Once upon a time, not long ago, a hip-hop world existed where more than one female rapper could be a star. Imagine that, a world where female rappers co-existed. They even collaborated – think Ladies Night starring Angie Martinez, Lil Kim, Da Brat, and Missy Elliott with video cameo appearances from Mary J Blige, SWV, Total, Xscape, Queen Latifah; even your girl Rashida from Love and Hip-Hop Atlanta made an appearance.
From the emergence of hip-hop in the early 1980s through to the mid-2000s, women were not only highly visible in hip-hop, but they were crossing over into film (think Lil Kim in She’s All That) and pop (Eve featuring Gwen Stefani on Blow Ya Mind). They were also breaking records (Lauryn Hill was the first female rapper to reach number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 – Cardi B has since broken that record, of course). Every crew of rap artist crowned their queen, a rap crew could not survive without their bad bitch – Diamond and Princess of Crime Mob, Mia X of No Limit, Rah Digga of Flipmode Squad, Amil of Rocafella.
Let’s just take a moment and remember – Salt N Pepa, Oaktown 3.5.7., Yo-Yo, Lady of Rage, MC Lyte, Da Brat, Missy Elliott, Remy Ma, Trina, Roxanne Shante, Lisa “Left Eye” Lopes, Shawna, Charli Baltimore, Bahamadia, Gangsta Boo….I could keep going, but there aren’t enough characters.
At some point after Lil Kim came home from jail and people realized she wasn’t going to monopolize on all that newfound street cred, before Eve found love in a White man overseas, after Queen Latifah dropped the Grammy award-winning jazz album, but a little bit before Foxy Brown was fighting the Asian woman in the nail show, the female rap game sort of dried up. Honestly, I have no idea why.
Perhaps the boys at the top shut the door to up and coming female rap artists? Perhaps hip-hop had gotten so misogynistic that it couldn’t sustain women and misogyny? Perhaps music wasn’t selling the same because people were stealing it online through Napster and LimeWire and record labels, as they are prone to do, dropped the least valuable artists first? Or maybe it is a combination of all those things. At the same time, the female rap artists who managed to gain some level of power had moved on to other endeavors – Queen Latifah was hosting a talk show. Missy Elliott was busy writing and producing pretty much every radio hit in every genre – pop, rock, rap, and r&b. Da Brat, well, she was in jail for busting a bottle over someone’s head. What we know for sure is that there was a good stretch of time when female hip-hop artists were completely missing from the game.
And who should emerge from this lull but Onika Maraj. I remember when I first heard her mixtape, the one with Gucci and Rocko and that crew, I was in a gay club with my main homie. When Beam Me Up Scotty first dropped, all my LGBTQ friends were the only people I knew pumping it. Nicki had us all believing that she was ‘family’ and at the time, it was ground-breaking to have a woman, outwardly identify as something other than heterosexual. I mean, we all speculated about some artist, but no one ever confirmed and affirmed bisexuality/pansexuality in the way Nicki did. Eventually, we would realize it was all a gimmick, but the point is, it was ground-breaking at the time. Nicki joined a rap crew – Young Money – that owned the rap game (Remember, Rocafella fell apart when Jay-Z left and took Kanye and Rihanna with him) Nicki hopped on that empty stage, grabbed the spotlight and did it on ‘em. The girl had it. She had club bangers, she had barz, she had pop bops. She had Beyoncé. She had it all. And then…
Over the past year, we have seen the emergence of several female rap artists, none more popular than straight-talking, loud ass Belcalis Almanzar, better known as Cardi B who pretty much hasn’t taken her foot off the neck of the hip hop game since Bodak Yellow hit number one — baby, cheating ass n*gga and all. Cardi B’s success coupled with Issa Rae being intentional about the underground musical artists she drags into mainstream through her show Insecure on HBO, I think, has reignited an interest in female rap. It is so many up and coming female rappers that are one radio hit away from breaking into mainstream music. You can feel the shift happening. I know Nicki can feel it. We all know Nicki can feel it.There are so many up and coming female rappers that are one radio hit away from breaking into mainstream music. You can feel the shift happening. I know Nicki can feel it. We all know Nicki can feel it. Click To Tweet
Creating a hip-hop world that only allows for one female rap artist at a time does a disservice to a musical genre that is situated distinctly in black culture, a genre that is so deeply black, built on the struggle and disenfranchisement of young black people. It especially does a disservice to the female rapper who never had to learn to contend with other women, who never learned how to embrace other women, who never learned how to collaborate with other women, who never understood what it was like to cheer for other women, who never learned to be secure in her own artistry so that her only competition was herself. It fucked Nicki up.
