All Articles Tagged "hip hop"
As a child, the first things I heard about myself were that I was fat and ugly, so I believed it. Bullying planted the seed for my self-doubt and low self-esteem. My family and the few friends I had would try to ease my pain but not even their support and kind words could help me shake my despair. While other school-aged children were spending weekends on the playground or with friends, I would sulk. My depression was mistaken for being anti-social most of the time because depression among children is highly misunderstood. According to research, 10 to 15 percent of children experience depression. Unfortunately, I didn’t have a child therapist in my life; however, I did have one thing: music.
Music was the only thing that gave me peace. When I was in elementary school, I couldn’t wait to get home and listen to Angie Martinez and Funkmaster Flex on Hot 97. Not only did I admire their talents, but listening to the music and engulfing myself in the hip-hop culture gave me an escape from my everyday hell. It helped take my mind off of the insults that were thrown at me on a daily basis. It helped me stop replaying in my mind the looks other children gave me on the playground. The Voice of New York helped me tune out the laughs of those who would take pleasure in humiliating me in front of my peers.
One of my hobbies was building an extensive collection of albums. My peers didn’t understand it and my grandparents knew the music was a little too grown for my young ears, but it was comforting. I found solace in breaking down Nas lyrics on I Am, feeling Eve’s pain on Let There Be Eve…Ruff Ryders’ First Lady and understanding Eminem’s madness on The Slim Shady LP. DMX was intense yet compelling to my 9-year-old mind, while Jay Z not only had me in awe with his cleverness but brought excitement to my dull days when he and Nas went blow-for-blow after “Takeover” was released. I couldn’t relate to the romantic pain that Mary J. Blige sang about, but I could feel the hurt and cries for happiness in her voice, which resonated with me more than anything. I had something to look forward to when album release dates were announced or when my cousin would bring home DJ Envy mixtapes. Listening to such gripping storytelling helped me not focus so much on my own. Not only was I bullied, by biological mother was in and out of life, and around the age of nine I realized that I didn’t know my biological father. I always had my grandparents so I didn’t wonder much about where my father was until I got a little older. All those things brought on more heartbreak and confusion.
When I wasn’t listening to the radio, I was watching television. Instead of the Disney channel or Nickelodeon, I preferred VH1, MTV and BET. I especially enjoyed hip-hop documentaries about the genre’s early beginnings and Behind the Music, which profiled artists across different genres. I also loved magazines. I neglected teachers’ recommended readings and instead had my eyes glued to the pages of VIBE, Jet, Black Beat and RightOn! My walls were covered in posters and my shelves were overflowing with magazines, which I also collected. My grandfather always fussed about my room but it was a safe haven. I felt closer to the musicians on my wall than I did to anyone else.
Becoming wrapped up in hip-hop culture not only helped me with my depression but also helped me discover my passion. When I would watch documentaries, music journalists like Elliott Wilson, Dream Hampton and Datwon Thomas were always the experts giving the supporting commentary. As I read magazine cover stories, Cynthia Horner, Danyel Smith and other writers captivated me with their riveting feature stories and reviews. I also wrote poetry as a child and one day it dawned on my 12-year-old mind that I could actually pursue that same career, and I did.
Experiencing depression as a child was horrible. I was filled with anguish and couldn’t understand why all my peers were happy and had friends and I was teased and rejected. When most of my friends think about their childhood they think of their favorite shows, toys, riding their bikes and frolicking on the playground. I think of my favorite albums, music videos and rap beefs. As a child, most days were nightmares but music helped me dream and brought some light to my dark days.
Netflix’s most expensive project to date, The Get Down, premieres today. Helmed by Baz Luhrmann of Moulin Rouge!, The Great Gatsby and Romeo + Juliet fame, the 12-episode series loosely chronicles the birth of hip-hop. Set in the South Bronx in the year 1977, the mythic, lavish saga follows a group of ambitious teenage boys who end up changing their city and the world at large with their hustle and unbridled creativity. It stars some newcomers, like Justice Smith, Herizen F. Guardiola, Mamoudou Athie and Yahya Abdul-Mateen, as well as acting vets like Giancarlo Esposito and Jimmy Smits. Will you tune in? Here’s everything you need to know about The Get Down, the first six episodes of which are now streaming on Netflix.
In middle school and in my earlier years of high school, I played volleyball. And for volleyball we had summer training. And since I hadn’t gotten my license yet, my friend’s older brother would pick us up from our house and take us to volleyball practice at my high school, which, in hindsight, was completely unnecessary since we literally lived across the street from my high school.
