A Year’s End: #BlackLivesMatter, Cultural Appropriation, and Iggy Azalea

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The greatest form of flattery is to be imitated…but what if said appreciation feels more like being exploited? Within the last 16 months mainstream media caught onto what twerking is and credited Hannah Montana; meanwhile the term and action has existed for over 20 years. The Grammys awarded the best rap album to Macklemore when it was the worst album nominated in the category. This year was dubbed “The Year of the Booty” after a plurality of White America saw entertainers and celebrities that they have deemed beautiful while people of color have all but worshiped a large posterior forever. Robin Thicke made a song that jacked paid homage to Marvin Gaye as if it wasn’t obvious. We have seen a handful of music videos that seem to have made caricatures of styles and overall black culture which felt more like we were being made fun of instead of appreciated.

Iggy Azalea embodies everything just mentioned: a blonde white rapper from Australia with a buxom backside that Forbes called the “Queen of Hip Hop.” She recently received a slew of Grammy nominations based on a song where she sounds like a black woman (rapper Charlie Baltimore) and the beat jacked the sound of the ubiquitous DJ Mustard all while starting the song off saying “First thing’s first: I’m the realest.” Hol’ up…

The backlash and storm has been brewing for a while now; but it all came to head about a week ago *hits Shmoney Dance in my head*. Ebro Darden held an interview with Washington Heights’ own Azealia Banks who has had some choice words for fellow female emcee. She tearfully talked about how she feels with another black culture-hip hop-is being taken away from us. Iggy responded via twitter by opining on Banks’ statement saying that she is where she is for having a “piss poor attitude” and making things racial to get attention. For the rest of those who had tried to continuously give her a chance, that was the final straw for someone who has come off insensitive time and time again. There was the collection of tweets perpetuating stereotypes of different races, she called Perez Hilton the other f word, and that line where she refers to herself as a runaway slave master while making a whip motion (you can’t tell me someone black didn’t write that).

Fellow artists such as Tyler, the Creator, Solange Knowles showed support of Banks’ lament while Mr. Bonita Applebum himself broke down the history of hip hop for Iggy and others who may need to know a thing or two.  Iggy Azalea responded defensively saying that this was patronizing; which all but proved that she doesn’t quite get the point. T.I. responded giving support to his artist by saying that Q-Tip was right (I’ll get there in a moment) but the past has led to many having an “Incoherent overly defensive, paranoid sense of “All White People Wanna Steal Our Sh*t” mentality.” Yes and no.

Let’s be real: black people are the ambassadors of cool. The way we talk, walk, the music we listen to/create, sports, and everything else you can think of. The only cultural thing that was born in American since Europeans settled here is jazz. Blacks in America feel like we are no different than the reasons Europeans crossed the Atlantic in the first place: we are just a natural resource that gets dug up, the valuable parts are plucked out/sold, and the rest is just discarded. Hell, we were brought here to do just that.

Hip hop is what we have left. It was born out of the political struggle that had been facilitated since 1619 or so when the first record of slaves of African descent were brought to America. Jacking electrical power from the street lights and using record players as instruments while using our rich history or oration and rhythm is no different than slaves being fed scraps and calling it soul food. Eventually, it evolved and became universally accepted to the point where a white girl from New South Wales, Australia liked it so much she started doing it and made a career out of it. So okay, rap like a black woman, use our catch phrases like “realest,” and poke your a** out because all of that is hip hop…just don’t make those who have let you in feel like the butt of their own joke.

I feel like the reason that all of this has come to a tipping point is because blacks in America are getting fed up. We have literally seen with our own two eyes black men be killed by police and not get indicted. We have protested and even this week another black person was shot and killed by police two miles away from Ferguson, MO.

As 2014 comes to a close it feels like the only reason why black lives matter is for soccer moms to take classes on “getting low” for fitness because it’s the new thing, the way we like a** is now acceptable, and not only our music-our culture-is considered artistically avant garde if some white person is doing it.

I’m a hip hop head and my three-year-old daughter daughter is becoming one as well. Being 29 years old hip hop is the predominant culture of my generation. It gave me my voice so it is something that I too am protective of. The reason that it will be prominent in my child’s life isn’t just because I love the music; it is because looking at it from a contextual stance it’ll show her how and what her voice can possibly do to influence others. And by the time someone comes along to exploit it and make it corny, we’ve already come up with something new that they won’t catch up on until some time after.

That in itself explains why black lives matter: we’re the lifeblood of America’s biggest export which is our culture.

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