For my final project I worked with the BU Hip Hop Club to create a cover of G-Eazy’s rap version of “You Don’t Own Me”. As we discussed in class, I believe G-Eazy’s version of the song is very contradictory to the original intent of the song. His rap lyrics oppose everything that the female singer, in this case Grace, is saying, he interrupts her with his lyrics, and the music video shows him controlling her with her in the sound booth and him in the control booth. I met with Anthony Rivera-Mercado, Vice President of BU Hip Hop, and discussed my issues with the song. We met several times to talk about the problems with G-Eazy’s verison, which lead into discussions ranging from hip hop to chivalry.
When Lesley Gore sang “You Don’t Own Me” in 1963, girls around the world were inspired by her audacity. When Grace sang “You Don’t Own Me” in 2016, I was frustrated that 53 years later a man would still think that he could “always have just want [he] wants” regardless of how many times a girl says “you don’t own me”. The song begins with Grace singing “you don’t own me” when G-Eazy breaks in dismissing her because “but what [he’s] Gerald” a famous rapper. G-Eazy’s lyrics further perpetuate the idea that women’s voices disregard by men. For example, Grace sings “please, when I go out with you don’t put me on display” and yet G-Eazy dismisses her wishes her plead saying “she’s that baddest I would love to flaunt”.
In my meetings with Anthony we discussed how heterosexual relationships are often portrayed in hip hop as men having control over the “baddest” girl who loves to get taken shopping and shown off, and smoke, drink, and have sex all the time. Hip hop has always had a bad reputation for portraying women with music videos constantly sexualizing women with practically naked women dancing around provocatively or waiting on men. Hip hop constantly refers to women being completely independent on men and uses many derogatory terms such as “broke hoe” or “basic bitches”.
An issue that Anthony and I discussed when trying to come up with a new angle for the rap lyrics is that some women do want men to control them. Anthony and I are both from the South which is notorious for being more traditional on ideas of relationships. I have friends in the South who insist that boys show them off, take them shopping, open doors for them, pull chairs out for them and more, where as others find that demeaning which causes confusion for some young men. Anthony said that in the South he struggled with knowing how girls wanted him to act and how independent they wanted to be. Because every woman wants to be treated differently we decided to take a different approach with the song and relay it to human trafficking, consumerism, and capitalism.
In the video interview with Anthony, he discusses his inspiration and goes through the lyrics to explain the new remake. I think this project was a success because I was able to take topics that we’ve debated in class out into the real world and have real discussions about music. We talked several times in class about re-appropriation or ignorant use of protest songs but I believe that this remake of “You Don’t Own Me” was appropriate as it still discussed women’s issues. Protest music is created to cause a spark whether that be a riot in the streets or a conversation in Starbucks.