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What’s Beef: Rap vs. Feminism

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There is a serious lack of solidarity in rap/hip-hop despite the third wave of feminism that’s swept mainstream culture. Why do you think that is?

 

Rap/Hip-Hop has been a mainstay within Black culture since its arrival in the mid-70s. The colorful art of spoken word over beats was no different than 50s beat poetry and to many, it provided a positive means of expression. As a genre, rap/hip-hop gave many the voice to speak truth to power while inspiring and encouraging the community it was birthed from. But as time went on, the genre changed, adopting many of the societal tropes that saw women as objects, victims, and targets to exploit. This misogyny, while easily recognizable when coming from male aggressors, is incredibly nuanced, particularly when its perpetrators are female.

“The misogynist lyrics of gangsta rap are hateful indeed, but they do not represent a new trend in Black popular culture, nor do they differ fundamentally from woman hating discourses that are common among White men. The danger of this insight is that it might be read as an apology for Black misogyny.” – Leola Johnson, Academic

Genesis

At the dawn of a rap era with hits like “Bitches Ain’t Shit” by Dr. Dre, Queen Latifah’s anthemic “U.N.I.T.Y” was a breath of fresh air. Directly attacking the unconscionable language and endorsed behavior directed at the sole demographic that has always been the pillar of support for men of color, Latifah proudly questioned a growing trend of oppressive black male patriarchy. Standing strong at a small but mighty crew of female emcees, “U.N.I.T.Y.” was a call to action in a genre that did not respect women, let alone provide them with opportunities to shine. From the inception of gangsta rap, female rap artists have spent their careers fighting for their place in a genre where their success is contingent upon subordination. But the addition of in-fighting as a means to assert dominance leaves many disappointed in the wake of the most female empowered era of the game.

Internalized Misogyny

Aside from the lack of solidarity among female artists, more troubling is the complicity of rapstresses who stand by men who maintain misogynist ideals. Remy Ma really sat on a panel in silence with Joe Budden as he was gaslighting Scottie Beam and claimed, unintelligently, that the false female empowerment movement was devoted to picking [women] up when they are wrong. Her ability to sit idly by as Scottie provided opposition and depth on the topic is exactly the type of cosign that enables men to continue that negative behavior. Never mind the fact that she would later defend R.Kelly, who faces decades of accusations of assault exclusively against Black women.

We live in a time where people argue that silence is acceptance and that we should separate the art from the artist. But we are asked to do the latter when the targets of violence are almost exclusively female. Imagine being asked to give your assailant a pass because they write good music. When we examine why there is a lack of solidarity in the Hip-Hop community, we must consider that it’s due to the long-term effects of misogyny/misogynoir.

Learn From This

Seeing popular female artists pitted against one another in a genre where 22 to 37% of the lyrics contain misogyny is painful. Hip hop’s authenticity is traditionally graded on a scale of masculinity, where even the ownership of one’s own objectification works against the artist and leads to further marginalization. Female rap artists are victims of an industry that forces them to take the side of their oppressors and attack artists who fit their style as a means to find success. This most recent blow-up between Nicki and Cardi is proof of that, but this problem dates back to the origins of female rap.

Emcees like Mc Lyte, Lil Kim, Foxy Brown, and Trina have all contributed to the complex legacies of rap artists with music that detracts and affirms the worth of Black women. How is it possible that in a time where we sing “Formation” and “God is a woman” we are unable to find positive female relationships among rap artists? Name one mainstream female only rap collaboration from this year. Don’t worry, I’ll wait.

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High School Students Stage Sit-In Protest Against Racism

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Students Protest

In response to how school faculty have handled a racist video, students of Ethical Culture Fieldston School in the Bronx have staged an overnight-sit-in protest. Dissatisfied with faculty’s response to demands to address racism on the school’s campus, students have rallied and locked staff out of the administration building until they reached an agreement.

Outrage Lead to Action

More than 200 high school students of the K-12 academy occupied the building to demand action. They were outraged by the response to a video which featured White students counting down before blurting racist, homophobic, and misogynistic slurs. The video gained attention after circulating Twitter and eventually being reported on by The New York Times. However, school administrative officials did the bare minimum by only condemning the video without stating a plan for disciplinary action. Knowing only one of the students involved had withdrawn from the exclusive academy, students developed a plan to hold staff accountable. Thus, Students of Color Matter was born.

The standoff between students and staff lasted for 72 hours before an agreement was met. Each day the students, who developed a Twitter, Instagram, and petition, posted demands to their accounts. March 11th, the students began with a statement on Instagram:

“We are here today in light of recent events imploring those who desire to see out institution more forward to stand in solidarity with the students of color and white allies of the Ethical Culture Fieldston Community. Today a lockout will take place in the administration building (the 200s) as a means to force our administration to acknowledge the concerns we’ve been bringing to their attention over the past several years”

After outlining the reason for their cause, Students of Color Matter organizers detailed updates as well as their demands.

All or Nothing

The administration was sent an email by students which resulted in the head of the school, Jessica Bagby, alerting parents and students that “Fieldston campus will operate on a normal schedule.” The students also integrated a hashtag, which added pressure due to its discovery by major media sources. Despite the non-violent protest, there were two physical altercations which involved a history teacher and a parent attempting to enter the closed facility. Jessica Bagby’s inadequate response to the students’ demands and inability to commit to change is what ultimately caused the 72-hour standoff.

As of March13th, the students had roughly 3,000 signatures on their petition. Housed on their Students of Color Matter website, the organization calls for the following:

The use of racist and bigoted language are symptoms of systemic and institutional racism that plague educational institutions across the country. For this reason, we command the implementation of structural reform, such as long term curriculum changes, the admittance of more students and faculty of color, and racial sensitivity training for all community members.”

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Jaden Smith Brings Mobile Water Filtration System to Flint

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Jaden Smith Water Box

Flint, Michigan has been ravaged by a bad city-wide deal that resulted in tainted water for nearly five years. Now, Jaden Smith’s startup may provide a solution to the city’s needs water needs.

Called “The Water Box”, Jaden’s mobile water filtration device was unveiled in Flint at First Trinity Missionary Baptist Church. Able to produce 10 gallons of clean drinking water per minute, the actor-rapper turned philanthropist hopes the invention will help the community. Housed within the church, which previously distributed over 5 million bottles of water to the community, residents will be able to fill any container of their choice with clean water. However, they are required to do so during distribution times.

After Former Michigan Governor Rick Snyder ended the free bottled water program initiated by the state, Jaden and crew stepped up through JUST Water. JUST Water is a company that Jaden Smith became a partner of at just 12 years old. The company, which “combines for-profit energy and non-profit motives,” began from a desire to develop a filtration system to benefit poorer areas and nations. Making clean water more accessible, the company first launched in August 2018 in the UK.

Speaking about his community effort, Jaded remarked, “This has been one of the most rewarding and educational experiences for me personally. He added,” Working together with people in the community experiencing the problems and designing something to help them has been a journey I will never forget.” Jaden Smith plans to continue deploying more filtration systems across the city to benefit those in need and looks forward to aiding more places experiencing similar issues.

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Jussie Smollett | In The Middle

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