But, truth be told, both of us had a thing for each other, so it worked. Every time he’d pick me and my sister up, he’d be bumping something. I remember I was in his car this first time I heard 702’s “I Still Love You.” Usually, he played some jams on our two minute ride from my driveway to the gym. But one day, we got in the car and as soon as he pulled out of my housing edition, he started blasting Three 6 Mafia’s “A$$ and Titties.”
For those who are unfamiliar, the lyrics are far worse than the title. It goes, “A$$ and titties, A$$ and titties, A$$ and titties and big booty b*tches.” Later, one of the group’s members talks about how he’s just got to get his dick sucked. Real classy stuff.
It was pretty awkward. Not only was he the only boy in the car, his sister was riding shotgun. That was a song for a solo ride or for him and his boys riding around. But y’all know high school boys can be a little oblivious. So it was his sister who had to tell him to turn that off. Suddenly, it was as if the words and their meaning started seeping into his head. “Oh! Yeah.” And he switched to something else.
I would end up in his car as I got older and that never happened again. But that moment stayed with me.
I was reminded of it again when I listened to Toya Wright’s interview on The Breakfast Club. Toya told the crew that she’s all about respect. And she doesn’t allow the men she’s dating or the boys her daughter is dating to play derogatory music around them. Charlemagne was quick to remind her that Lil Wayne was her ex husband and father to her child. But she said, it doesn’t matter. And Wayne knows better than to bring that around her.
It was pretty interesting. I guess because the assumption is that if you get with a rapper, you automatically approve of his content. But for Toya, not only is that not the case, she doesn’t even want to hear it being played around her. Interesting indeed.
Her interview made me wonder what our readers thought about this topic. There’s no shortage of music that degrades and derides women. It’s everywhere, especially in Hip Hop. And seeing that Hip Hop is a Black art form, it’s supported heavily by Black people, men and women alike. We’re not going to even pretend that many of us haven’t, at one point or another, listened and enjoyed songs that didn’t exactly uplift us. “Loyal” was a huge hit. Still, some of us have made a conscious decision not to engage in that type of listening. But if our dates, boyfriends, or husbands haven’t, how do you want him to juggle his musical tastes with your need to be respected?
Last week, Future’s latest video, “Rich $ex,” debuted to quite the mixture of reviews. Black Twitter erupted in a haze of disgust, confusion, and laughter as the visual, featuring Blac Chyna, was released on rapper Tyga’s birthday.
A little background for those who, like myself, don’t necessarily keep up with the lifestyles of the ratchet and famous: Blac Chyna and Tyga were an item for a bit. Their time together produced a beautiful little boy and a lot of bad blood, which has led to more than one very public social media/text fight between the exes.
It’s no coincidence that “Rich $ex” dropped on Tyga’s 26th birthday. Replete with lyrics about having sex while wearing expensive things (ugh, really?), more nudity than could be considered tasteful, and Future executing what Biggie dubbed the “death stroke” tongue all the way down Blac Chyna’s throat, it was what many would consider the perfect F-you from one ego-driven rapper to another. A conquered woman, a piece moved on the board.
The lyrics of “Rich $ex” paired with the release date and Chyna’s completely bare behind, twisted up in some NSFW positions, deliver a message that has remained the same since rap battles became a thing. It’s what most, if not all rap battles have boiled down to. The ultimate diss: “I f—ed your b—h.”
All eyes turn to whichever lyricists (can we even call them that anymore without laughing?) are verbally duking it out and all ears tune in to verse after verse befouling the very women they claim to love and adore just to “win.” A method of winning by getting under one’s skin, a practice as old as time.
A month ago, Chyna posted a photo of the word “Future” scrolled neatly across her hand. Future, free of any tattoos or markings of her name, unequivocally denied being involved with her. And now, this video, what many could consider soft-core porn, is released, objectifying and denigrating her body while boosting his self-esteem.
Where do we, as Black women, draw the line on how we are used for the almost sadistic pleasure of men who only want to destroy the egos of other men while stroking their own? Where do Black men in Hip-Hop take responsibility for the way in which they choose to portray Black women? As things to be conquered, talked over and about, with no concern for their well-being, only their performance in bed to discuss with the public. We are nothing more than pieces to move to serve their endgame, and the game is getting old and tired.
Blac Chyna is not the first Black woman to be misused in Hip-Hop. Another recent battle between Meek Mill and Drake put Nicki Minaj in the crosshairs, reducing a woman who has accomplished a great deal in the genre – despite what you may think of the way in which she has done it – to nothing more than a pair of legs between which these two men decided to rumble with one another. The battle between Tupac and Biggie left sweet-voiced songstress Faith Evans in the crossfire back in the ’90s, something that could have cost her a career and damaged her self-esteem. It happens over and over with Black women. They have little to no recourse because the reality is that no one cares, and our bodies are the battleground for money, power, and respect for everyone else. It has become part of the show, part of the excitement of Hip-Hop. Black women’s dignity and sacredness are forever at the mercy of men’s whining egos. Sadly, Blac Chyna won’t be the last Black woman to be caught up in some foolish manhood-measuring contest, but I know we as a people and Hip-Hop as a culture are better than what we’ve sunk to.
