And You Even Licked My Balls: A Black Feminist Note on Nate Dogg

By Guest Contributor Renina Jarmon (M.Dot) cross-posted from New Model Minority

So I have been thinking of Nate Dogg in general but rap music in particular and the difference between how I as a Black woman and how White men relate to rap music.

While I understand that sexism and patriarchy is systemic, that we LEARN and are taught how to be “men” and “women,” how to be racist, how to be sexist as well as  how to Love, how to forgive.

What I am getting at is, to be crude, we don’t pop out of our mommas knowing how to be men and women, we are taught from infancy on through blue and pink clothing,  girls being told to sit a certain way that is lady like, boys being told crying is weak, and not manly etc.

I also know that there are several structural things impacting the lives of Black men and women such as archaic drug laws, mandatory minimums, three strikes, the underdevelopment of public education, gentrification, police who shot and kill Black people with impunity, and the lack of good grocery stores in working class and low income neighborhoods. All this shit matters.

Culture matters as well. Culture meaning,  music, books, websites and films.

Culture is hegemony’s goon.

Which brings me to Nate Dogg. The recent coverage of his death clarified for me why some issues that I have thought of about rap music but didn’t have the language to articulate.

I am a little troubled over how White mens investment in Black mens misogyny in rap music isn’t interrogated. And how that shit impacts me and the women who look like me.

Society is organized by and for men.

And our lives in the US are hyper segregated racially.

By and large Black people don’t live around White folks, so most White men can experience the pleasure of singing “and you even licked my balls” in the comfort of their cars, homes and apartments, whereas a young Black man said to me nearly two years ago on 125th street that he wanted to “stick his dick in my butt.”

On the street, in broad daylight.

That shit was so absurd I thought HE was singing a rap song initially. No, he was talking to me.

Consequently, largely, White men are  not subjected to the kinds of violence and sexism that is sung about in the songs that Nate sang the hook on. As a Black woman, I am.

As a woman, as a Black women who Walks like she has a right to be in the street, this means my ass is toast.

For example, there is an officer in my neighborhood that harasses me so f-cking much that I am now on a first name basis, Peace to Officer Anderson. Typically he stops me because there is apparently a 11pm curfew in DC for children under 18 on week nights. He normally asks me from his car, “Hey, how old are you.”  Dead ass, the second time he did it, I responded saying I was grown. o.O

After the third time, I was like “Mr. Officer whats your name because this is either the second or third time you have asked me that, and seeing as we are going to keep running into each other, I thought we could just on speaking terms.” He smiled. Doesn’t MPD carry 9mm’s too? Sassing officers of the state who carry legal weapons?  Ummhmm. And, he told me his name.

My clarity on this issue came about after I read a excerpt of a post on NPR about Nate Dogg by Jozen Cummings. He writes,

“There’s also “Ain’t No Fun (If The Homies Can’t Get None),” a song that was never chosen as a single from Snoop Dogg’s debut album, Doggystyle but has become a favorite for many DJs trying to work a room. The song is a tour-de-force of misogynistic lyrics, but only Nate Dogg can make a verse about dismissing a one-night stand sound so sensitive and endearing.”

“Remembering Nate Dogg, Hip-Hop’s Hook Man”

by Jozen Cummings, NPR.org,  March 16th, 2011

(via beatsrhimesandlife)

Then I reblogged and responded on tumblr saying:

In some ways, Cummings comments re Nate Dogg remind me of why I think The Chronic and Doggy Style are the Devil, in terms of rap music. Men in general and White men in particular have a different relationship to the kinds of violence that I am subjected to as a Black woman who WALKS like she has a right to be in the street. Shit…two weeks ago I told two dudes to kill me or leave me alone. Dead ass. This ain’t for play. This is our lives.

Have you ever thought about White men’s investment in rap lyrics by Black men that are hella outta pocket?

I went to look for Cummings racial identity and I learned that he is African American, Japanese and Korean, so I am not saying that he is White. What I am saying is that his writing about Nate Dogg’s misogyny reminds me of how when the misogyny bomb is dropped, people who look like me tend to get hit with hella sharpnel. Whereas White men get to live out their thug fantasies singing along with Nate “And you even licked my balls.”

The Chronic and Doggystyle are sonically genius, however, did they up the ante on allowing White men and even some Black ones live out their Black sex fantasies?

Do you see the connection between Black women and White men that I am trying to make, why or why not?

