This is a re-post from my old blog site, but it is one that is very relevant. In this post I reference my music project “I Am Hip Hop Too”. I will be posting about that very shortly. But for now, just know that it is a project that I am working on and hope to have done late 2010. You can vote for the idea here http://www.refresheverything.com/iamhiphop (until June 30) and you can “friend” (well I guess it is “like”) us at http://www.facebook.com/iamhiphoptoo . Hope you enjoy the blog, and feel free to comment!
If you’ve read my early posts, then you know that I am in the process of making a CD, I Am Hip Hop Too, that is about, for, and by young women. Also in the earlier post I touched on the subject of how women have been devalued, de-humanized, and “thingified” in a good amount of rap songs. Today I want to share excerpts from an article written about four years ago. I came across this article the other day while looking for the original business plan I wrote for the CD. I had saved this article simply because it was a very powerful piece. Again, I will share excerpt of the article which was entitled “Celie’s Revenge: Hip Hop’s Betrayal of Black Women” You can read the full article by clicking on the link.
Please note, in the article the author refers to “Hip Hop”, when she is mostly talking about Rap Music. Granted there may be sexism in Hip Hop as a culture, but it is most blatant in the music. Hip Hop is a culture, NOT just rap music. The elements of hip hop include: Breakin (dancing), Emceeing (rapping), Graffiti Art, Deejayin, and Knowledge (which are considered the Five Pillars of Hip Hop). Hip hop also includes Beatboxin, Street Fashion, Street Language, and Street Entrepreneurialism.
Betrayal Of Imagination
The article was written by Jennifer McLune (ironically enough, the main character on my CD is named Jennifer. Maybe I did that sub-conciously) in response to this excerpt from Kevin Powell’s “Note’s of a Hip Hop Head” from the book Who Shot Ya? Three Decades of Hiphop Photography
Indeed, like rock & roll, hip-hop sometimes makes you think we men don’t like women much at all, except to objectify them as trophy pieces or, as contemporary vernacular mandates, as baby mommas, chickenheads, or bitches. But just as it was unfair to demonize men of color in the 60s solely as wild-eyed radicals when what they wanted, amidst their fury, was a little freedom and a little power, today it is wrong to categorically dismiss hip-hop without taking into serious consideration the socioeconomic conditions (and the many record labels that eagerly exploit and benefit from the ignorance of many of these young artists) that have led to the current state of affairs. Or, to paraphrase the late Tupac Shakur, we were given this world, we did not make it.
Ms. McLune opens her article in the following paragraph:
To hip-hop’s apologists: You were given this world and you glorify it. You were given this world and you protect it. You were given this world and you benefit from it. You were given this world and even in your wildest dreams you refuse to imagine anything else but this world. And anyone who attacks your misogynistic fantasy and offers an alternative vision is a hater, or worse, an enemy who just doesn’t get it. What is there to get? There is nothing deep or new about misogyny, materialism, violence and homophobia. The hardest part isn’t recognizing it, but ending it. Calling it unacceptable and an enemy of us all. Refusing to be mesmerized, seduced or confused by what hip-hop has come to signify: a betrayal of our imagination as a people.
“Refusing to be mesmerized, seduced, or confused by what hip hop has come to signify: a betrayal of our imagination as a people” I couldn’t have said it better. Let’s forget for a minute that we are discussing the betrayal of women; Hip Hop in many instances has betrayed our imagination as a people! I know I sound like the old man when I say “back when I was growing up….” but really take a listen to some of the stuff that gets a lot of radio play. Most of it, and the rappers who created it, sorely lack in creativity. Definitely not all of hip hop suffers from this, but so much so that marginal rappers today are considered “hot”.
Fighting To Be Heard
Kevin Powell’s “socio-economic” explanation for the sexism in hip-hop is a way to silence feminist critiques of the culture: It is to make an understanding of the misogynistic objectification of black women in hip-hop so elusive that we can’t grasp it long enough to wring the neck of its power over us. His argument completely ignores the fact that women, too, are raised in this environment of poverty and violence, but have yet to produce the same negative and hateful representation of black men that male rappers are capable of making against women.
Hip-hop owes its success to the ideology of woman-hating. It creates, perpetuates and reaps the rewards of objectification. Sexism and homophobia saturate hip-hop culture, and any deviation from these forms of bigotry is made marginal to its most dominant and lucrative expressions. Few artists dare to embody equality and respect between the sexes through their music; those who do have to fight to be heard above the dominant chorus of misogyny.
Now I would have to disagree that hip hop’s success is due to woman-hating. Rap music has been popular for a long time, and woman-hating hasn’t always been the mainstay of it. Once Black Consciousness was phased out and replaced by “gangster-rap”, woman-hating was a big part of it. As Ms. McLune makes not of, those who deviate from what’s popular usually has a fight on their hands if they want to be heard. I realize this as I have embarked on a journey to make music that definitely does not fit in to what is “popular” these days. But I don’t see it as a fight. We will make our music, and our expectation is that those who is seeking that type of music will be attracted to it in one way or another.
Unlike men, women in hip-hop don’t speak in a collective voice in defense of themselves. The pressure on women to be hyper-feminine and hyper-sexual for the pleasure of men, and the constant threat of being called a bitch, a ho – or worse a dyke – as a result of being strong, honest, and self-possessed, are real within hip-hop culture, and the black community at large. Unless women agree to compromise their truth, their self-respect, their unity with other women, and instead play dutiful daughter to the phallus that represents hip-hop culture, they will be either targetted and slandered, or ignored altogether. As a result, female rappers are often just as male-identified, violent, materialistic and ignorant as their male peers.
Well, Ms McLune, you have a point there. There aren’t any Queen Latifah’s, Lauren Hill’s, or even Yo Yo’s in mainstream rap right now. I’m admittedly not as into rap as I once was, so it should be no suprise when I say that I’m hard pressed to name any female rappers other than Nick Minaj, and she doesn’t even have an album out. Maybe it will come to me before the end of this blog post, but I just don’t know of any female artists out right now. I certainly don’t hear them on mainstream radio.
Who You Calling A Bitch!?
Some women sing along to woman-hating lyrics because they’ve convinced themselves that Snoop, Jay-Z, Ludacris and others aren’t talking about them. They are talking about women who act like bitches and hoes and thus deserve to called bitches and hoes. When do women ask what men deserve? Too many of us sing along to woman-hating lyrics because we have allowed men to decide which women are worthy of respect and which women are asking to be called names. But as long as men define the terms upon which any woman is worthy of respect, we are all bitches and hoes. And as along as we allow men to divide and label us, they’ve conquered us all.
Not much for me to say after that. You may want to read that paragraph once again….
I’ll conclude this right here. Again, if you want to read the entire article click on the hyperlink at the top of the blog.