What will it take for us to stop allowing the need for praise and ego-stroking to dishonor the bodies and lives of Black women within a music genre whose founding messages were the furthest thing from that?
What will it take for many mainstream Hip-Hop artists to stop taking shots and start making art again? Objectifying and fetishizing Black women to get at another rapper is the easy route and it perpetuates a cycle of violence within the Black community – it’s not always physical – that is systemic and trickles down from White racial oppression. Making actual music that is about something that matters is harder, but it breeds respect and integrity and fights that systemic oppression in an industry that has resigned itself to profiting off of the degradation of the peoples who support it and the men at its forefront the most.
If nothing else, videos and lyrics like that of “Rich $ex” zero in on the self-work we as a community have to do to be more proactive about ensuring Black women are uplifted instead of degraded for the cause of fame.
Ashley J. H. is all about creating space for Black women’s visibility and magic to shine. Follow her on Twitter: @ashleylatruly
Can a f–kboy every change his f–kboy ways?
I ask this because of David Banner. The “Like A Pimp” and “Play” rapper now says he is ready to own up to his misogyny – well, sort of.
According to the Huffington Post:
During a recent appearance on Essence Live, Banner explained that his conversations with black women led him to understand that black women didn’t feel protected or wanted in their community. As a result, he wrote an open love letter to women through his latest single, “Marry Me.”
Banner also took responsibility for past actions — anyone remember “Play”? — and explained what he learned the most from having “Get Like Me,” a number one song in 2008.
“When I had the number one song — as far as hip-hop was concerned ‘Get Like Me’ with Chris Brown — I got a global peak [sic] at how America is portraying black men from America,” Banner explained. “And at that time, reality shows — as we know it now– first started to take off so for the most part, what people got from black men globally was rap videos and reality TV shows, and honestly, we looked like monkeys. But I wasn’t living what I was speaking for the most part – as far as the positive aspect of it.”
If you haven’t heard the song or seen the lyric video — particularly seen the video — you are truly missing out. “Marry Me” is a romantic little tune featuring Banner rapping about marriage over violins while a dude (also known as Rudy Currence) riffs and runs like Trey Songz. Not to be outdone, the video features a floating earth-shaped engagement ring over a spaced-out background, which is reminiscent of an old-school Myspace profile that could have belonged to a conscious “queen” named Empress-something.
I will admit: The song and video have some charm. I could see it being played at weddings and engagement parties all across Black America. And in some respects, I prefer it to most of what passes as R&B nowadays.
With that said, I fail to see how this song or Banner’s proclamation is meant to make Black women feel more protected and wanted in the community. Heck, I fail to see how this song or video has anything to do with Black women at all.
For one, there are the lyrics. In particular, the chorus:
They say I’m an urban myth
They say black men don’t exist
Prove them wrong, won’t you marry me? Marry me
And they say I’m nothing but a stat on sheets
But here I am on my bending knees
Prove them wrong, won’t you marry me? Marry me
So I’m asking every woman and girl
All over the world
If you wanna get married, you can marry me
I might be a little confused here, but is Banner, by way of Currence, suggesting that all women “and girls” marry him specifically, or that women and girls should marry men like him? Either way, it is pretty damn self-centered and presumptuous, as well as slightly creepy.
Not only are we once again putting the onus of “proving” the worth and value of Black men on the backs of Black women (“They say I’m an urban myth…prove them wrong”), but Banner wants us to do so with no assurances that he is actually ready for marriage.
I mean, what is being said in the lyrics that actually speaks to love for Black women and girls (again, yuck)? If anything, the lyrics read more like Black women are being used as shields to mask insecurity about what other people think of Black men and masculinity.
Not to mention the “every woman and girl…marry me” line sounds no less gross than the dudes who womanize, but claim to do so out of their love for women. You know, like a pimp?
But that is just the chorus.
In the first verse, we get a little more clarity on Banner’s new views about protecting and making the Black woman feel wanted in the community.
More specifically, he raps:
Baby, I can feel your pain, let me heal your pain
If you leave with me, you’ll never feel the same
I’ll steal a plane, fly over hills and plains
Reach in the clouds, even steal the rain
So a seed can grow, believe me and know
I’m a king, you’re a queen
I’ll leave you, no
Got you covered in the best gold
I know you see the threshold, come get carried
Let’s get married
And as you can read, Banner’s new views on women sound a lot like his old views of women.
