How the male gaze body-policed female rappers DreamDoll, Doechii and Baby Tate : Louder Than A Riot The male gaze looms over everything, but hip-hop is its favorite entertainment. Those under its watchful eye feel objectified or shamed if they don't give it what it wants to see. In this episode, we share the stories of three artists who are pushing back on the male gaze in their personal relationships, social interactions and even industry-wide.

Beauty is in the eye of the male gaze: DreamDoll, Doechii and Baby Tate

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What's up, y'all? Before we get into this week's episode, we've got some news of our own.


As part of the 10% layoffs companywide, NPR has decided to discontinue a lot of the narrative podcasts after this current season. Our entire production team - Gabby Bulgarelli, Soraya Shockley, Sam J. Leeds and Mano Sundaresan - has been laid off.

CARMICHAEL: And even though this happened in the midst of our second season coming out, our laid-off team members have graciously agreed to finish out this season for now because, like us, they believe these stories are way too important not to be told.

MADDEN: So we're going to keep shaking the table, shifting the culture and bringing you the best longform hip-hop journalism possible.

CARMICHAEL: Yeah, because if we going out, we're going out loud as hell.

MADDEN: If you're riding with us, make sure you subscribe, comment, tweet, tell a friend to tell a friend and email us at Thanks.

A warning before we begin - this podcast is explicit in every way.

When did you first start to think that surgery was an option? What interested you in it?

DREAMDOLL: Honestly, what interest me in surgery was I was in a relationship, and he used to always make fun of my fupa (ph). And for y'all who don't know what fupa is, it's fat upper pussy area. I don't know if you can curse on here, but that's what it is.

MADDEN: Yeah, you can curse. Yeah, so...

That's DreamDoll. The Bronx rapper is short in height, only about five feet tall, with a very curvaceous stature. She definitely got that ah, ah, ah.


DREAMDOLL: (Rapping) I got the hookah. Who got the bottles? Who got the ah, ah, ah? Got a new bitch, got a new body, got a new ah, ah, ah.

MADDEN: And she's open about how her body got that way.

DREAMDOLL: So he used to, like, always make fun of, like, my - you know, my little love handles and stuff. So I was like, come on. I was so young. I was in a relationship. He was making me feel insecure about stuff. And then I wind up going to get me a nice little lipo (ph). And then I wind up leaving him after I got the lipo. But it was, like, I thought about it after - like, did I just really go get my waist snatched for this man?

CARMICHAEL: It wasn't just a white boyfriend telling her how her body should look 'cause those messages were everywhere when Dream was coming up. It was the early 2000s, peak of the video vixen era in rap, where women with big booties were getting name recognition and songs, magazine spreads, even awards for being super voluptuous.

MADDEN: Yeah. In the 2010s, celebrities like Kim Kardashian and Nicki Minaj were setting a new standard for an exaggerated aesthetic. Whether an artist or arm candy, hip-hop made it clear that having a baddie body was required for entry.

Do you feel like getting some of the - some of these surgeries was, like, cost for investing in yourself?

DREAMDOLL: Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. It was definitely an investment for myself. I seen a change in my life. And it's fucked up, but I - it's my story, so...

MADDEN: This pressure that magazines, label execs and boyfriends put on Dream and people like her, it's not coming out of nowhere. It's a direct result of the male gaze.

CARMICHAEL: The idea that everything women do is in the eye of what cis straight men want to see.

MADDEN: And from watching video vixens to working bottle service at a strip club to entering the rap game herself, Dream definitely knew what straight men wanted to see.

DREAMDOLL: If you're fire, it's no reason why my talent - like, my talent should always speak first. And I feel like it don't be like that. It's like - it's really unfair. You know, I just feel like it's just always about what's on the outside first.

MADDEN: Dream felt watched by that gaze, and it led her to getting lipo and then a breast enhancement. But the surgery she really wanted, though, was a BBL.

DREAMDOLL: A BBL is a Brazilian butt lift. That's when you turn your butt to a gut. I mean, sorry, that's when you turn your gut to a butt.

MADDEN: How you do that?

DREAMDOLL: You lipo. You lipo wherever you want to remove, and you put it wherever you want to put it. Or you could throw it away. It's up to you.

CARMICHAEL: Today, BBLs are well-known. In fact, in the past 10 years in the U.S., the BBL has become one of the most popular cosmetic procedures. There's tons of easy ways to find info about it.

MADDEN: But back in the 2010s, testimonials and advice about getting the procedure were hard to come by.

DREAMDOLL: When I first thought about getting the BBL, I was asking people a lot. I was, like, on RealSelf, and I'm a review queen. I'm going to read everything. So I was doing research for a very long time. I feel like people use their doctor as, like, the Krabby Patty formula, and people don't want to put people on. I just was like, I want to talk about it, you know?

CARMICHAEL: But the secrecy did not stop Dream. In 2012, at 20 years old, she got that work.

DREAMDOLL: I went to Columbia, and I got my first BBL. I was just a little - scared a little bit because I heard it was so painful.

MADDEN: But coming back from Colombia with that waist-teeny body-dreamy, Dream initially loved the results she got.

DREAMDOLL: Like, I got - I have these nice hips and little booty, the fat literally erased. I would never forget.

MADDEN: But it didn't last.


CARMICHAEL: I'm Rodney Carmichael.

MADDEN: I'm Sidney Madden.


MADDEN: Where we confront the double standard that's become the standard.


CARMICHAEL: On every episode this season, we tackle one unwritten rule of hip-hop that affects the most marginalized among us and holds the entire culture back.

MADDEN: And one that a new generation of rap refuses to stand for.

