Most of us remember Nelly’s controversial “Tip Drill” video. I remember the first time I saw it. I was a sophomore in high school, watching it on BET’s now defunct “Uncut” series on the television my parents allowed me to have in my bedroom. (Side eye to my parents.) I would be lying if I said my first reaction was not awe. I was in awe of the way these women’s bodies moved. And as I laid in bed, I couldn’t help but bounce to the beat. “Where she at… dere she gooooo!” It was entertaining but I also knew it was a hot mess. Exploitative, degrading, entirely too much. Never outside of an adult video had I straight up seen a woman’s labia as she bent over.
And then there was the credit card swipe that single handedly ended “Uncut”…forever. And though I’m sure strip clubs across the country and the world feature scenes all too similar to the ones depicted in “Tip Drill,” the fact that Nelly brought that to the masses was too disrespectful and frankly, too embarrassing for the black women who felt they had enough sense to be embarrassed for the women who bounced, popped, dry humped and wiggled in the video.
Folks were outraged. The most expressive, were the women of the Spelman Feminist Majority Leadership Alliance. Ironically, right at the time where Nelly had black women bending over booty clapping, he was also attempting to get their help in a bone marrow drive for his sister, Jacqueline “Jackie” Donahue, who was battling leukemia. But word quickly spread that Spelman students were going to protest. And according to Spelman, Nelly’s foundation refused to hold the drive unless the university promised that students wouldn’t confront him about the song or video. But in a recent interview with Marc Lamont Hill for Huff Post Live, Nelly explains why he’s still angered by that whole controversy especially since his Jacqueline passed away just a year later.
“You approach me with this conversation while I’m doing that drive. Why do you want to talk about that now when I’m trying to save lives? That was my whole issue with that”
“And don’t get it twisted it wasn’t all of Spelman. It was a group of young ladies that decided the this was the time that they picked to make this move. And it just felt so wrong to me because here I am losing time trying to save someone special to me and you want to talk about a video. You spent hours and hours playing my video when we could have spent those hours getting people signed up on bone marrow registries and finding donors for people who needed these stem cell transplants.”
Then Marc Lamont Hill asks why Nelly just didn’t have the conversation first and then continue on with the bone marrow drive.
“So how can you compare that? You’re trying to tell me that I got to have a conversation about a video before we take care of bone marrow? What’s more important here? If anything you should have did it the other way around. What’s more important and I say that because you protested, are you still protesting that right now? Cuz I don’t have my sister now.
“So it don’t weigh. You’re not even probably protesting right now. And half of ya’ll that was protesting is probably in them clubs dancing to them songs on the weekend that you’re ‘protesting’ about.”
The conversation veers off and Nelly explains how rappers and Hip Hop takes so much heat for being immoral and then Marc Lamont Hill chimes in with a statistic that rappers are the artists that give back the most. Then he asks Nelly if there were anything he would do differently in his career, but specifically the Spelman incident.
“The Spelman thing the only thing I feel I woulda did different is kick somebody’s A$$. That’s just how it felt to me, Pimp. I don’t have my sister. You robbed me of an opportunity, unfairly my brother. That was unfairly because we could have still had your conversation after I got my opportunity. It could have been somebody that was coming to that bone marrow drive that day that was possibly a match for my sister that didn’t come because of that.”
Marc Lamont suggests Nelly and Spelman still have the conversation in the near future.
“Aww man that conversation is easy. They don’t want to have that conversation because the truth of the matter is, Spelman is within a six block ratio of about 3 or 4 strip clubs that I don’t see them protesting at one time.”
Then Marc Lamont Hill countered by saying that the women of Spelman would probably argue that the strip clubs down the street weren’t asking for these women’s bone marrow. Nelly counters and Lamont Hill moves on, saying that the two agree to disagree.
At the end of the conversation my only thought was umph. I can see both men’s arguments. Like Lamont- Hill said, it really is time out for black men publicly disrespecting black women and then running back to us when they need us. It’s played out. We’re tired. And most of all it hurts. And while I would love for black men to really get that. I agree with Nelly in the sense that this bone marrow drive wasn’t the right time to deliver that message.
I know black women are always told to hold our rage, be patient, this is not the time. And it ain’t right. But in this instance, the women of that Spelman group sought to highlight the inequities and injustices of life instead of save one. And I can’t support that.
I know that these feminist issues are more than just “issues,” “talking points” or gripes. They really affect our everyday lives in very real, very tangible very painful ways. But getting Nelly, a black man, to understand that should not have come at the expense of the life of a black woman.
What do you think about Nelly’s arguments and Marc Lamont Hill’s?
You can watch Nelly’s whole interview on the next page.