Category Archives: hip hop

Whiteness, Hip Hop Culture, and Invisible Backpacks

We wanted to save this video for Friday, but in light of Macklemore winning Best Rap Album and then tweeting his apologies to Kendrick Lamar, this video exploring white privilege in the hip hop community is worth a listen. Longtime community member El Guante is joined by The Big Cats, Rapper Hooks, and Chantz Erolin break down why Macklemore’s race isn’t the problem, but how defenses designed to ignore racism continue to harm the community. Lyrics after the jump.

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Beyoncé’s SUPERPOWER as a Love Letter to Black Radical Insurgency

A still from Beyonce’s Superpower video via. Entretenimento

By Guest Contributor M. Shadee Malaklou, cross- posted from JesusFuckingChristBlog

In her December 13th article for The Raw Story, A Plea: Remember Beyonce’s Record Is Art, Not A Political Treatise”, freelance journalist Amanda Marcotte — who writes on feminism, national politics, and pop culture — tackles the accusation that Beyoncé’s album is “anti-feminist” (referencing reactions to lyrics like “bow down, bitches”) by reminding us that Beyoncé has produced for us a work of art, not one of politics. …Because if we look closely, her politics are flawed, or so the argument goes. Marcotte faults Beyoncé for “reinforc[ing] the same beauty standards she decries on the records”, but ultimately concludes that Beyoncé is still a feminist because, you know, feminism is messy. Marcotte ends the piece in (what she claims is) a “plea” that not only fails to understand Beyoncé’s feminism, but also functions to silence the Black radical politics of Beyoncé’s work:

I want to remind everyone that music is not a polemical or a campaign pamphlet. Music is art. Art can—should—be messy, contradictory, raw, and emotional. I love that Beyonce openly struggles in her music and in her image between the push-pull of both wanting to embody this kind of feminized perfection and seeing it for the trap that it is. It’s much more honest and human and humane than some kind of bland feminist treatise set to a beat. Beauty is a painful trap to ensnare women, but beauty is also pleasure and it draws you in. Denying these contradictions and presenting ourselves as people who have it all figured out all the time is tempting, but it’s not honest. And it’s certainly not art, which is supposed to reveal, not conceal. Just a small plea from me to remember that we’re talking about an art form, not a political treatise, as we tear into the lyrics, beats, and imagery that Beyoncé just turbo-launched into the public.

In one short paragraph, Marcotte manages to remind us why white feminism fails (still) to address the experiences of Black women as women; and in the same stroke, disaffects us — as a viewing public — from our identification(s) with Beyoncé as a woman of color. As an ideology, (white) feminism demands that women identify (and rally) as women first, and as bodies of color second, or better yet, last. Marcotte forecloses on the overdeterminacy of Blackness in an anti-Black world, and underestimates Beyoncé’s commitment to (what I am going to suggest here is) an insurgent, Black political future.

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Video: Jay Smooth and W. Kamau Bell discuss homophobia and hip-hop

By Arturo R. García

I thought W. Kamau Bell’s interview with Jay Smooth was worth sharing and getting our readers’ impressions.

After some talk about Kanye West’s run-in with Jimmy Kimmel and the appearance of a White Jesus character at the first show of West’s new tour, the discussion turns toward the LGBT community and hip-hop, and Jay acknowledges the generation gap at work — while acknowledging the presence of LGBT rappers — in commercial circles.

“There’s a sort of old-fogey, anti-gay Tea Party contingent among hip-hoppers my age,” Jay tells Bell. “They see the tide of history turning against them, so they’re becoming this really loud, freaked-out minority who thinks that our culture’s going to lose its moral center if people are openly gay or wear skinny jeans and things like that.”

Jay also name-checks James Baldwin and Bayard Rustin and points out that the modern LGBT rights movement began with a “bar fight” — the seminal encounter at Stonewall.

“There’s nobody more gangster than the LGBT community,” Jay explains “If they knew their history, like, Rick Ross would be pretending to be gay instead of pretending to be a drug lord.”

Racializens, your thoughts on the interview?

Twerkin’ in the USA: On Big Sean and Miley Cyrus

by Guest Contributor Lima Limon of LimaLimonArt

Can’t see the video? Here’s a basic transcript:

I’d like to call this blog “Twerkin’ in the U.S.A.”

Now, lately Miley Cyrus has been putting herself ass first into the hip-hop scene. And you won’t guess where that ass showed up next. Big Sean has this song called “Fire,” and I like this song. You know, he raps about overcoming adversity and manages to avoid saying “ass” 30 times for the chorus. SO the message and the lyrics are nice and the beat is pretty on point to match it.