What I mean is that Banner has been called out on many occasions for both policing and holding Black women to respectability standards he has even failed to live up to. More recently, it was comments he made on Twitter that got people riled up. He said, “If you want a man that respects the way you think then show more mind than a–. If you cater to the savage qualities of a man why are you surprised that he continues to be savage? That is how you got him.”
Again, the responsible party for a man’s “savage” behavior is women. Moreover, only certain women, particularly the conservative and the traditional, are deserving of respect. And the more women are “respectable,” which in this instance only means appearance as opposed to her character, the more a man would be willing to give her the courtesy of actually listening to what comes out of her mouth.
In “Marry Me,” Banner continues to promote the idea that respect for women can only come through traditional and conservative means. In particular, single women are in pain, and marriage to a man is how we “heal” a woman from pain.
Never mind that women in committed relationships, including some married ones, can also can be pained at the hands of their partners. And never mind that even a good marriage has never been a cure for sexual assault, street harassment, domestic abuse, a rapper calling a woman a “thot” or a “b–ch,” poor pay and other real-world pains that women experience.
That sort of introspection into “feeling a woman’s pain” would require more than a promise of “the best gold” and a free airplane ride to chase raindrops. Like actual advocacy on behalf of women.
It is important to note what Banner actually said during the interview with Essence. More specifically, the part when he talked about mending bonds between Black women and men, which he feels were broken only by slavery. Although Banner calls himself a Pan-Africanist, he points to the Rockefellers, the Kennedys and the Bushes – three families that have been marred by all sorts of domestic problems – as examples of strong families that Black folks should be emulating. By doing so, the only value Banner places on marriage is its alleged ability to create wealth and power.
He also said, “Me talking to so many women, they would always tell me just black women in general didn’t feel protected nor did they feel wanted. I said, especially in my career, I’ve done enough damage myself, so when I speak, no way am I criticizing other men and what they do in their music, but I have to sort of cleanse my soul and balance my vibrations out.”
While inviting Black women and girls around the world to apply for the job of his “queen” might be cleansing to his soul, the reality is that real empowerment of women comes from the very thing he is refusing to do. And that is talking to and calling out other brothers about their disrespect – even if it means falling on his sword and actually owning up to his first.
He also talked about how the song made his sister cry because she didn’t think there were Black men like him. And then he added, “So um, I hope that, you know, Black women especially support me.”
And there is it. It’s about Black women supporting his project and not necessarily about offering support to Black women.
It is hard to say for sure if Banner is playing off of the insecurity some Black women have about marriage just for spins and downloads. But it wouldn’t surprise me considering we have seen this sort of pandering before. Folks like Raheem DeVaughn, LL Cool J and Ne-Yo have made decent careers giving adulations and making hollow promises of respect to Black women.
But if he is serious, he is going to have to do more than this song to prove his love for us. Just because a f–kboy decides that he is now ready to settle down and marry does not mean he stops being a f–kboy. And if this ring for our “queens” is still wrapped up in counterrevolutionary and dangerous ideas about proper womanhood and everything that supposedly ails us, then he can keep it.
I would like to say I am shocked by Ben Carson’s political radio ad in which he uses Hip Hop music to court Black voters. However, it is Ben Carson, a man who thinks the pyramids were a big silo for Jesus’ wild oats. Therefore nothing he will ever say and do will ever surprise me.
In fact, the only surprise here is that he didn’t have his wife Candy sing on the hook. That would have been just lovely…
But as some have noted, the ad is pretty ironic and slightly offensive. In particular, Drew Millard, in an article for Vice entitled “Ben Carson’s Rap Radio Ad Is an Embarrassment for Everyone,” wrote:
“It’s a testament to the total cluelessness of the GOP that its politicians have misinterpreted hip-hop’s simultaneous distrust and ironic appropriation of their party as nuggets of support, and somehow decided that they can cultivate that support simply by establishing that they are aware that hip-hop is a thing that people seem to like.”
I agree. But it is not just a Hip-Hop thing.
For instance, Carson’s crazy comrade Herman Cain once used stereotypical language and imagery in a radio ad aimed at getting Black people to vote Republican. More specifically, the 2004 radio ad features the Godfather Pizza founder chastising an unemployed “friend” for cheating on his wife and taking his pregnant “hoes” to get abortions. To which the friend says, “I don’t snuff my own seed.” This pleases Cain who then replies: “well, maybe you do have a reason to vote Republican.”
As clumsy and flat-out distasteful (outside of the obvious anti-abortion ickiness, the attempts at slang alone are enough to make you cringe), the ad is characteristic of how many politicians, of all stripes, use cultural signifiers to specifically appeal to the Black voters. In this instance, Cain was trying to connect his core anti-abortion beliefs to some of the more conservative folks within the African American community.