On this episode, we're going to break down how the male gaze leaves those of us under it objectified, consumed and shamed for not fitting into the mold. This is called body policing. And it happens everywhere, especially in hip-hop.

CARMICHAEL: We're telling the stories of three artists who've all dealt with their bodies being policed in different ways.

MADDEN: DreamDoll takes me through the cost of chasing perfection.

DREAMDOLL: Someone always has something to say. Everybody has a comment on your body. It's like, if you're natural, they're talking about it. If you have surgery done, they have something to say. It's just always something to say.

CARMICHAEL: Baby Tate teaches me how to clap back at the haters.

BABY TATE: People think it's fun. It's like, woo-hoo, let's all join in and bash on the Black woman. Ke, ke, ke, ke, ke.

CARMICHAEL: And Doechii breaks down how she took on the patriarchy by baring it all.

DOECHII: It's something about the woman's body specifically that really triggers people.

MADDEN: On this episode, rule No. 3 - beauty is in the eye of the male gaze.


MADDEN: So talk to me about "Life In Plastic 3." This is the finale. Is there - there's not going to be another one, right?

DREAMDOLL: No, this is...

MADDEN: This is a trilogy.

DREAMDOLL: This is the finale, "Life In Plastic 3." This is me closing - this is my closure.

MADDEN: When I sat down with Dream back in September of last year, she had just dropped her third album in a trilogy called "Life In Plastic."

If someone had never heard of this trilogy before, why did you name it "Life In Plastic"?


MADDEN: What's the metaphor to it?

DREAMDOLL: I named my project "Life In Plastic" because I feel like people just look at me like a pretty face sometimes and - or a nice picture. I'm not just this girl from Instagram that could sit there and smile in the picture and wear nice stuff. No, I got a story just like everybody else.


DREAMDOLL: (Rapping) I got a check for telling y'all bitches. Talk to me nice, or don't talk to me twice. Now maybe y'all listen.

MADDEN: Dream used the "Life In Plastic" trilogy to tell her story. And a big part of that story began when she started getting work done on her body.

DREAMDOLL: So I always thought about dream doll, the doll you would dream to be. That's what I did when I kind of created my character.

MADDEN: "Life In Plastic" has songs like "Barbie Girl" that talk about becoming a fantasy, thanks in part to surgeries like the BBL Dream got done in Colombia.


DREAMDOLL: (Rapping) Uh-huh. That's why I'm sicker than his last bitch. Body perfect. It was worth it. Take me shopping. Buy me Birkin, Birkin, Birkin.

(Singing) You can brush my hair, undress me everywhere...

MADDEN: But after her BBL started wearing off, Dream was still feeling that pressure to achieve and keep the ideal body. In "Life In Plastic 2," she talks about that frustration.


DREAMDOLL: (Rapping) They don't see my potential, my pictures off IG, 'cause fuck likes. It's no love left inside me.

I have these nice hips and a little booty. And it literally erased. Like, I was working out, and it was like - my hips was gone. I was like, uh-uh, I need something that's going to stick.

MADDEN: What happened to Dream's results is pretty common. It's actually the natural progression of most BBLS.

Do you perform Brazilian butt lifts at your practice?

KELLY BOLDEN: I absolutely do. I just finished doing a procedure about two hours ago.

MADDEN: That's Dr. Kelly Bolden, a licensed plastic and reconstructive surgeon in the Washington, D.C., area. Dr. Bolden has been practicing since 2011. Now, at the time that Dream got her first BBL, she didn't know what it would take to keep it looking like new. Dr. Bolden says in a world where surgery is seen as a quick fix, that aftercare and maintenance, it often gets overlooked.

BOLDEN: The biggest portion of upkeep is maintaining a stable weight 'cause significant weight loss or weight gain can affect your results. With BBLs or with fat transfer in general, the average person will keep anywhere between 50- to 70% of the fat that you graft. So depending on what shape and size you're looking for, some people will require more than one procedure.

MADDEN: And needing multiple procedures can also increase the risk. According to the Aesthetic Surgery Education and Research Foundation, BBLs have the highest mortality rate of any cosmetic surgery in the U.S. The unreliable long-term results can also lead people to look for alternative solutions. When Dream couldn't keep the weight on where she wanted it, she ended up choosing a more drastic option.

DREAMDOLL: So I went the illegal route, and it was not the best decision. I do not recommend getting butt shots. Please don't ever do it. It is so painful. It feels like you got ran off by a truck.

MADDEN: Now, I know you've definitely heard of butt shots before. Remember Nicki Minaj's verse in "A$$" where she said it's finally soft?


NICKI MINAJ: (Rapping) Kiss my ass, and my ass 'cause it's finally famous, and it's finally soft. Yeah, it's finally soft. I don't know, man. Guess them ass shots wore off. Like, (vocalizing). Bitches ain't popping...

MADDEN: Unlike a BBL that injects someone's own fat from another part of their body, butt shots are injections that can be made up of any number of foreign materials - things ranging from hyaluronic acids, which are FDA approved, to silicones, gels or mineral oils, which are definitely not.

BOLDEN: They do give you tremendous amount of volume. But they're very dangerous because, again, your body recognizes them as foreign material, and it tends to wall them off especially when you're not doing it in a medical setting because a lot of times, they don't tell you what it is. And it can have very, very catastrophic complications.

MADDEN: And Dream found herself on the bad side of those complications. She ended up in the hospital.

What was the pain like?

DREAMDOLL: A hundred. Whatever - the highest number you could put, it's the highest number. Like, during the pain, I couldn't take the pain. And I was, like, getting fevers, and I'd be in a hospital. And nobody knew - I - they didn't know what was wrong with me, you know, 'cause I was - I didn't feel comfortable telling them I did that.