Yes, much of the blame for the marginalization of Black women in hip-hop can be placed firmly on the doorsteps of men (Black men included) who are the primary gatekeepers in this industry. Maybe they’re scared, because the female rappers, all of them, are better than the boys – Young M.A., Resha and J.T., Rico Nasty, Kash Doll, Megan thee Stallion, Doja Cat, all y’all. We see you, we need you.
Jay-Z, Colin Kaepernick, and Toxic Black Capitalism
Jay-Z’s recent decision to align himself with the NFL has rubbed a lot of people the wrong way. And for good reason. Colin Kaepernick has been blackballed by the league for 897 days. With no sign of him returning, despite maintaining a rigorous fitness regime, many are wondering why Jay-Z did not consult Kaepernick before signing on.
Five am workouts five days a week for three long years. Colin Kaepernick has been waiting in the wings since the NFL colluded to bar him from playing amidst player protests. Eric Reid, who stood beside Kaep in solidarity, has been subjected to excessive random drug tests for just as long. As season after season dredges on, Eric says he has no desire to refrain from protesting and has pledged to kneel during the national anthem this year as well. With NFL viewership in steady decline due to boycotts within the Black community, the league has reached out to an unlikely partner to repair their image and boost their ratings, Jay-Z.
A one-time supporter of the national anthem protests that brought awareness to blatant police brutality, Jay-Z has decided that there’s no time like the present to profit from his brother’s struggle. Billionaire rapper Jay-Z has brokered a deal with NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell. The Roc Nation mogul is now positioned to serve as a gatekeeper, deciding who’s worthy to take the stage as a Super Bowl halftime act. As the internet reflects on Jay’s very vocal criticism of the NFL and recent Super Bowl Halftime Show performers, the irony and hypocrisy of this situation is lost on no one.
“Don’t Do This”
When news of Travis Scott’s participation in the 2019 Halftime Show reached Jay-Z’s ears, he was quick to ask the “Sicko Mode” rapper not to perform. Citing the poor treatment of Colin Kaepernick as the league turned a blind eye to police brutality, Jay-Z urged Travis to change his stance. But now, the “4:44” rapper is the one that’s turned the other cheek. Stating, “we’re past the point of kneeling”, Jay has all but embraced the ideals of his peers. Considering this partnership an opportunity to change the beast from the inside, Jay said in a recent interview that “this is the next phase.”
“We forget that Colin’s whole thing was to bring attention to social injustice. In that case, this is a success. This is the next phase. There [are] two parts of protesting. You go outside and you protest, and then the company or the individual says, ‘I hear you. What do we do next?”
Ever the capitalist, Jay-Z has turned the ostracism of Kaepernick and scrutiny of Reid into a means of personal profit. While preaching Black solidarity, he cradles the all-mighty dollar. To onlookers, this poses a moral dilemma, but we forget billionaires often lack morals and have questionable ethics. While it is unlikely that Kaepernick will respond with his thoughts on the matter, his longtime girlfriend, Nessa, and Eric Reid have made their thoughts known.
You can’t trust a man who cheated on Beyoncé to make good life choices
Eric Reid took to Twitter yesterday afternoon to chastise Jay-Z for his decision. Stating, “Jay-Z knowingly made a money move with the very people who’ve committed an injustice against Colin and is using social justice to smooth it over with the black community,” Reid says the fight is on. He believes that it is “unjust” that the NFL is now “championing” social justice to cover their own systemic oppression in blackballing his former teammate. What Nessa has to say was much more scathing.
Sharing a video on Instagram of her boyfriend, Colin Kaepernick, training with his ally, former 49er Eric Reid, Nessa included a lengthy statement regarding Jay-Z’s decision.