Then there’s the video, which is basically just Miley Cyrus in different slightly revealing clothes, some fire and an exploding flower. Now the visuals are dope and Miley Cyrus is attractive, but that doesn’t really have much to do with the actual song itself. Oh but luckily he explains via Twitter. He says “Miley is symbolic of strong women overcoming heartbreak.”

Vato, you ain’t fooling nooobody with that shit. Let’s be honest that’s not why you did it. Cause plenty of actresses, models, stars, whathaveyou could’ve easily filled that metaphor. Megan Good, Adriana Lima, and apparently Levy Tran is down to do whatever type of music video gig.

So I will give it to you, those visuals were sick and at the very least you didn’t use an exaggeratedly muscular WWE create-a-wrestler version of yourself for your music video. (see Kanye West’s Blkkk Skkkn Head music video) But let’s be real. Big Sean. Miley. Y’all used each other. Sean, you used Miley Cyrus for the fact that she’s currently a buzz word in pop culture right now. So what did Miley get to use from this? Continue reading

Muslimahs Want Their MTV

By Guest Contributor Shireen, cross-posted from Muslimah Media Watch

A shot from Outlandish’s video for their cover of “Aicha.”

Last year, I got a call from a young cousin who informed me, with sheer glee, that the new One Direction music video featured a young Muslim in hijab. Those few seconds in the video that highlighted a giddy, veiled teenager were a breakthrough for young identifiable Muslimahs in the world.

I think this meant that I was supposed to embrace the boy band that I had successfully been trying to avoid. I must admit I checked out the video. OK, I can’t lie. I watched it on repeat about ten times. (It’s a catchy song). And yes, from 1:20 to 1:23 in the video may seem like young eager Muslimah pop fans have been well represented. No inferences of weakness, oppression and need of immediate liberation. There isn’t race. There isn’t creed. There isn’t blatant stereotyping of women; there is just 1D fangirling – which unites us all.

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Target Audiences: LL Cool J And Marvel Comics Work The Spin Cycle

By Arturo R. García

There’s a lot to unpack from LL Cool J’s recent appearance on The Tonight Show: his statements that “you can’t fit 300 to 400 years” into a song like ‘Accidental Racist,’” and that he would never compare the Confederate flag to a do-rag–despite his linking the two in the line, “If you don’t judge my do rag, I won’t judge your red flag.”

But his insistence on defining the “conversation” (read: nearly unanimous critical disdain) around the song around “extremes” stuck out for the wrong reasons for me. It smacked of the same kind of defensiveness the comics industry has been deploying more and more in recent years.
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Quoted: For Harriet on Talib Kweli’s Response To The Crunk Feminist Collective

Rapper Talib Kweli. Image via soundexchange.com

Brittney Cooper deserved better. All women deserve better. Women should not be afraid to voice their opinions for fear they’ll be called a “ratchet hoe” or “bitch” as I was by Kweli defenders during our exchange.

Kweli ducked and dodged challenges all week abruptly ending discussions with women he deemed too angry or vulgar.

A woman I follow on Twitter acknowledged she tweeted him abrasively because the ongoing discussion of rape triggered her. Kweli struck back just as I’d witnessed during his exchange with dream hampton a few days earlier. The woman admitted fault, but her apologies, though appreciated, made me uncomfortable. As the overwhelming victims of sexual assault and primary targets of rape culture, women shouldn’t constantly be asked to stretch ourselves across gaps in knowledge. Women need freedom to express our feelings without admonishment. Those who call themselves allies are responsible for understanding the contexts in which they speak; they are responsible for recognizing the structures of power from which they derive their privileges. And if this all sounds like too much to ask, then, perhaps, they should reconsider their claims to social justice work.
- From “The Problem With Our So-Called Allies,” by Kimberly Foster

Five Ways Talib Kweli Can Become A Better Ally To Women in Hip-Hop

By Guest Contributor crunktastic; originally published at Crunk Feminist Collective
Talib Kweli

Talib Kweli

After this latest week of utter shamtastery in hip-hop, the words of the late great Aaliyah resonate now more than ever:

We need a resolution; there is so much confusion.

  • Rick Ross thinks that drugging a woman and raping her isn’t rape, but rather a case of misunderstanding. FOH.
  • Talib Kweli thinks that the first responsibility that women in hip-hop have to men in hip-hop is to love to them.
  • Despite his alleged support for Frank Ocean, Busta Rhymes remains an unrepentant and violent homophobe. From my armchair therapist’s seat, I want to ask what Busta is fighting against in himself that has him out in the world acting a fucking fool. (And since I’d ask the question just like that, it’s probably best that I didn’t become a therapist.)

Many folks have aptly broken down all that is wrong with Rick Ross’ faux-pology, his misunderstanding of rape culture and consent, and what he and others in the culture owe to Black women.