This was a turning point for Dream, where she felt the cost of trying to achieve the unattainable. Dream realized that going under the knife illegally was giving the male gaze more than its pound of flesh.

DREAMDOLL: So I just tried to find somebody to take it out, and they were like, that was the problem. You know, it's a foreign object, so you got to remove it one day.

MADDEN: After this scary, painful experience and realizing she put more value in these standards than her own health, Dream was determined to never repeat this mistake and to show other girls who wanted to get these surgeries the whole process, not just the pretty results.


DREAMDOLL: You have to get your massages with her, OK?

MADDEN: In 2019, she started vlogging her whole journey to remove her shots and get a new BBL.


DREAMDOLL: And this shit hurts. Now, for the most disturbing part of the day...

Getting my shots removed was the best thing that I ever did in my life. And that's why I vlogged a lot about surgery because it's like, even, like, with removing, like, anything like butt shots or anything, like, people don't talk about that.


DREAMDOLL: It's crazy. And when you take it out, it looks disgusting. It literally looks like chicken gristle. That's what my sister said it looks like, but...

Probably overtold my experience when I went to Colombia, even when I was in a recovery house, you know, being a little bit too free-speeched. But I just felt like maybe - it took me to go through it to, like, want to help other people.


DREAMDOLL: But now, I'm a hundred percent product-free. And I'm just trying to help any females out there that did make the mistake that I did and did take...

MADDEN: So far, Dream has had four rounds of removal. And the openness in her vlogs has helped to demystify butt shots and removals for a lot of people. In fact, others have started to come to her for advice.

DREAMDOLL: Even people - girls that I thought didn't like me, they like, girl, can you please help me? I'm like, OK. Still helped them 'cause I have a good heart at the end of the day.


MADDEN: And did - and no one helped you, right? So you wanted to help others.

DREAMDOLL: No one helped me. And that's why I think I did it 'cause it's like, no one helped me, but maybe this might help somebody.

MADDEN: And talking with others helped Dream, too, because it gave her a chance to reflect.

DREAMDOLL: I went through the stage of wanting a big butt and big boobs, you know, really embellish my body, to now. I just want to remove everything and be back to my - it's like, I wish I could rewind back time and get my natural body back. Like, I really want my natural body back, and I'm trying, but it's just, like - it's not easy.

MADDEN: As she's gotten older and left toxic exes in the dust, she's caught on to the catch-22 of it. Dream sees the power that her body gave her, and she sees the power she gave to the male gaze.

So looking back, would you not get any surgeries at all? Is that what you're saying?

DREAMDOLL: I don't know because I don't know if I would be where I am today. Yep.

MADDEN: I think it's really brave how you talk about this.

DREAMDOLL: Yeah, I don't care. You could judge me. It don't matter.

MADDEN: So that's really what "Life In Plastic 3" is about - acknowledging that catch-22 and moving through it anyway.

And then, "Life In Plastic 3," the cover art, describe it.

DREAMDOLL: And "Life In Plastic 3" is the doll head done, the finished project. It's wrapped up, saran-wrapped. That's why I'm saran-wrapped on the thing. You know, now she's ready to brush her hair. She got the nail polish. She's polished. And she's ready to go out there and venture and - to her new world.


DREAMDOLL: I wanted to let her go. And that's how I came up with "Misunderstood." I tried to take a jab at being vulnerable just - 'cause there are some people that are still discovering me even after hearing me today. Like, you know, people still discover me. They don't really know my story. So I wanted to reintroduce my story to the fresh ears and be vulnerable.


DREAMDOLL: (Rapping) Before I get any of it, I need some ass and some tits. I ain't ashamed of it. I learned to gain from it. Double Ds, DreamDoll, made my name from it. Learned the game from it, how the snakes suck you, how the streets got no love but they will fuck you. Fuck that. I got struck, so I struck back. I don't believe in bad luck, so where the bucks...

I really had to learn. Like, you can't do anything for anyone's pleasures. You have to just love yourself and do it for yourself. If you want to get that BBL, baby, go get that BBL. And that's that.


MADDEN: For Dream, the surgeries are not the root of the problem. It's the pressure. And she's working on tuning out that pressure and focusing on what she wants, what's right for her music, her career and her body, natural or not.

CARMICHAEL: But there's nothing the male gaze hates more than being ignored. One Atlanta artist learned that the hard way. After this, Baby Tate.

BABY TATE: I'm never going to put a knife to this body because it's like, for what? God did a great job.

CARMICHAEL: That's Baby Tate. And she is not aspiring to the industry standard that says you got to have your stomach on flat-flat, ass on - what's that?

BABY TATE: I want to be that representation to let people know you don't have to, and you can still be as glamorous as you want to be without fitting into literally this cookie-cutter image.

CARMICHAEL: Tate turns her middle finger to the male gaze on the regular. The Atlanta artist brings that energy to a music, too. She's unapologetic in praising herself, her body and her all around badassery.


BABY TATE: (Rapping) Don't lie on me. Body right, don't need no work, work, work. Ay, I don't need no...

CARMICHAEL: One of her biggest songs to date is all about self-affirmation.


BABY TATE: (Rapping) I am healthy. I am wealthy. I am rich. I am that bitch. I am gonna go get that bag, and I am not going to take your shit. I am protected, well respected...

CARMICHAEL: But something that happened in 2021 made it clear the male gaze was still going to come for her joy.

Let's start at the very beginning. Like, do you remember getting the call or the invitation to perform at AfroPunk?

