Thursday, February 28, 2008

Do We Unconsciously Patronize Degrading Rap Lyrics?

Today many rap protagonists argue that since the explosion of hip hop in the 1980s, the rap game has changed tremendously. With the transformation of how "old school" songs covered topics such as politics and empowerment to now discussing more materialistic things such as money, cars and women, rap legends like Jay-Z and Nas say that the power of rap music has died and will never be the same.

One of the most common and chief complaints of today's rap lyrics is the constant degrading it gives to women, primarily those of the African-American race. In the heat of racial comments made last year in reference to the Rutgers womens' basketball team by white, radio talk show host Don Imus, many activists began to question even further whether these degrading lyrics are partly to blame for the black culture's insensitivity and disrespect to its women.

As an African-American woman, I strongly believe rap and hip hop artists help to create and sustain a tarnished image of the general black woman; however, I also know there are ways to combat it, and most importantly, such behavior is only proved more acceptable and valid when tolerated by those in which it degrades.

For example, in the lyrics of rap artists The Game and Kanye West's song, Wouldn't Get Far, women are called "bitches" and "hoes," and those referred to as "video vixens" are even more degraded. The song goes on to further to explain that these women will do WHATEVER it takes to get to the top by saying, "She a video vixen, but behind closed doors she do whatever it take to get to the Grammy Awards," which is followed by a faint laugh by The Game himself.

Upon hearing these lyrics, I was sure (or rather hopeful) there would be some type of uproar by black women across the nation and a boycott that left the artists in search of "props" for their video, but much to my dismay, the video contained several sistas' unconsciously (or in some cases, consciously) owning up to the lyrics that degraded them so heavily. In addition, I saw blacks, both male and female alike, bump the song proudly in their cars, homes and wherever else there was a stereo.

Networks such as Black Entertainment Television (BET) promote the showing of videos by black, male R&B and rap artists, who often feature nothing but the fairer-skinned sistas' and those who are not even sistas' at all in their videos where the "main girl," "wifey figure" or "wholesome woman of interest" is portrayed in a positive light. Seldom do we see these roles portrayed by women who have clear African features. Instead, these types of sistas' can be found in the lead roles as "vixens" of videos whose lyrics call for "rockin' yo hips," "booty shakin'," "pop, lock and droppin' it" and let's not forget the infamous "tip drill." In my opinion, this exhibits the internalized racism among blacks in the industry.

While I have nothing against women who choose to be in videos, (We all make our money some way and that is how they choose to make theirs.) I do hope thes women learn to choose their gigs circumspectly, being careful not to be disrespected in the process of making a few hundred dollars. Whether they realize it or not, videos serve as visuals for songs, and by offering to be in the video, they become the women in the songs; moreover, patrons of the lyrics.

As a black woman, it angered me to hear of the words, "nappy-headed hoes" uttered from Don Imus' mouth as a mockery to another group of black women; however, it angers me even more to hear the exact or worse words come from the mouths of rap artists in songs, and to see "us" find it acceptable.

Because the statement came from a white man, many blacks were in an uproar and wanted immediate action taken, but my stance is the same...despite whom or where the words came from, they should have the same effect. Neither should be tolerated.



Anonymous said...

I agree girl...

Anonymous said...

Me too