I am more interested in the quintessential case of #allyfail that was Talib Kweli’s participation in this conversation. On Monday, in a conversation at Huffington Post Live with host Marc Lamont Hill, and guests Rosa Clemente, Jamilah Lemieux, and Rahiel Tesfamariam, Talib went in on Rosa for suggesting that she didn’t consider Ross a part of hip-hop culture.

She argued that her view represented a radical edge of thinking about hip-hop culture, which attempts to separate what she referred to as the “rap industrial complex” from the broader culture. She also fully acknowledged the extent to which folks would disagree with her perspective. I think her critique and perspective is a valid one, meaning that while I’m not sure if I agree, her argument is worthy of debate and dialogue.

But what Talib offered wasn’t dialogue. Instead, he attempted to dress Rosa down for even having such a perspective. And then he dictated to her what her perspective should  be and told her that ultimately, it didn’t matter what her view was, “Rick Ross and Wayne are a part of the culture whether you like it or not.”

Do women not get to draw boundaries? Do women not get a say in determining the cultural environs of hip-hop?

This act of masculine aggression, mansplaining, and general disrespect is all the more absurd given that Talib Kweli then went on Twitter and told his friend dream hampton who attempted to point out some of the flaws in his argument, that he was “disappointing in her for rattling her sabers,” (i.e. critiquing him), especially since he’s an “ally.”

Um, Talib (if by chance you are listening), your conduct here is actually a primer in “How Not To Be An Ally.”

I know you may stop listening at this point since you probably perceive my tone not to be loving, but if you do continue to read, here are a few pointers on how to be a real male ally in hip-hop:

1.)  Let the women have the mic. Rick Ross disrespected all women, and particularly Black and Brown women, in this situation. Black and Brown women have the right to command the space, to “get on the mic” if you will, and speak our peace, without you yanking it back cuz you don’t like what we’re spitting. In other words, if you should find yourself yelling at one of the injured parties, just know that something has gone woefully awry. Check it before you wreck it, ya heard?

2.)  Don’t mansplain. Telling Rosa Clemente that the “smarter move” is to embrace Rick Ross with love assumes that Black women’s contribution to the conversation is emotional, not logical. But I hope it is abundantly clear that you were the one all in your feelings in that convo. We’ve been conditioned not to see it when men get defensive and emotional, cuz y’all usually signal that by telling women that we’re the ones who aren’t being “smart” or “logical.” But I call bullshit for bullshit. Despite what you said to dream hampton on Twitter, “your outrage clouded” your judgment.

3.)  Don’t invoke the tone argument. You expected Rosa to listen to you, even though your tone wasn’t loving. You were offended, and you felt the right to communicate that offense and be heard. Why not Black women? If someone is standing on my fucking foot, I don’t have to ask them nicely to move. Like the Queen (Latifah, that is) said 20 years ago, “a man don’t love ya, if he hits ya,” or rapes ya, or raps about raping ya. To ask me to love somebody who ain’t even remotely interested in trying to love me back, either means you think Black women are Jesus or fools. To demand more love when all Black women do is give love is at best woeful misrecognition and worst an egregious show of male arrogance.

4.)  Interrogate your privilege. You may be a progressive man in hip-hop, but you are still a man who moves through the world with male privilege. And what you did in that conversation and the subsequent conversation on Twitter was communicate from the space of that male privilege. You told Rosa that she didn’t get to determine who was in and out of hip-hop, though she has paid her dues in the culture just like you. And then you told her who was in. Period. The end. That’s not being an ally. That’s being minister of information for the Ol Boys’ Club.

5.)  Recognize that you don’t get to tell us how to be our ally; we get to tell you. And if the fact that you don’t have the power to determine the bounds of your allyship make you uncomfortable, then you have found the primary place of your problem. We get to determine who our allies are. Not you. Your primary job as an ally is to listen, and then be a megaphone, not a microphone. Your job is to amplify what we’re saying so other folks can hear it, and have our back if something pops off.  If the folks you are attempting to help or be in alliance with tell you that they are feeling unsupported, then that might mean there is a problem with the support you are offering rather than a problem with the demands they are making. (For a far better explication of this principle, check out this good work from our friends over at Shakesville.)

I don’t know that the tips above come from a place of love. I don’t always love hip-hop, since hip-hop so infrequently loves me back. But I absolutely care about what happens in hip-hop and I care about the healing of Black men with pathological ideas about sex and I care about Black men who are interested in being allies. Most of all, I care about Black women. So maybe a little more love is not what we need. Too many people use that word in vain. Perhaps hip-hop should start somewhere far more basic: let’s imagine what it would look like to care. For others, for ourselves, for the culture.

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Talib Kweli responded to the Crunk Feminist Collective here.