BABY TATE: I do remember being excited about AfroPunk because I had always been to AfroPunk and loved going, and this was my first time doing Atlanta on the big stage. So I was super excited about it. And if you've ever been to AfroPunk, especially in Atlanta, the scene, the outfits, it's just so free. It's so free.

CARMICHAEL: Yeah. AfroPunk, I mean, it's like a festival made for us by us. And the lineup for Atlanta that year was fire - Wale, Rico Nasty, Foushee. And, you know, the cats that go, they on a different level, too. Baby Tate was just the same. She had her original fit laid out in her mind like the first day of school.

BABY TATE: I started, you know, getting outfits together. I had ordered these bubblegum pink Rick Owens boots, and I was like, I'm going to wear these. And I think I had an outfit that I was going to wear at a different show, but I was like, no, I'm going to wear that AfroPunk with these boots, and it's going to be perfect.

CARMICHAEL: Until those bubblegum pink Rick Owens boots showed up the day before in the wrong color.

BABY TATE: And I was so sad because now my entire outfit is ruined, and now I have to find something else to wear.

CARMICHAEL: So she called up a designer to get a whole new fit last minute. And the next day, they came through with a backup, a custom-made cheetah print fit and a matching floor-length puffer coat - bow. Now, this fit was not meant for the body shy. It was a halter neck crop top with matching low-rise pants made of this skintight stretchy material and a black G-string. Tate literally had to squeeze into it, and it was designed to be bold and revealing, leaving parts of her midsection totally exposed.

BABY TATE: It was very, very weird trying to get it on. I'm literally just, like, twisting these two - basically these two chaps that were supposed to go around my neck and then have, like, these - this little thong piece.

CARMICHAEL: Yeah, Tate was trying to live out her Disney Channel dreams and serve sexy Cheetah Girl, but the vision wasn't quite coming together right.

BABY TATE: We were literally running late. So I was like, I got to go. There's nothing else I can do. There's nothing else I can wear. I have nothing else. So it wasn't - the way that I'm wearing it was not how it's supposed to look. Like, I don't think my stomach was supposed to be even out like that.

CARMICHAEL: As Tate scrambled to get ready, out in the crowd a photographer named Megan Sumpton was just pulling up.

MEGAN SUMPTON: This was my first time at AfroPunk. As far as festival atmosphere, it's probably one of the coolest I've ever been in because everybody was just being themselves. Honestly, I think I arrived - right as she was going on stage, I got walked into the pit.


BABY TATE: Atlanta, how the fuck y'all do that? Y'all just walked out looking good as fuck like this? Oh, OK, work.

UNIDENTIFIED PERSON: That's what they scream.

BABY TATE: (Rapping) B-O double...

SUMPTON: Everybody was, like, hyping her up, like, yelling her name or just, like, singing the words to her song.

CARMICHAEL: Megan loved how free Tate looked. Sporting a candy-striped pink wig and some fly-ass sunglasses, Tate rapped, sang and got the crowd going wild.


BABY TATE: Baby, I'ma (ph) put that on my chest. Do it in some pants or in a dress. But you know that boss bitches do it best. Yes, sir. I mean, yes, ma'am.

SUMPTON: I hate to call - oh, you're so confident. I know that's annoying, but I guess that's what just stuck out in my head. It's like, she's onstage in front of all these people with her stomach out. And, like, people are, like, really judgmental. She doesn't have a six-pack. Or she doesn't have an extremely flat stomach. So the fact that she came out here, it just shows, like, what kind of person she is - just, like, a carefree, like, kind of like, I love my body, and that's what it is.

CARMICHAEL: Tate was giving all that, totally unbothered.

BABY TATE: I'm not about to back down. I'm not about to say, oh, I can't perform because my stomach's out. No, I'm about to go in on that stage. And I'm going to kill it, period. So that's what it was. And when I came out, oh, my God, everybody in the crowd was screaming.


BABY TATE: And I think people seeing me out there like that in person was like, wow, this girl right here really just came out like this with this long puffer coat. I looked great, honestly.


BABY TATE: My name is Baby Tate. You know, today I pulled up in the pink pussy cheetahlicious (ph) drip.


BABY TATE: Yes, sir. But normally, you know...


BABY TATE: ...I pull up in a little rainbow Cadillac.

And for me, I was having a great time. I was on top of the world after the performance because people loved it.


CARMICHAEL: After Tate's set, Megan took her camera, circulated through the festival a little bit.

SUMPTON: I was trying to find people to take pictures of, like, with their outfits. And I happened to turn around, and she was standing there. And she had, like, a line of people waiting to meet her. And so I was just, like, snapping pictures of them, like, meeting her or talking to her. And you're hearing the conversations. And, you know, they're like, oh, my God, you know? You look good, sis. I'm so excited to meet you. And I even asked her - I said, hey. Can I take some pictures of you? And she was like, sure. I was like, your set was really dope.


CARMICHAEL: So the festival's a wrap. Megan flies home, still vibing from her first AfroPunk. When she sits down to edit her photos from the festival, Tate's stand out. She looks like a boss, totally in command. But it still doesn't stop Megan from worrying.

SUMPTON: And I honestly was hesitant on posting them. And that is simply because I know how harsh people are. Certain ones, I was like, maybe I'll leave these out. Or maybe I'll crop it. I know how critical people are of women in hip-hop. I watch it all the time. And so I was like, I do not want to add fuel to the fire to where she's getting dragged. So I actually had picked some different ones than the ones I ended up posting. And they were, like, cropped, like, tighter so it didn't show, like, her stomach. And I know that sounds bad. But I really just was like, I do not want any problems. Like, I know how mean people are online. So I was like, I don't want it to be because of me.

