Hollaback: Rye Rye’s “Hardcore Girls”
Have you met young Baltimore rapper Rye Rye? She is amazing, as her single “Hardcore Girls” clearly demonstrates. While the song’s club-ready electronica sample isn’t my favorite, Rye Rye’s supertight rhythm and lyrics like “Can’t you see I’m the baddest chick / Even Superwoman couldn’t put her hands on this” put me squarely in the “Hardcore Girls” corner. But the best part about this particular song is the music video.
In “Hardcore Girls,” Rye Rye manages to be both exuberant and totally cool, breaking into brilliant smiles and casually twirling a baseball bat. The lady has star power, and the ability to persuade susceptible audiences that perhaps they too should invest in a handprint jumpsuit.
But Rye Rye isn’t the only hardcore girl in the music video; she shares the screen with ladies of a variety of ages, ethnicities, and personal styles. The lineup includes a female bodybuilder doing pull-ups on a fire escape, an older woman with some serious dance moves, a strikingly beautiful woman with a shaved head chilling by a pay phone, and an adorable yet tough little girl who crosses her arms with defiance. A big part of what makes the music video so exciting is that it shows such a multitude of diverse ladies being awesome in different ways. They’re all strong and beautiful and quite evidently hardcore. When the music video flashes through all of their faces at 2:15–and I know this sound may sound like I’m a giant cheeseball and/or overly invested in music videos, both of which are true–my heart lifted just to see them.
There are men in “Hardcore Girls” too; mostly, they’re looking at the women, with varying degrees of awe and lasciviousness. The guy half-smiling at 1:35 looks like he’s both attracted to and impressed by Rye Rye, a perfectly understandable response. Also, he is cute. On the other hand, the lecherous eyebrow-wiggle of the older man at 1:37 looks kind of creepy. While the men are looking at the women, the women don’t seem to be looking back, nor do they give any signs that they’re performing for the men’s benefit.
Since most of the video takes place on city streets (I think it’s Baltimore, but never having been there I can’t swear it), “Hardcore Girls” shows what navigating public spaces can be like for women who are the objects of unwanted attention. At 1:16, when two women pass by two men with a pitbull, they keep their heads down and their long hair swept in curtains over their faces; the blonde woman holds her hands protectively at her collarbone. It’s clear that they’re trying to ward off any interaction. While we don’t hear cat calls, that may well be because all the women here could beat the men up.
In fact, most of the women in the music video show that they can defend themselves. There’s a reason Rye Rye carries a baseball bat. A woman pushes away a guy who’s getting in her face, while he falls to his knees in mock-worship. The two women at 1:09 have a very protective dog who lunges, barking, at the screen. The female bodybuilder can certainly take care of herself, and even the little girl knows how to kick box.
“Hardcore Girls” isn’t saying that it’s always bad to look: after all, Rye Rye boasts of her killer moves, “All the honeys in the club keep watchin.” But the video does show that women have the right to move through the streets freely, without having anyone bother them or make them uncomfortable. Hardcore girls don’t just know how to dance; they also know how to fight.