Knowing that Jay-Z is helping the NFL rebrand itself is disheartening but predictable. After all, he is a prominent figure in the Black community. It was inevitable that the league would reach out to a “respected” rapper to leverage his image to increase viewership. In fact, it’s the same strategy they used when they reached out to Travis Scott. The only difference here is that Jay-Z is well within the ranks of the wealthy, privy to those dubious politics, and versed in the manipulation of exploiting his own community for financial gain.
Do you believe that Jay-Z’s efforts will lead to further dissension in the NFL? Or will his position as a gatekeeper lead to a fitting resolution? Do you think his relationship with Robert Kraft influenced his decision?
Merited Whiteness: Why Chris Cuomo Responded Violently to “Fredo”
Instead of talking about the obvious wrong of comparing “Fredo” to the n-word, let’s discuss merited Whiteness and Cuomo’s response.
While out with his family, Chris Cuomo was accosted by a man who compared him to the Judas Iscariot of the Corleone family, Fredo Corleone. It’s easy to see why Chris would have perceived the sudden hurling of “Fredo” as an insult, who wouldn’t. Fredo was a man out of his depth. He was intelligent, sure. But he lacked the cunning necessary to navigate life in the mafia. Fredo was a soft-hearted, loveable idiot who said more than he should have to the wrong people. His unintentional slight got him in trouble with a community that felt entitled to his allegiance. This is the very same entitlement that possessed a stranger to believe he held the authority to pull Chris Cuomo’s merited whiteness card.
Fredo’s offense in many ways is seen as something lateral to Chris Cuomo’s presence as a journalist at CNN. The child of the 52nd Governor of New York and brother of the current Governor, who is a staunch critic of Republican politicians and their constituents, Chris stands on the wrong side, to some, in a fight for “American Values.” He is outspoken and detached from his beginnings as a political analyst on Fox News. Being the descendant of a family that is only two generations removed from their Tramonti, Campania Italian origins, The Cuomo’s represent a side of American history that is not often discussed, the assimilation of European immigrants to American whiteness.
When Italians began immigrating to the US, they were not looked upon favorably. But like the Irish and members of other European communities, they united in their “othered” state to gain acceptance, overcome their backgrounds, and race toward the American Dream. But the American Dream isn’t a big house with a white picket fence, 2.5 kids, and a dog, it’s whiteness. To be White is to be distinctly American, devoid of cultural attachments and devoted to racial supremacy. But like the Borg, whiteness requires assimilation and shared consciousness. Like their hive-minded chant, Magats would also believe “Your culture will adapt to service us. Resistance is futile.”
For families like the Cuomo’s, who were privileged enough to own a business and accumulate wealth shortly after their arrival, the trajectory to acceptance was higher than most. As Henry Pratt Fairchild said when discussing the bestowed privileges of whiteness to immigrants, “If he proves himself a man, and rises above his station, and acquires wealth, and cleans himself up — very well, we receive him after a generation or two. But at present, he is far beneath us, and the burden of proof rests with him.” So how, after a single generation, did the Cuomo’s ascend their station? By becoming fast friends with the Trump family.
After Mario Cuomo represented Fred Trump in an undisclosed legal matter, their families maintained contact. Golfing trips in Florida and New York, letters filled with flattery, and partnerships that benefitted the Trumps as developers and the Cuomos political ambitions. Beyond the business relationships of the two families, you have to wonder what values they grew to share. Judging by a 2008 remark regarding Barack Obama where Andrew spouted “You can’t shuck and jive at a press conference.” and Chris’ false equivalence of Fredo and the n-word, they share quite a few. Still, you must wonder why “Fredo” would elicit such a response from Chris. Is it because he feels his status demands subordination? Is it because he felt his whiteness was challenged?
Perceiving the use of “Fredo” as an anti-Italian slur, Chris Cuomo found himself feeling as immigrants did upon their arrival to the “land of dreams.” As explored by Maria Elisa Altese, there is a perception that Italian-Americans have forgotten what it is like to be targeted. Chris Cuomo has lived comfortably in the US as a white man, never before having his status challenged. As written by Robert F. Forester, in a country where the distinction between white man and black is intended as a distinction of value… it is no compliment to the Italian to deny him his whiteness, but that actually happens with considerable frequency.” So in his rage, Chris expressed how entitled he felt to the benefits of whiteness, it’s inclusivity, and how no one like him wants to be Black.