  • SGUMD

    Two things. 1. I think that you’d be hard pressed to justify saying Doggystyle was tailored to white men’s taste. Continuing along this line of thought how do you justify saying that rap music (currently or in the past) has ever been tailored to the tastes of white men? Are they a ubiquitous cartel exercising minute control over the recording decisions Kanye West makes in the studio? Are ‘sales to white men’ a prized metric for studios or recording companies? I think you could make the argument that they exercise an influence in what music is marketed and which new artists are signed but good luck trying to sell the idea that their style is groomed for consumption by the faceless white male masses to any hip hop artist. A more realistic statement would be that white males make up a large (but diminishing) segment of the music consumers market and executives and companies attempt to predict their tastes and make marketing/development decisions thusly. 2. What is the rationale that motivates lyrics like those in ‘Ain’t No Fun’? Is it a mindset created by listening to rap music, or is it endemic to the culture from which rap music, by and large, springs forth? You point out 3 strike laws, drug laws, bad grocery stores (?), etc. as things that matter, but you don’t provide any context and lend zero depth to that statement. It should be more than a throwaway crammed in whenever possible. If you’re going to bring up the shortcomings you perceive in society, particularly as it relates to the black experience, spend more than 1/2 inch of white space to do so please. You bring up some compelling points from a perspective that receives (comparatively) zero attention by mainstream and alternative media, I just wish you had gone into your ideas a little more. Thanks!

  • SGUMD

    Two things. 1. I think that you’d be hard pressed to justify saying Doggystyle was tailored to white men’s taste. Continuing along this line of thought how do you justify saying that rap music (currently or in the past) has ever been tailored to the tastes of white men? Are they a ubiquitous cartel exercising minute control over the recording decisions Kanye West makes in the studio? Are ‘sales to white men’ a prized metric for studios or recording companies? I think you could make the argument that they exercise an influence in what music is marketed and which new artists are signed but good luck trying to sell the idea that their style is groomed for consumption by the faceless white male masses to any hip hop artist. A more realistic statement would be that white males make up a large (but diminishing) segment of the music consumers market and executives and companies attempt to predict their tastes and make marketing/development decisions thusly. 2. What is the rationale that motivates lyrics like those in ‘Ain’t No Fun’? Is it a mindset created by listening to rap music, or is it endemic to the culture from which rap music, by and large, springs forth? You point out 3 strike laws, drug laws, bad grocery stores (?), etc. as things that matter, but you don’t provide any context and lend zero depth to that statement. It should be more than a throwaway crammed in whenever possible. If you’re going to bring up the shortcomings you perceive in society, particularly as it relates to the black experience, spend more than 1/2 inch of white space to do so please. You bring up some compelling points from a perspective that receives (comparatively) zero attention by mainstream and alternative media, I just wish you had gone into your ideas a little more. Thanks!

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  • http://www.dangerously.ca rap legend Jesse Dangerously

    I’m really relieved to read this. I have always despised Nate Dogg – not uniquely among the stalwarts of G-funk, which I generally consider to be artistically snoozeville and morally bankrupt – and couldn’t even muster a lot of dismay when I heard he’d died. The world lost an utterly undistinguished vocalist, and a total asshole. I’m a hip-hop fan, I move in hip-hop circles, and people I respect have always stuck up for him, and it’s always hurt them in my esteem.

    I hadn’t even considered the racial angle – I am a white, male hip-hop fan, and those hip-hop circles I describe are also dominated by white men. I know we as a group can forgive too much male violence and fetishize things that should be seen neutrally or negatively, but I didn’t think of that as a factor with Nate Dogg. I’m edified to read it suggested here. Thank you.

  • Renina

    Thank you all for your comments.

    It is always interesting to see how folks read, and what they take away.

    I hope to clarify some points here:

    In this post I am talking about how White mens investment in a Nate Dogg song impacts, shapes and constrains the popularity of the Snoop-Nate catalog and the impact that the popularity has on how Black men treat Black women, particularity in public.

    @Jane…You get it and thank you.

    Men in general Black men in particular are harmed by janky assed lyrics, because it creates a rigid public idea of what “real” Black masculinity looks like. When heterosexual men fall outside of the norm they risk being dominated through violence or the threat of violence, similar to how Queer and Gay men are, and Women in general are as well. This is no way to live.

    I was very particular in naming that we learn HOW to be racist and sexist. We learn how to perform race, femininity, masculinity, etc. It is not “natural.”