But in 2010, it was the Democratic National Committee, which used the voices of civil rights leaders of the past in a multi-million dollar advertising campaign directed at Black voters. The series of radio ads, which aired mostly on “urban radio,” shied away from using slang, Hip Hop and other Black culture cues. However “The Struggle” and Martin Luther King Jr.’s name were evoked in order to remind Black people about the sacrifices made to get us the right to vote.
One particular ad featured Civil Rights Leader Rev. Joseph Lowery who offered up his testimony about how he was bitten and beat during the turbulent movement and how those same forces were trying to stop President Obama’s agenda. He concluded his message with, “we owe it to the past. We owe it to the future.”
And in this NPR interview, University of Missouri professor Marvin Overby tells journalist Brian Naylor that generally speaking, politicians like radio because it not only gives them a captive audience (particularly those people stuck in car relying on public radio for their entertainment) but it also gives them a better way to “narrow cast” certain messages without offending the masses. This includes Black voters.
More specifically Overby states:
“They tend to be very program driven, and a lot of that is going to revolve around the music that the station chooses to play, and music tends to track demographics very well. So you don’t have middle-aged white soccer moms listening to the same radio stations as 20-something urban African-Americans.”
The article goes on to cite President Obama’s “We Got Your Back” political ad, which first ran on urban radio stations during his 2012 reelection campaign. In it, President Obama does his talking points over a pseudo-R&B beat while a Take Six-type group harmonizes in the background. The ad concluded with a request that voters go to “GottaVote.org (a now defunct site that redirected voters to President Obama’s main campaign page, which is also defunct)” to learn more about how they can have “the President’s back.”
More recently, Politico reported that last year some Democrats in the South used the shooting deaths of Michael Brown and Trayvon Martin in a targeted radio campaign ads as well as mailers and flyers in an effort to connect with and sway Black voters specifically.
So while it is both problematic, and quite funny, that a staunch conservative Republican would appropriate Hip-Hop and other cultural signifiers to appeal to Black voters, he is not alone in this practice.
And if you think that is bad, wait until the campaign season gets into full swing. I guarantee you, they all will be rapping and doing the Nae Nae for us all across our airwaves.
Hip-Hop intellectual Eric Michael Dyson once said that “Whether along race, class, or generational lines, hip-hop music has been a source of controversy since the beats got too big and the voices too loud for the block parties that spawned them. America has condemned and commended this music and the culture that inspires it.” And hip-hop remains both controversial and a heavily divided genre. There’s the woke, incense-burning, reparations-demanding, “remember we are royalty” conscious visionaries like Public Enemy, Dead Prez, Talib Kweli, Lupe Fiasco, Yasiin Bey, Common, J. Cole, and Kendrick Lamar. And then there are the trap kings and queens on the other side, stacking the money, moving that “white girl.” Rappers such as Young Jeezy, Chief Keef, Fetty Wap, Migos, 2 Chainz and, of course, Future.
As a culture, we celebrate the socially conscious rapper for using hip-hop to address political and racial injustice. We praise them for using their platform to give back to the communities in need. We place them on a pedestal as the messiahs who are going to once again redefine the culture of hip-hop and take it back to the days when it was a genre that meant something. To a time when rap told stories. Not just delusions of grandeur stories, but accounts of poverty, drug addiction, broken homes, shattered dreams, and redemption. It was a platform that shared the triumphs and failures of being Black, or Jewish (The Beastie Boys), or Latino (Immortal Technique), or a woman (Queen Latifah).
But in the early ’00s, hip-hop began to shift as rappers started to focus on braggadocio rap. Stories about lavish lifestyles and designer labels. Even Kanye West emerged on the scene as the new voice in conscious hip-hop before slowly transitioning to the top 1 percenter and leaving the rest of us behind. Things and artists changed.
I stumbled across an article from the Huffington Post written in 2012 that accused Jay Z and Nicki Minaj of being part of the problem in this shifting culture.
“What was once a music and culture for and about the struggles of young, urban rebels, who used music, dance and art to express themselves and fight against a system that had forgotten them, has become a culture that glorifies, defends and aspires to be the 1 percent that was once considered the oppressor.”
But after reading this, and hearing a coworker’s claim that NWA somehow broke hip-hop, I started to think, what is hip-hop? How do we define an entire genre based on social and political views and why don’t people do this with any other style of music? (Well, maybe jazz.) James Baldwin once said, “To be black and conscious in America is to be in a constant stage of rage” and boy was he right. Us “woke” folk expect every Black entertainer in the industry in the spotlight to be political activists and criticize them if they’re not doing enough. But as much as us “conscious” Black folk love to talk about the system, political warfare and elevating our minds, I don’t think it makes us any less socially or culturally aware if we want to turn up and shake our rumps to some ratchet hip-hop. Variety is the spice of life.