CARMICHAEL: If that ain't the male gaze on 1,000. Megan's looking out for Baby Tate by self-censoring her own photography because she knows the trolls will be lurking.

So did it make you upset that you had to, like, police your work like that because you knew that it would be criticized by the internet?

SUMPTON: A little bit, because it's like, you would like to freely post the work that you did. And they were nice pictures. It wasn't like she looked bad to me or anything. She didn't look bad.

CARMICHAEL: While Megan held back her photos, Baby Tate let them rip. She posted the full photos, uncropped.

BABY TATE: It wasn't until I posted pictures on my Instagram that you get the trolls and the haters because that's where they live, on the internet. They don't live in real life. It just blew up into something even bigger and getting comments from people that don't got nothing to do with nothing.

CARMICHAEL: And the comments kept coming, too. She can lose 10 pounds. You should work that belly off, though. And most of these comments, they were from other women. That's the thing about the male gaze. It doesn't care whose eyes it's looking through. Shit, sometimes internalized misogynoir comes for the girls, too.

BABY TATE: A lot of times, people just enjoy disrespecting women (laughter), especially Black women. It's just, like, a battle that we have to go through just because, especially now with social media, people think it's fun. It's like, woo-hoo, let's all join in and bash on the Black woman, keke-keke-ke (ph).

CARMICHAEL: Whether you go the surgery route or you're rocking the body God gave you, you're damned if you do and damned if you don't. It's like there's no way for women to just be.

BABY TATE: And for us it's like, you all are having fun, but this is my life. This is my livelihood. This is my mental and emotional health. And people don't care. You not about to talk to me crazy and just walk away. No. Come back to your phone.


BABY TATE: I want to say something, too.

CARMICHAEL: Man, she came back for the trolls hard. She lit one commenter up so bad, typing, girl, you should mind your business and work your money up so you can stop wearing synthetic wigs. Don't tell me what to do with my body you filter-face, creepy-looking Gremlin.

BABY TATE: I started off on the low road. I'm not going to lie. I definitely did.

CARMICHAEL: (Laughter).

BABY TATE: I was clapping back at people like, you need to go feed your kids. I don't know why you worried about what I'm eating. I was definitely clapping back.

CARMICHAEL: Megan was watching all this go down on the TL. The reaction to Tate's photos went exactly like she thought it would.

SUMPTON: Let's focus on the music.


SUMPTON: These women can rap, like, for real. But we can't even get past that because we're so busy - what was she wearing here and why? Or what - like, what is this outfit? Or what does she look like? Or have you ever seen when people have had bad makeup days or bad hair day, and it's just - like, they're torn apart? What about that rapper that got a bad lineup? You don't hear nothing about that.

CARMICHAEL: (Laughter) It's a lot of bad lineups in hip-hop.

SUMPTON: Right. So we don't hear about that, though. We're going to hear about how her lace wasn't melted, though, and who did her makeup.

CARMICHAEL: So when you saw Tate posting so openly and, like, clapping back on the trolls and all that, like, did that kind of give you the go-ahead to go ahead and let your pics out?

SUMPTON: Yes, I saw it. She was trending, and I was just like, what is she trending for? And then I went and looked. I was like, oh, wow. As soon as I saw it, I said, OK, let me go ahead then 'cause she's with it. So that's when I actually posted my carousel. People were like, thank you for posting these because now we could see what a real body looks like.

CARMICHAEL: And the comments of support kept rolling in - not just from Tate's fans but from big names that Tate's a fan of.

BABY TATE: Rihanna reaching out to me was totally left-field.


RIHANNA: (Singing) Ooh na na. What's my name? Ooh na na...

CARMICHAEL: Oh, yeah. You heard right - Rihanna.

BABY TATE: I was not expecting that at all. And she was, you know, I think, the biggest artist to reach out to me. But I definitely had a lot of different other peers that reached out and just saying, like, you know, your body is beautiful, sis. That moment really almost definitely did a 180 from what people thought it was going to do. They thought it was going to - I was going to be crying in the RR, crying on the bus and going to the doctor, getting surgery. Nope.

CARMICHAEL: So Tate posted a new pic on Instagram. We asked her to read the caption for us.


BABY TATE: (Reading) As Queen B once said, wanna see some real ass? Baby, here's your chance. Shout out to all my natural-bellied bodies. I see you. I am you. I love you. No matter what my body looks like, it is mine, and I love it. Please go project your insecurities onto a piece of paper, burn it and throw it away. Then go look in the mirror and tell yourself how much you are loved. Heart emoji.


BABY TATE: When I had that moment at Afropunk and people were talking about my outfit and my body and my stomach, since then I have not worked out a day. Like, not one day have I worked out, and I almost have done it purposely. Like, you know what? Actually, I was working out, but now y'all going to have to see this flab on my stomach. Y'all should've just been quiet.


BABY TATE: Because...


BABY TATE: ...Now you going to see it for real. But I'm going to get back into working out 'cause it is something that I enjoy. But just for a time, I was like, that is crazy that y'all even did that to me. So I'm going to just live. I'm going to just live my life because I should be able to. There are so many literally obese male rappers...


BABY TATE: ...That, like, nobody bats an eye. Nobody says a thing to them, and they shouldn't because at the end of the day, it's nobody's business. We are not doctors.


BABY TATE: I don't like to say body positivity because I think that adds a bit of, like, false expectations into it because nobody has to be positive about your body. I don't have to think your body looks great, but what I do have to do is accept that that's your body.

CARMICHAEL: There you go.

BABY TATE: You know? And you have to accept that this is mine, and I have to accept my own. So I like to say it's all about body acceptance for me and, you know, self-acceptance. It's like, do you like it? OK. Cool. You like it; I love it, baby, OK? And for me, it's just like, I'm going to walk out, and I like it.


