Just seeing the word rapper in the same sentence as “advocate for woman” looks wrong; and it sounds even more strange coming out of Wale’s mouth. The rapper took a lot of heat for the lack of dark-skinned women in his “Pretty Girls” video, and in the latest issue of Rolling Out magazine, he said that flack made him realize he had to change. “The most horrible feeling in the world was that my women think that I don’t care about them. I’d rather go broke than for my black women to think that I don’t care about them. I would rather lose everything than to have my queens think I’m turning my back on them,” he said.
Wale was also asked how important it is for him to balance risqué songs such as “No Hands” with inspirational tracks like “Diary,” to which he replied, “I want to be an advocate for the women.” He elaborated:
“I believe women should go to school to network with others who will change the world. I’m encouraging. I’m a part of the problem, but I want to be a part of the clean up.
“’No Hands’ is the party and ’Ambitious Girls’ is the clean up. We can have fun, but I hope you’re getting up and going to class. I don’t want to get in the way of that. That [is] something you have to do.”
These quotes told me two things: one, I’m obviously too old to listen to Wale (note the school and class references); two, the only thing he’s trying to clean up is his reputation with his female fan base. And he is not alone.
Jay-Z had his moment of clarity after “Big Pimpin.” And Tyrese — he really does love black women, it’s just that when it comes to his videos he wants the “best,” and there didn’t happen to be any black versions around when he was shooting “I Gotta Chick” — if you can believe his rationalizations. He has since apologized for such behavior and statements. All of these guys seem to be good at the clean up after they mess up, but can they ever really be advocates for women from the start?
Wale may say he would rather go broke than have black women think he doesn’t care about them, but when those checks start drying up because he’s not delivering songs that create the same buzz as “No hands,” I highly doubt he’ll happily say “I’m doing this in the name of black women.” And even if he did, would it make a difference in the grand scheme of things? His songs that degrade us have already done their damage. Plus, the impact of his well-meaning gesture is questionable.
Wale’s cool, but he’s no Jay, Kanye, or Lil Wayne right now. As long as the rappers at the top are still calling females out their name, glorifying light-skinned chics, and promoting violence against women in their lyrics and videos, would anyone really care or notice if Wale disappeared from the rap scene? I’m not saying his claim to want to be an advocate for women isn’t noble, but when you admit you’re basically going to keep putting the same music out there but sprinkle the album with a positive PSA for women here and there to cover your bases, I say why bother? Especially if it won’t change the overall tone of the industry towards us.
Some other women may be buying it, but I’m not. Wale’s comments are right along the lines of the countless apologies Tracy Morgan and Chris Brown have made to the gay community—they did it because they had to. If you’re going to come out with a strong statement about advocacy for women, you better be prepared to back that up—and not in the Juvenile sense. Where is the true change in all his music? The volunteerism? The money donated to a related cause? And most importantly, talking to other black men in hip hop and R&B who make black women feel worthless? The emptiness of his promises illustrates Wale’s lack of seriousness.
What’s your take on Wale’s comments? Do you think he’s serious about wanting to be an advocate for black women? Given the strong association of misogyny and mainstream rap, is this even achievable?
Brande Victorian is a blogger and culture writer in New York City. Follower her on Twitter at @be_vic.
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