had so many dicks in her mouth ... I ain't never made one of those my partner. If I fucked a bitch and it was like that, then I just fucked her and that was that." 

I guess those of us at Broadsheet who cheered Ghostface's pro-Rihanna track misunderstood what he was really saying. The rapper is no fan of women's rights; he simply believes that classy ladies -- the ones who aren't as promiscuous as their male counterparts -- deserve the protection of the superior sex. Depressing, huh?

So where does that leave Ghostface fans? Over at the Awl, Dave Bry writes, "It is a good example of how a hugely talented artist can be engaging and enjoyable to watch, even as he espouses horribly repellent views on matters of ethics or politics." Can we separate an artist's (major) personal failings from his (excellent) body of work? I know that I, for one, won't be loading up my iPod with Ghostface's music any time soon.

By Judy Berman

Judy Berman is a writer and editor in Brooklyn. She is a regular contributor to Salon's Broadsheet.

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