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Question…and this is embarrassing…

What if we, you and me, are to blame, at least partially, for what happened in Steubenville, what we hear on “U.O.N.E.O.,” and the unfortunate rape culture within Hip Hop?

I’ve seen and heard many response from artists, consumers, readers, bloggers, journalists, etc. who are not happy with Rick Ross’ lyrics. Things like“He’s misguided.”  “He took it too far.” “He hasn’t offered a real apology.”

To them I say: We have misguided him.We have allowed him to take it that far. And he’s not the only one who needs to really apologize—although mere remorseful words alone won’t change the entire culture.

For the record, the rape culture is not exclusive to Hip Hop. Many have adamantly expressed that point. And they are obviously correct. But if we want to be proud of Hip Hop for its presence on the global stage, let’s not downplay the influence it then has, whether deservingly or not, on popular culture. The culture of rape that exists within the broader society needs to be attacked, but it is also reasonable to challenge people with respect to their influence. Platforms should bring expectations because platforms give power. Sure, it’s not fair for mainstream society to demonize a culture (hip hop) rooted in the black community when society at large faces the same issues. But our double standard arguments can be distracting. We want the blame to be shared for the rape culture, great; but let’s not argue that so much so that Hip Hop becomes a victim of mainstream media, and we forget the issue at hand! What would make Rick Ross think he could rap those lyrics? Did he really think no one would catch them? Or did he not think there was anything to catch that was troublesome?

By no means am I suggesting, as he did, that the lyrics are being misinterpreted. Because if they were, he would have told us what he really meant. Then again, can you imagine? A Hip Hop artist having to explain his lyrical content? That might be shocking enough considering a good beat is all you really need to distract people from your bad (in multiple senses) lyrics. So, why did he say it? Better yet, why did he think it, then write it (pardon me if he goes off the dome), and have no qualms about even recording it? Not to mention, everyone else who let that verse make the final master.

Maybe it has something to do with the fact that in the early ’90s the Supreme Court decided Uncle Luke and the 2 Live Crew could be as As narsty As They Wanna Be. And guess what? President Obama’s Supreme Court nominee, Elena Kagan, defended the 2 Live Crew in this landmark decision. Or maybe it was back in the late ’80s when we allowed N.W.A. to glorify brutality against the police in response to police brutality. (They were speaking truth about police injustice, but two wrongs will never equal right.) Then again, it could have been in 2004 when we dismissed Spelman students for not allowing Nelly to hold a bone marrow drive at their school without addressing his “Tip Drill” video at the event as well. Better yet, maybe it’s because so much of what is in popular Hip Hop songs, in general, already revolves around sex. And their videos leave not much to the imagination. Everything points to sex. But it’s not just the male rappers; from Foxy Brown and Lil Kim before to Nicki Minaj today, sex permeates the content. Meanwhile, we’re all for free speech, and artistic liberty, but what is it doing to the culture? Do we not realize that what artists say and do trickles down to our youth?

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