In his article, “All You ‘Real’ Rap Fans Need to Stop Hating on ‘What a Time to Be Alive”, Complex writer Angel Diaz calls out hip-hop purists for their criticism of Drake and Future’s new collaborative album. He says that if we think that Future, Drake, and similar artists are going to rap about social issues in this day and age, we are idiots. But I don’t think he was prepared for the clapback he received from Talib Kweli, who claims he has been fighting to save hip-hop since it started to decline. Even Wes Jackson of Brooklyn Bodega shared his distaste for Diaz and the music he called “coonery”:
“And to your point that I should not expect Drake or Future to speak on social issues, I feel bad for you. You claim some sense of awareness of Hip Hop’s history in your piece but I fear that is a front. For if you did, you would realize that standing up for social issues is the very foundation of this culture. It was why Afrika Bambaataa and The Zulu Nation helped create this industry that pays your bills.”
Kweli and his supporters at Brooklyn Bodega shared some thought-provoking points on hip-hop’s history and why it is important that we preserve it with each new artist that emerges. But Diaz made some good points too:
You old head, super lyrical m*********rs need to get over yourselves. Every time some new rap drops you sound bitter. “This ain’t that real s**t,” you scream as you fix your two-toned durag and adjust your NT denim. We can’t enjoy the two hottest rappers in the game dropping a joint tape? What exactly is that “real” s**t then? Turn up music isn’t “real” hip-hop? How so? Was the genre not invented at a goddamn party? Isn’t music about having a good time? I’m dead tired of you cats, man. You make my head hurt. Can’t be listening to Talib Kweli rap off beat and Lupe Fiasco deep cuts at BBQs. I, too, was once like you, but come on, don’t nobody wanna hear that s**t all the f****g time.
He didn’t have to fire shots like that at the end of his statement, but all that aside, why do we try so hard to define “real” hip-hop? Why can’t we be okay with its diversity? Why can’t we go to the protest in our neighborhoods with our fists raised while listening to some of the rap visionaries telling us to “fight the power” and then go out on a Friday night to kick back and act a fool to some trap rap? As stated before, hip-hop is one of the only genres people expect so much from. So, with that being said, are we all a little too awake or are we sleeping a little too hard?
If I were Azealia Banks, and I had been caught on camera calling a Delta airline flight attendant a gay slur, I would probably just go on ahead and apologize immediately.
Yes, I know that she is bisexual, which makes her a part of the LGBTQ community. And I also am down with the train of thought that the oppressed can reclaim and repackage words of their oppression. Sort of how Black folks have done with the N-word or women with the B-word or poor white men with the term “redneck.”
Still, fa**ot is very gender specific slur, which is more often than not is used to demean men (be they homosexual or otherwise) in particular. Therefore as a non-target of that slur, it is probably best that Banks not only apologizes for using it, but vow to eradicate that word completely from her entire vocabulary. As this is not the first time she used that slur. And at this point, it is becoming extremely problematic.
Speaking as a woman who identifies with the likes of Banks (i.e. strong-willed, outspoken and very protective of myself), I know making an apology isn’t going to be easy, especially when you have been wronged.
And let’s be clear: there was a wrong committed against Banks too.
If you watch the 43-second video of the now infamous airplane incident, you can clearly hear Banks demand that the flight attendant let go of her bag. You can also see her struggling with the attendant to get herself and her bag free from his grip. And you can also see he vehemently refused her demands.
I understand that not everyone is as passionate as Banks. But I also don’t know too many people who would have stood calmly around as they were being held against their wills. Could you imagine this happening to a White woman? I certainly can’t. Not without this fictitious White woman squealing bloody murder and crying those magical White tears, which seem to always get them out of trouble.
I also can’t see this happening to a White man neither. That hypothetical White man would have called the corporate offices and had that attendant fired before the attendant even thought of grabbing his bag without permission. And I definitely don’t see this happening to a Black man. And not because I feel like they would have held a particular power in this situation. But thanks to the media, which projects toxic images of Black masculinity, the flight attendant would have likely been too petrified out of his mind to touch a Black man or his things.
So while I personally do not condone her calling him the F-word, I would have certainly understood if she had decided to use other choice words instead. After all, what gave him the right to try and keep her from leaving the airplane at all?
Although flight crews on most commercial airlines can legally restrain, or even use force against, an unruly passengers, they can only do so in event the said passenger is a threat to both passengers and the crew. In fact most airlines see restraining and the use of force as an act of last resort and ultimately prefer that flight crews alert the proper authorities and document said incident instead. You know, the people with handcuffs, badges, training and actual authority to detain and arrest?