CARMICHAEL: The male gaze is a shape-shifter, a slippery trickster, and it polices in ever-changing ways.

MADDEN: For Dream, it took the form of her toxic pre-teen boyfriend criticizing her body in a way that never really left her.

CARMICHAEL: For Tate, it was a nameless filter-faced mob on the internet that couldn't handle even an ounce of body fat.

MADDEN: But what happens when the male gaze goes corporate - built into your contract and all up in the fine print? Doechii gets into that next.


DOECHII: I've kind of morphed myself into realizing the power of being the Black bitch and realizing the power of being painted as the villain.

MADDEN: That's Tampa's own Doechii, and she is one of them ones.


DOECHII: (Singing) I wish death on all of you bitches. I blew 50 racks in one summer. I think I deserve a new Hummer. I still clap for bitches I'm front of. That rap bitch must be the new runner. Mad they can't predict how I'll stunt. Just make sure it's chips with my lunch. Diamonds busting out of my fronts...

MADDEN: She's not only one of the latest signees to powerhouse rap label TDE, she's also their first woman on the roster who raps. She had to be nice to earn that spot, and she knows it.


DOECHII: (Singing) Bitch, I'm nice. Got a bitch cleaned up right. That n**** might got racks, but he ain't my type. I'm the best thing in your life. Know this pussy good, and it purr, but it still got bite. Come through dubbin' on sight. Yeah, these bitches hood, and they good, but...

I knew that Kendrick was leaving around that time, and I felt like I was ready to carry on that legacy of TDE and be that in hip-hop for TDE and introduce and usher in the next rap girl that's going to be on TDE 'cause I'm telling you my vision is I want the girls on TDE to take over. Right now, it's majority men, but my vision for the next hip-hop girl on TDE is for us to dominate and take this brand to the next level.

CARMICHAEL: From the minute Doechii signed, she was throwing around big ideas for her look, her sound and her message.

DOECHII: I realize people have always called me crazy when they don't understand what I'm doing or they want me to feel bad about the boldness or the ambition or the audacity.

CARMICHAEL: Doechii channeled that energy into her debut single "Crazy."


DOECHII: (Rapping) When a bitch been balling all day like Brady, long hair, this wavy, and a bitch been shopping all day, no Macy's.

MADDEN: Yeah. This song is hard, confident and chaotic. It calls out all the doubt and double standards she's always faced as an artist.


DOECHII: (Rapping) Can't call my bluff when this shit is my calling. Won't duck, bitch, I'm all in. It's a brand-new day, new pace, light jogging.

I wanted to take that word and reframe that energy and let y'all know that, yeah, I am crazy. I'm absolutely crazy.

CARMICHAEL: She wanted to push the idea even further when it came time to make visuals for "Crazy."

DOECHII: I wanted to recreate this tarot card. It's the star tarot card. There's a woman who's naked, bending in the water, and this is her at her fullest potential. And I wanted to introduce myself to the world and debut my first single naked as a symbol of vulnerability, but also ultimate power.

MADDEN: Doechii's idea for the nudity in "Crazy" wasn't meant to be sexual or pleasurable to the male gaze, but powerfully in opposition to it.

DOECHII: I do not want this choreography to be sexual at all. That's not what I want. I want it to be weird. I want it to be abstract. I want it to scare people.

MADDEN: This challenges a lot of our ingrained notions about nudity and Black women's bodies in hip-hop. As TDE started to look for a director to execute this vision, the difficulty to find someone, it gave them a hint of how hard it was going to be.

DOECHII: A lot of directors were afraid. They kept trying to talk me out of it. I don't think you should do this 'cause censorship and da-da-da-da (ph). They just were scared.

CARMICHAEL: Even though it was annoying for Doechii, it high key made sense that they were scared. In the streaming era, for a video to even make an impact and make monetary sense, it's got to do well on YouTube, and as a platform, YouTube has a pretty awful track record for policing Black bodies.

MADDEN: Yeah. I mean, the platform was literally started so that people could get a second look at Janet Jackson's nipple back in 2004. So to pull off "Crazy," Doechii was going to have to confront some deeply entrenched misogynoir, which the industry she's entering basically runs on.

CARMICHAEL: But again, the subversion of the standard is exactly what Doechii was going for. And luckily, she found somebody down to go to war with her.

DOECHII: C Prinz was, like, really for it. She understood it, and I think that's why she wasn't scared because she got it, and she saw how important it was. I was hell-bent on being naked, and C Prinz was the only person who was actually willing to support it and understand it and not be afraid to do it.

C PRINZ: Femmes are sort of under undeniable, inescapable gaze at the body, and, like, we have to carry on doing all of the things that we do with that gaze on us.

MADDEN: That's Sarah Prinz, aka C Prinz, a director and choreographer out of LA. C's worked with acts like Billie Eilish, The Weeknd and Chloe Bailey. And when she heard "Crazy," ideas for the video came flooding in.

C PRINZ: And it was sort of my mission to charge the bodies and charge the story in a way that you almost forgot about the nudity.

MADDEN: C's concept was right on time with Doechii's tarot cards, except Doechii had one specific note for C.

C PRINZ: I had pitched this as sort of all skin colors, and she was like, no, I want all-Black cast.

DOECHII: Everybody should be included, right? Everybody should be included all the time. But then there are just some stories that are for a specific group of people. And for this video, I wanted to curate a space specifically for Black women, dark-skinned Black women, of all different colors, but Black women specifically. That's what I wanted to focus on. I wanted it to be for us, by us, dance by us, created by us.

