Sharing sexual partners is a pretty frequent boast in hip-hop. Just one question: Why? Complex gets to the bottom of it.

Written by Ernest Baker (@newbornrodeo)

Now get low and touch your toes for my people/And if you ain’t fucking them, you ain’t fucking me neither” —Lil Wayne, “Dick Pleaser”

In the real world—or at least, the one that art supposedly holds a mirror up to—it’s not a stretch to say that most men get upset when a woman they’re involved with engages in coitus with a friend of theirs.

In the rap world—or at least, the one that’s recorded and turned into music—people brag about the same thing all the time.

To hear them tell it, rappers aren’t the kinds of guys who get mad when a woman sleeps with one (or even several) of their friends. In fact, they encourage it. It’s called “crew love.” Rappers have been celebrating it for decades, long before Drake and The Weeknd dropped a song about it in 2011 (titled, of course, “Crew Love”). Like most cultural norms, the conceit that associates, colleagues, and friends are off-limits is an idea hip-hop flipped on its head (or: on the bed). But the reasoning behind it is unclear.

 

Rappers aren’t the kinds of guys who get mad when a woman sleeps with one (or even several) of their friends. In fact, they encourage it.

 

Is it a pure hedonism thing—the kink and sexual deviation of shared partners—or a matter of brotherhood and generosity? Or something more?

Juicy J, who once rapped, “Call my niggas over, and let her fuck the team,” sees it as the latter. In a phone interview with Complex, when asked about the indelicate matter of rappers sharing women, Juicy responds, with an air of indifference: “I don’t love her, man. You can have her.”

Why? One theory: It has to do with the affection (or lack thereof) rappers have for women. It's a way to guard their impenetrable egos and hidden feelings—offering no emotion toward women. Rap is a straight male-dominated genre, and of course machismo’s going to be a common theme. Love is seen as a weakness, which is a theme as old as storytelling itself. Kurosawa's samurai don't have time for love; they have a higher, violent calling and weakness isn't an option.

This is a genre where artists employ details of what they did with “your girl” as the number one most dismissive taunt against their nameless foes. Juicy himself once rapped about how “Your girlfriend is my groupie.” Like most rappers, he knows it's a point of weakness for the male ego, but not by default. In his estimation, wayward behavior's inevitable, and it’s how one chooses to react that defines character. “Life goes on. We win, we lose some. I don’t dwell on that.” The "that" being a woman stepping out. To that end, he’s also rapped, “You mad ‘cause he fucked your bitch, boy, you a hoe.”

It’s that apathy that’s telling. To care that a woman slept with a friend would be a sign of vulnerability. By shielding themselves from the trauma of former lovers taking up with friends, rappers have—like they helped do with “nigger” in its slow transformation to the term “nigga," a term with an ostensibly inoffensive, if not empowering, denotation—started to promote crew love. In turn, everyone wins. (Sort of.)

“Women wanna fuck the star. She wanna fuck the main motherfucker she see on TV,” Prodigy of classic hip-hop duo Mobb Deep explains to Complex.

 

To care that a woman slept with a friend would be a sign of vulnerability. By shielding themselves from the trauma of former lovers taking up with friends, rappers have started to promote crew love.

 

“It’s basically like peer pressure," he continued. "Pressuring the girl to fuck your boys, everybody else in the crew. She don’t know these niggas. That’s just a way of hooking your boys up with some pussy.” For the woman in question, that means sleeping with a long line of weed carriers and hanger-ons before getting to the main attraction. 50 Cent once detailed part of this post-show, hotel ritual on “Piggy Bank,” telling Tony Yayo to “bring the condoms, I’m in room 203.”

These scenarios aren’t necessarily something that women engage in unwillingly. On her debut verse, Trina once bragged about how she could “fuck about five or six best friends.” There’s a thrill associated with the act, which may be because of it doesn't happen as often as we're lead to believe.

Far from an every day occurrence, crew love is a figment of rap mythology according to Love & Hip Hop star Erica Mena. Alleged by Prodigy to have had relations with both members of Mobb Deep, Mena denies having slept with Prodigy: “Guys think it’s cool to kiss and tell," she says. "There’s a lot of guys that lie [in their music].”

Asked to elaborate on the potential thrill of sleeping with multiple members of a crew, she counters, “How is that fun? That’s like a disease waiting to happen.” And she finds it difficult to step back from her own worldview, only offering up that “everyone’s intentions are different.”

This isn't just true of the women targeted by the relative rise of group sex in hip-hop; rappers don't unanimously approve of this trope, either, even MCs who’ve actually referenced sharing partners as a boast in their music. Bun B of UGK says he made light of inter-group relationships “metaphorically.” When asked about his classic “Let Me See It” lyric, “You ain’t finna fuck Pimp, you ain’t finna fuck Bun,” he responds: “That’s really, ‘You’re not gonna be down with one of us and not down with the other one.’”

Prodigy backs up Bun’s assertion. “Everybody not like that. The whole music industry not like that. All girls ain’t like that. All rappers ain’t like that. Some rappers be fronting like they be doing that shit. I guess it became trendy after a while."

"For the most part, people are respectable and reserved, and there’s a small percentage of motherfuckers that’s running around wilding. It’s not everybody,” he continued.

But that small percentage has their own reasons. Juicy J views himself as a sort of sex philanthropist: “I tossed a couple chicks to some of my homies in my time," he says, laying out his own reasoning for partaking. "A lot of times I’ve met girls I haven’t even fucked. I’ve been like, 'She ain’t for me, maybe you should talk to him.' It’s not always about me smashing a chick and going, ‘Yo, you can smash her, too.’ I'm a giving person. I love to share.”

This seems to be the core motive at play, and has been for years. On The Notorious B.I.G.'s Life After Death cut “Nasty Boy,” Biggie spent an entire verse detailing the naughty exploits of a woman, only to reveal that his observations aren’t even personally motivated, punctuating the rap with, “Can’t wait to put my niggas on.

 

If you're an optimist, it’s a perverse way of challenging sexual norms, or challenging the patriarchy that's oppressed women and their libidos for centuries, and doing so on the behalf of women.

 

But what does crew love mean for the image of the women? When Kanye West raps, “I bet she fucked the whole clique,” on “H*A*M,” is it dismissive and cruel, or celebratory? When Nate Dogg sings, “It ain’t no fun if the homies can’t have none,” on Snoop Dogg’s song of the same title, is there a hint of appreciation for the women who make these situations possible, or is it mean-spirited, misogynistic disdain?

If you're an optimist, it’s a perverse way of challenging sexual norms, or challenging the patriarchy that's oppressed women and their libidos for centuries, and doing so on the behalf of women. But Prodigy doesn't really think so: “Girls is just like dudes. It’s no different. They wanna fuck, too."

"Some girls just like dick." In other words, maybe it isn't for any reason other than the same personal enjoyment and hedonistic impulses that drive the men on the other side of this sexual transaction, a notion that still terrifies and titillates our sexually conservative society.

If their lyrics are any indication, most rappers would agree. There's an air of progression to it, even if it’s only within the limited confines of hip-hop. It still raises a much bigger question about rap—and the capital-C Culture—at large: If the sexual impulses of men and women are equal, but women are still being referred to as the kind of thing that can be passed around, is it futile to hope that rap's fucked up gender relations will ever change? 

Until we hear it change in the music, we're a while away.

Until then, there's always turndown service.

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