Considering the flight was over and most other passengers had already exited the plane, the threat to the passengers and the flight crew had ceased to exist. And although there are conflicting reports about Banks engaging in a potential fight with another passenger on the plane, that situation had already been diffused by the time the cameras started rolling. Therefore there was no need to lay a single fingertip on her. And by unnecessarily doing so, he helped to aggravate and escalate an already heated and emotional moment even more.
He should have just called airport security and given them a detailed description of her appearance. Instead he, a White guy, held onto Banks while she was forced to plead her case to one White guy (the pilot). And we wonder why she might have felt a tad bit threatened?
Whether folks like to admit it or not, Black women are some of the least protected and most marginalized people in this country. We are worked more and yet paid less than most others. We are disproportionately affected by poverty and domestic abuse. We are called fat, unmarketable (marriage wise) ranked by the hue of our Blackness and hair types. And until President Obama’s recent speech in front of the Congressional Black Caucus ,about the need to prioritize Black women politically, very few leaders outside of Black women ourselves spoke up for our interests.
As Black women we are told – and most importantly shown – from birth that while we are expected to abide by all of the rules and standards of this patriarchal, White supremacist capitalist society, we shall not expect that system to come to our defense in our times of need. That is why I am not surprised at how easily her victimization has been ignored in this incident. And why she might feel some type of way about apologizing.
And yes I know: many of you think Banks doesn’t make it easy. She is brash, loud, opinionated and occasionally wrong, but she is no more brash, loud, opinionated and occasionally wrong than Kendrick Lamar, David Banner, Lupe Fiasco and any other male Hip Hop counterpart who pops off on Twitter. And yet no one claimed their careers over for using slurs or being obnoxious [a claim that proves itself erroneous every time Banks’ name appears in the news and is subsequently dragged across Twitter. If she don’t matter, why do we talk about her so much?]. For those men, the benefit of doubt would be without question.
In a culture, which regularly regards women and girls as untrustworthy, liars and manipulators, any behavior outside of a curtsy and a huge plastic smile is deemed threatening. This is particularly true of Black woman who have the added burden of overcoming stereotypes of being hyper-aggressive.
But astutely noted by Public Enemy’ frontman Chuck D on Twitter shortly after the airplane incident went viral: “Hiphop blogs posting @azealiabanks because she hurled the F-word on flight attendant. Yet they allow the N-word in their biz model. Both wrong”
Yet, the only wrong we see here is what Banks said.
A few ambitious kids from Los Angeles—Ice Cube, Dr. Dre, Eazy-E, MC Ren, and DJ Yella, collectively known as N.W.A—changed rap forever.
Now, almost thirty years later, they’re getting the biopic treatment in Straight Outta Compton. In the film, the role of Ice Cube, born O’Shea Jackson, is played by his son, O’Shea Jackson Jr.
GQ Magazine got father and son together to talk about it all.
Here are some of the quotes we loved, check the whole interview here.
O’Shea: Dad, did it ever cross your mind that you might someday be starring in movies?
Cube: Not in a realistic manner. When John Singleton approached me to do Boyz N the Hood, I was like, “Me? I don’t act.” And he pursued me for a couple years, and I ended up doing it and caught the movie bug. O’Shea, what made you really go so hard with this part?
O’Shea: I didn’t want nobody else to play you. I didn’t want to go in the movie theater and see somebody else being called O’Shea or see somebody else re-enact the story that I remember. It would have made me nauseous.
N.W.A were political in a way that rap groups before you hadn’t been. Does that moment in retrospect feel similar to the social moment that we find ourselves in now?
Cube: It’s all the same thing, man. People don’t understand that songs like “Fuck tha Police” are 400 years in the making. It’s a constant racism that affects black people in this country that’s never stopped. What’s crazy is that the people who inflict the pain don’t expect you to scream, don’t expect you to holler, don’t expect you to say that it hurts, don’t expect you to say, “Leave me alone!,” don’t expect protests. They expect you to just grin and bear it. Hell no. Hell no.
O’Shea, are these conversations that you guys have between the two of you?
O’Shea: My parents wouldn’t have sent me out into the world with wool over my eyes. You have to be aware or you’ll be swallowed.
“We been hurt, been down before
Nigga, when our pride was low
Lookin’ at the world like, ‘Where do we go?’
Nigga, and we hate po-po
Wanna kill us dead in the street fo sho
Nigga, I’m at the preacher’s door
My knees gettin’ weak, and my gun might blow
But we gon’ be alright”
The song is explicit and emotional, speaking directly about racial disparity. Current events show us that we are not safe, and some of us feel displaced. There is some hatred for the cops because of the police brutality. You could argue that “my knees getting weak and my gun might blow” is about the helplessness that makes you want to take matters into your own hands, or maybe the helplessness that might make you want to turn the gun on yourself. The song is timely and the black-and-white video that dropped yesterday is gorgeous, packed with symbolism, and even downright depressing.