CARMICHAEL: The vision was coming together, and it was really looking like they were all set to challenge the status quo.

MADDEN: But in a not-so-surprising twist, the status quo tried to come for them before they even got started. And the call came from inside the house.

CARMICHAEL: Yeah, one week before they were set to get started shooting, C was asked to join a last-minute Zoom call.

C PRINZ: You know, everybody's on the line, everyone - like, you know, 10, 11 people there. And I'm like, what's this about? I get on, and Moosa is, like, saying some concerns from, I think, a label perspective, a management perspective and also for Doechii.

MOOSA TIFFITH: I want to protect her. If you want my complete honesty right now...

CARMICHAEL: That's Moosa Tiffith, president of TDE and the one who brought Doechii to the label.

TIFFITH: ...I don't - like, I didn't - for some reason, we weren't aware she was going to be naked the entire shoot, right? So I don't think it was more so of concern of how it was going to come off. Just - it just was a moment to where we just didn't know, like, hey, how did we let this slip under the rug, that she's going to be naked the entire time?

MADDEN: It's easy to write off Moosa's apprehension to Doechii's idea as fear, but when you think about it, that's exactly how structural patriarchy brainwashes us to move. Fighting that instinct was the whole point of the project. So C doubled down.

C PRINZ: And something, like, ignited in me, and I was like, I think we absolutely have to.

DOECHII: Yeah. That was a huge moment 'cause I almost backed out, but I knew I didn't want to. And had she not said that, I think I wouldn't have - nah, I would have did that shit.


DOECHII: But yeah, I needed that. It felt so intense, and I felt emotional. Like, I almost wanted to cry because it just showed me, again, this is why the video is so important - the power of women coming together and supporting each other and being there. When I got scared and shook up and it was, like, a bunch of men and people on the line with us, you know, who were giving their reasons why - I think we shouldn't and da-da-da, because blah, blah, blah, and the numbers, na-na-na - here comes C Prinz being my hero and saying, no, this is why we do need to do it. And it was, like, only two of us against all of them.

MADDEN: So they moved forward, no compromises. After many months of prep and rehearsal, it was finally the day of the "Crazy" video shoot.

DOECHII: I woke up that morning, and I prayed. That was the first thing I did. I prayed, and I thanked God, and I asked God to show me what the end of the day would look like. When God showed me that, I was grateful for it. Like, OK, I accept it. Let's go.

MADDEN: They shot the video for "Crazy" for almost 14 hours.

CARMICHAEL: The video opens with Doechii shooting somebody in the head with a handgun, and bam, everything just ramps up.

MADDEN: Smashing cars, setting things on fire...

CARMICHAEL: Shooting machine guns, putting out cigarettes on their skin. It feels like total anarchy.

MADDEN: Yeah, like an army of Black women raging war in an empty parking lot just because they can, just because they feel like it.

CARMICHAEL: There's this chaotic communal energy to everything that's happening.

MADDEN: And they're doing all of this while completely naked.

DOECHII: Like, I'm literally showing this - it ain't even symbolism. It's very obviously, like, this girl is vulnerably naked, without - and there's, like, guns in the video. We wanted to do this contrast where, like, usually if somebody's, like, shooting or there's guns or war, people have on armor. And I wanted to symbolize how me coming into the industry as vulnerable as I am, I'm coming to y'all with no armor, and you could shoot me, and you could kill me right now, and I would be done for.

CARMICHAEL: We get to the end of the video, where the viewer finds out that the woman Doechii shot at the start of the film was actually Doechii herself.

DOECHII: And even the cycle of death - like, when I die, you die, especially with women in hip-hop - you kill one, you're kind of killing yourself. It's like what Beyonce said. Don't hurt yourself. Hurting me is hurting you.


MADDEN: When the video shoot wrapped, everybody was proud of what they'd done. But now there was one more hurdle to overcome. TDE had to prepare to release it.

TIFFITH: I had a label rep send YouTube the video ahead of time. They told us no, that they just couldn't. Like, they couldn't allow it to trend because the women were naked in the video. But, I mean, technically, they're covered up. You know what I mean? In my mind, I've seen worse things on YouTube, but I won't even dive into that. But we definitely had several conversations with them going back and forth for probably about a good two weeks, but they just were firm on what they were saying. Like, hey, unless there's a way you guys can VFX some clothes onto these ladies, then we can't allow it.

MADDEN: YouTube didn't budge. The video was age-restricted, which meant it was not eligible to trend. And that's a big hit to its searchability, even just visibility. We reached out to a representative from YouTube who denied our interview request for this story. But when we asked what specifically about this video broke their community guidelines, they pointed us to the platform's nudity and sexual content policy, which reads, quote, "Explicit content meant to be sexually gratifying is not allowed on YouTube." Y'all see the whole irony of this, right? Sexually gratifying? Doechii's entire thesis in making this video was to combat the male gaze, and they just saw it as the same thing anyway.


MADDEN: The "Crazy" video dropped on YouTube on April 8, 2022.

Take me to the day when the video finally drops - like, we're out of post-production, and someone's about to hit upload. Like, what are you feeling in that moment?

DOECHII: Ooh, child, I wish I had a more heroic answer, but I was scared. I was scared, girl. I was scared. I was so scared 'cause I was like, oh, my God. Like, I didn't tell my family. My mom knew about the concept, but I didn't tell my family. So I was just like, I'm scared that people are going to be hurt by it. You know, even though it's an important message for me, I was just scared that I would hurt people's feelings, or I would offend Black women, and they wouldn't get it 'cause they misunderstood me. But it turned out being the opposite, and they actually really, really fucked with it, and a lot of Black women actually said they needed to see it. A lot of Black girls said that they just loved to see a dark-skinned Black girl in a nonsexualized way, and I thought that was dope.