    @Charles Rappers are human beings, meaning that they have a will to act. They are not objects. To make this music is a choice. I am certainly mindful of how lucrative rap music has been for music industry corporate entities, who largely, are neither Black men nor women, but to simply say that they are puppets allows us to conclude that they had no choice. Our choices are limited to our options.

    When I wrote this post originally, a White male commenter, SoSa, left a message saying:
    “The question is, what is the CONNECTION between me as a white male and you a black woman who feels the negative effects. The issue I see here is the extreme DISCONNECT. We are so culturally distanced that your average white male (living in a equally white neighborhood) is so unaffected by your struggle that we are completely unaware.”

    I was floored. In his being honest, he opened the door to ideas that I suspected but had never confirmed.

    -R

    • Anonymous

      I really liked your article, but men cat calling women in the street was going on long before rap music was ever invented and yes, I am talking about nasty comments.

      As for what SoSa said, well it makes perfect sense. If something doesn’t affect you directly, most people really don’t care. Many people don’t understand how things, even if they don’t affect you directly, affect you anyway.

      • tabula rasa

        I don’t necessarily think that people don’t care, when something doesn’t directly affect them. IMO, it’s more that they have a different circumstance and life experience and thus a different way of relating to the world and the people in it. So, as SoSa mentioned, they remain unaware. Of course, at some point in your adult life you should be responsible for educating yourself and should practice perspective taking, but it’s a process. Basically, I don’t expect people in positions of privilege/power (racial, gender, etc.) to be aware per se so much as I expect them to listen/learn when it is brought to their awareness.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlesdeonjackson Charles Jackson

    This article is clear as glass! When looking at Black misogyny in rap follow the money and it leads back to White men. Rappers are pawns that are being played by record executives. When Black men started rap music it was about fighting the establishment or talking about one’s background.

    @Val– Renina is not letting one off the hook especially not Black men. She called us out on our “stuff” quite a few times.

    White guys get to live the fantasy of watching/listening to gangsta culture while Black women bear the grunt of it period! Black men while perpetrators we didn’t create misogyny we learned it. It’s passed down from generation to generation and especially if your African American. History shows us. Slaves learned how men should act from the white guys who owned us. Being a man meant being in power, no emotions and having control over women and other men. Fast forward til today and the same dynamic is here.

    It seems every time a woman of color especially a Black women wants to talk about misogyny, especially how White male sexism effects and infects Black men the same predictable behavior happens people want to move/deflect the conversation away where misogyny starts and try to rest it at the feet of Black men, basically silencing the voice of the Black woman who started the convo in the first place. Give credit where credit is due and misogyny didn’t start with Black men.

    • Ellis

      Are you really trying to say that misogyny and sexism did not exist in any black culture prior to the slaves learning “how men should act from the white guys who owned us.”? Because that is an absurd statement.

  • http://www.facebook.com/charlesdeonjackson Charles Jackson

    This article is clear as glass! When looking at Black misogyny in rap follow the money and it leads back to White men. Rappers are pawns that are being played by record executives. When Black men started rap music it was about fighting the establishment or talking about one’s background.

    @Val– Renina is not letting one off the hook especially not Black men. She called us out on our “stuff” quite a few times.

    White guys get to live the fantasy of watching/listening to gangsta culture while Black women bear the grunt of it period! Black men while perpetrators we didn’t create misogyny we learned it. It’s passed down from generation to generation and especially if your African American. History shows us. Slaves learned how men should act from the white guys who owned us. Being a man meant being in power, no emotions and having control over women and other men. Fast forward til today and the same dynamic is here.

    It seems every time a woman of color especially a Black women wants to talk about misogyny, especially how White male sexism effects and infects Black men the same predictable behavior happens people want to move/deflect the conversation away where misogyny starts and try to rest it at the feet of Black men, basically silencing the voice of the Black woman who started the convo in the first place. Give credit where credit is due and misogyny didn’t start with Black men.

  • Mireille

    I’m not sure I understand what the author is trying to say. This saddens me, because I would probably agree. Is the author saying that white men shouldn’t listen to black men talk about degrading black women because they don’t understand it, or just that they (the white men) shouldn’t laud it (the music)? What exactly do white men have to do with black misogyny? How does a black man’s disrespect of her have anything to do with white men listening to Snoop and Dre? I’m sorry, but I’ve missed the point.