But as far as Rivera’s statement, two things: 1) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism. 2) Nothing is more damaging to the Black community than racism.
I had to say it twice because his sentiment should be in the Guinness World Records book for the longest reach in the history of reaches.
Now, that is not to say that rap music is not jam-packed with problematic and damaging messages, but using Lamar to make his point displays Rivera’s ignorance of the culture. Kendrick Lamar is one of the few Top 40 rappers whose purpose is to share a message about the trials and tribulations of our current times. Had Rivera referenced Young Thug or The Game, his statement would have some weight, but alas, he did not. Then again, why would I expect the man who blamed Trayvon Martin’s hoodie for his own death to make a valid point when throwing around tone-deaf cultural accusations?
Let’s be honest: Modern-day commercial rap music is theater, akin to the WWE and Love & Hip Hop. A lot of things are said and done to get ahead, not because the lyricist truly means it. Rick Ross is a glowing example of this. Once a corrections officer, the Florida-bred rapper is constantly criticized for spitting bars about a history of drug dealing and arms carrying. Back in 2008, when it was uncovered that he had worked as a prison guard, Ross denied it, insisting that pictures of him in his uniform had been Photoshopped. He later came clean and admitted that if times got tough enough, he would return to his old job though his recent troubles with the law might make that a bit hard. No matter his past, Ross is a character in a costume and his act has paid off.
But for every Rick Ross portraying a hood caricature, Kendrick Lamar lands on the other end of the spectrum. He did grow up in Compton. He is facing internal struggles about his socio-political environment. He did see a lot of violence growing up. He sometimes has girl problems, too. He’s just different. Very different from his colleagues in rap.
As a Black woman, the violent and misogynistic lyrics in commercial rap definitely make me uneasy but they don’t “damage” my worldview. The first time I really remember being put off by the content of a rap song happened when I was 10 and one of my family members was bumping DJ Quik’s “Sweet Black P***y.” I vividly remember covering my ears in disgust as Quik rapped about his love for, well, you know. Bad words were no friend of mine. As a side effect of hearing this song, I do not prefer to use that word nor hear a woman’s nether regions referred to as such. While I definitely came up with vulgarity-laced hip-hop, there was a balance in my life; my dad constantly exposed us to the oldies from the ‘60s and ‘70s, which allowed me to revel in a time when men were able to sincerely proclaim love for a woman and her beautiful…soul. There are probably a few hours worth of music from the ‘70s devoted to the beauty of a woman’s eyes alone.
Those times are gone. Long gone. Now we have songs about eating booty like groceries. I am forever nostalgic.
The levels of homophobia, violence, exploitation, and misogyny in popular rap are at peak levels. When I get frustrated by any of this, I have to remind myself that the music industry is like theater. It’s a sometimes cartoonish, and troublesome production, much like Ringling Bros. Theater is dramatic and compelling and it requires the views and participation of the audience. What if the audience doesn’t realize it’s watching a show? Do young kids realize that Nicki Minaj is the Hulk Hogan to Onika Maraj’s Terry Bollea? Would it change their views if they understood that Minaj is a character that Onika created to be successful? She is a strikingly talented businesswoman; over the course of 8 years, she has created a multi-million dollar empire that includes a clothing line, signature perfumes, an alcoholic beverage, platinum records, sold-out tours, and three movies. Behind the persona, for the world to see, is a success story. What could be damaging about that?
But a lot of kids take entertainment at face value. Therefore, it falls back on the parents to set the tone and lead their kids by example. The onus is not on Ludacris, Lil Wayne, Nicki Minaj, Tyga and any other rapper you can think of to be role models; it starts at home. While I may have had an uncensored entertainment experience as a child, my parents made a lot of lessons very clear to me: Treat people how you wish to be treated, respect yourself and your elders, help others, and act like you got some sense. It was and has always been, just music. It entertained me. It made me think. But it didn’t damage me.
I don’t think the tone of pop rap is going to change anytime soon, so these uncomfortable messages are going to continue to dominate and be passed around. But, in the background and sometimes in the forefront, we get entertainers like Outkast, Common, Mos Def, J. Cole, Jidenna, and yes, Kendrick Lamar. They give me hope that there is a balance in this rap universe, and that positive, uplifting messages are being shared too.
But whether or not there is a balance, rap music does not force or cause racial disparities. Rap music could never be more powerful than racism. Racism is a hateful never-ending plague. Rap music is not perfect. It feeds the culture, and sometimes perpetuates nasty messages, but it can also heal, raise awareness and bring a marginalized group together in celebration of the vibrant culture that racism deems ultimately inferior.