CARMICHAEL: But that's if they even got to see it.

MADDEN: This was dead-ass supposed to be Doechii's industry coming-out party. Instead, the "Crazy" video didn't pop off like it should have.

CARMICHAEL: And because of YouTube's community guidelines, it never hit the home page. It didn't trend. And without that visibility, it definitely didn't start the dialogue Doechii had hoped for.

MADDEN: So how does the shadow ban, whatever you want to call it, what does that say about the way that Black women's bodies are still being policed, even in a time when there's so much visibility for women in hip-hop?

DOECHII: The same thing that I feel like "Crazy" was held back for. I've seen worse. I just have seen worse on YouTube. And not even worse saying that "Crazy" was bad 'cause it's not. It's just I've seen really out-of-pocket things trend and go crazy on YouTube. And I just don't understand - I still have trouble digesting and processing, like, why that happened with my video, you know? And I'd like a specific answer, but it doesn't work like that. And I'm like, maybe it's 'cause I'm a small artist. Maybe it's 'cause - I tried to tell myself it's so many other things. I don't want to feel like it's because I'm a Black woman, you know? I don't know. I'm still unpacking that. But it does hurt my feelings.

MADDEN: This hypocrisy Doechii's talking about, it really ain't that hard to see. You just got to look past the veil of the male gaze. Childish Gambino's "This Is America," Cardi B's "Press" or Lil Nas X's "Industry Baby" - there's a lot of nudity and violence on YouTube on the daily, even on videos with strong political or social messages, like the one Doechii was trying to make. And that don't even count the amount of videos full of rappers just using vixens as props.

CARMICHAEL: But when you take a closer look, it feels like there's a common thread. Community standards are enforced differently if you're a high-profile man or trying to get the attention of men. If you're not appealing to the male gaze, you're not rewarded on the platform. And in the age of streaming and algorithms, being seen on this platform, it determines a lot for your career. This is how institutions are able to reinforce that Black femme bodies are and should always be seen as inherently sexual.

MADDEN: There's so much censorship with this video and policing Black bodies, Black women's bodies. How does that affect what you do creatively and what - the types of themes you spearhead and you push in your music?

DOECHII: I guess, like, it doesn't affect my creativity. I'm still going to keep pushing these messages. I'm still going to keep challenging these systems and challenging these ideals that people have. I'm going to keep giving them that pushback. But, I mean, it does affect me because look; look what happened to the censorship. Now less people can see it because of that, because of these rules and things that are in place. So it's not going to affect my creativity, but it is going to affect the amount of people that are able to experience my art.

MADDEN: Does any part of it ignite you to push even further with the messages in your art?

DOECHII: One hundred percent. One hundred percent because it's like - I don't know. I feel like I'm kind of fighting in a war, and, like, I just feel like I have a purpose to continuously keep doing that. And this goes back to the point of why I'm making the type of music I make and why I put out these type of visuals, is because I want it to be to a point where Black women specifically can be limitlessly creative, and we don't have to be policed, you know?

CARMICHAEL: I want that for Doechii. I want that for DreamDoll and Tate, too. Hell, I want that for everybody living under the male gaze. Even though it's undeniable that there are more women in rap right now finding their voice and taking up space, the structures that make it hard for them to do their job and be as limitless and creative as they want to be are still as rigid as ever. We've talked to dozens of rappers while making this season. What's become clear is they want to be left alone to make their art on their terms, whatever that looks like.

MADDEN: Right. Your body is for nobody but you. So how can you reclaim the gaze or live your life ignoring its presence? And how does that square with how sex sells, especially in hip-hop? One way is celebrating your body and having full control over what you do with it. But that's a fight that goes back forever in hip-hop.

CARMICHAEL: And you know what? We talked to one of the first to do it.

TRINA: I got to make sure I stand on what I believe. Like, my say-so got to matter because here I am with a label, and it's all men, so they're always thinking from a guy's perspective. But I have a different perspective, and y'all need to listen. Let's be nasty. Let's be raw. Let's be unfiltered. Let's have fun.


CARMICHAEL: Trina takes us through rule No. 4. That's next week on LOUDER THAN A RIOT.


MADDEN: LOUDER THAN A RIOT is hosted by me, Sidney Madden, and Rodney Carmichael. This episode was written by myself, Rodney and Gabby Bulgarelli, and it was produced by Gabby Bulgarelli and Sam J. Leeds.

CARMICHAEL: Our senior producer is Gabby Bulgarelli.

MADDEN: Our producers are Sam J. Leeds and Mano Sundaresan. Our editor is Soraya Shockley, with additional editing from Sam J. Leeds. And our engineers are Gilly Moon and Josh Newell. Our senior supervising producer is Cher Vincent. Our interns are Jose Sandoval, Teresa Xie and Pilar Galvan, with help from Jerusalem Truth.

CARMICHAEL: And the NPR execs are Keith Jenkins, Yolanda Sangweni and Anya Grundmann.

MADDEN: Original theme by Kassa Overall, remixed by Suzi Analogue. And the scoring for this episode was provided by Suzi Analogue and Kassa Overall.

CARMICHAEL: Our digital editor is Jacob Ganz, and our fact-checker is Greta Pittenger.

MADDEN: If you like this episode, if you want to talk back, hit us up on Twitter. We're @louderthanariot. And if you want to email us, we're at

CARMICHAEL: From NPR Music, I'm Rodney Carmichael.

MADDEN: And I'm Sidney Madden. And this is LOUDER THAN A RIOT.


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