    • Scullars

      Stepping into the mine field here. I would answer your question with an analogy from the movie “The Accused.” White men may not be participating in the direct misogyny against black women but by patronizing this music they are the audience “clapping” and “hooting” their encouragement. I would say to this audience if your excuse is that you didn’t participate in the act, you are “masturbating” to it nevertheless which is still reprehensible as was laid out in the movie.

    • tabula rasa

      How I interpreted the article is that rap music has a very different impact on/meaning for black women than it does for white men, partly by way of the influence that it has on black men. While rap is just something cool to listen to for white men, something that they are distanced from lyricallly in their real lives, conversely, black women are affected by the lyrics/culture of rap directly, sometimes on a daily basis, through their interactions with black men. This is because of how black men incorporate/live out the sexist lyrics that are written in these songs, and they act them out in their interactions, encounters, and relationships with black women. Because white men (in general terms) don’t live in the communities of or interact much with black people, they never have to deal with or see the consequences that this problematic music, which they are large consumers of, has on its main target, black women.

      While men as a group are not subjected to the treatment that the lyrics in this type of music suggest because of the larger system of patriarchy that protects them, White men are especially removed from the situation. They never get called out/criticized for supporting it.

  • Insfairfax

    I totally understand what you’re saying. To them (white males) rap music is strictly entertainment, something fun to indulge in during their free time. I went to a mostly white high school in a middle class area, and it was cool for the white boys to copy the hip hop culture, but today those same guys have moved on from that “stage in life.” But a lot of these black kids with no father in their lives have a problem separating the fact from fiction…. They think that the way the rappers carry themselves is the way a man should act… Which inturn affects black women becaue they get treated like crap, by these misguided men.
    Hip hop is a sad sorry reflection of art…. ugh

  • Marie

    I don’t think she’s alleviating black men from responsibility. I think she’s stating that white men also have misogynistic views and often don’t have to take responsibility. I hear more often that Black men are sexist and violent then I hear of any other race. And this isn’t to say that some Black men aren’t sexist and/or violent. But I get tired of the whole Rap conversation and not talking more about true issues of sexism and racism. Because rap isn’t the cause it’s a bi-product. Music doesn’t make you sexist or violent. So instead of having the rap conversation, why is it that we never have the sexism conversation.

  • Big Man

    “Ain’t No Fun” seems like a song about running trains and passing chicks around. And since running trains is really and truly only one step up from rape in most situations, and not even that in some cases, I can no longer support that song.
    But, as a young man, I thought it was the cool and the correct attitude to have about women. However, as a black man, with a black mother, I also understand that black women were to be respected and adored as well. As the author noted, with many white cats they don’t get that latter education, just the former.

  • Jane Laplain

    Val I thought this article held black men fully accountable their own actions. I thought the point was that Black Men and White Men come together AS Men in a patriarchal culture to elevate manhood at the expense of all things woman.. and that black women take the brunt of this collusion between black and white men. Black men’s misogyny as a result seems to stand out as particularly flamboyant and heinous, meanwhile White men get to walk away as if they have nothing to do with any of this anti-female degradation, even tho its largely to White Men’s tastes that Hip Hop ( as a saleable commodity as well as a racist archetype) has been tailored.

    • Juan

      .Can you be any more spot on in what I took from the piece? =)

      I think this subject was also part of one of bell hooks’ book, We Real Cool.

  • Val

    Oh boy…Here we go again, let’s blame White men for what Black men are doing because you know, Black men are children and cannot be held accountable for their own actions. (that’s sarcasm FYI)
    No one is forcing those Black male rappers to rap about how “you even licked my balls” so spare me and yes I am a Black woman myself and I’m sick and tired of the blaming of everyone other than the Black male himself.
    This is why you can’t walk in the streets without being bothered…in fact, i’ll even go as far as saying if it weren’t for the police there would be mass rapes in the BC which btw is already happening.
    I’m sick of Black women tip toeing around it so to not hurt Black males feelings (read:egos).
    Enough is enough. If you’re tired of being disrespected, do not buy their albums, do not support them with your money and speak up and against it! Stop victimizing Black men, they are not victims, they are grown adults like you and me.

    • sarah

      Um, except for the fact that the majority of Black male rappers get their start by White male executives..So, there’s that…

  • Anonymous

    You forget that it is probably black men who pay the biggest price for people like Nate and Snoop’s lyrics. Why? because it always comes black to black men killing black men. That is the centerpiece of that style of rap.

    And who are the men harassing you in the street?

    • http://dont-read.blogspot.com Angel H.

      I don’t agree with everything Val has said, but please do not dismiss street harassment. It is very, very real.