On April 13, scores of Harvard students will fill Tercentenary Theatre for Yardfest, perhaps the greatest recreational event held at Harvard annually. This year, the event will be headlined by Tyga, a rapper who has recently received some recognition for his new hit, “Rack City.” The same song, however, is a perfect example of why Tyga’s selection to perform at Yardfest is ill-advised at best: The lyrics are deeply misogynistic, and a number of Tyga’s other songs betray even more disturbing sentiment about women. It is an absolute shame that College Events Board has chosen an artist whose songs feature little more than hate speech against women. Regardless of the budget, the College Events Board could have made a better choice.
According to Jeremy M. Tchack ’15, a member of the Harvard Concert Commission, the main goal in choosing Tyga was to select an artist who had released a Top 40 hit, and although Tchack admits that the rapper may not be popular with all students, he believes that the Yard will “go wild” when Tyga raps “Rack City.”
Just look at the lyrics to the rap, however, and you’ll see exactly why that prediction might not come true. Much of Tyga’s music, including “Rack City” and “Bitch Betta Have My Money,” invoke disturbing pejoratives against women, imply prostitution, and appraise women on the basis of their physical and sexual availability. Certainly, there exists rap that makes use of problematic language with nuance and complexity, but none of this is to be found in Tyga’s songs: His content is unmitigatedly, overridingly misogynistic.
At a university whose students have recently gone to great lengths to combat rape culture, where all students should feel both safe and valued, putting Tyga onstage at a campus-wide event is wholly inappropriate. His message goes against everything that Harvard should be saying to its students about sex and self-worth. As a university, we should work toward a campus culture where women feel empowered and valuable and where all students reject discrimination, be it on the basis of gender, race, or any other component of an individual’s identity. Any woman could feel personally victimized while listening to Tyga’s lyrics, and the College Events Board is wrong to ignore that fact simply because they want to get a Top 40 artist within budget.
Yesterday, a student-initiated petition urging the Office of Student Life to cancel Tyga’s appearance at Yardfest appeared on Change.org, a testament to student disapproval of the College Event Board’s choice. Citing his “explicitly and violently misogynistic lyrics,” the petition garnered over 1,000 signatures within a few hours of release.
Even if value-per-dollar were the only consideration in choosing a Yardfest artist, however, Tyga would still be a poor choice. Between the very strong possibility of student outrage at Tyga’s deeply offensive lyrics and Tyga’s less-than-sky-high popularity, his selection may actually work against the University’s goal of bringing more students out for the event. While budget restraints on Yardfest are understandable, there is really no reason why Harvard couldn’t have chosen a more appropriate artist.
Regardless of how many students Tyga might bring to Yardfest, his selection to perform is deeply troubling. His lyrics represent little more than damaging misogyny, and the College Events Board is sending all the wrong messages by bringing him to Harvard.