Category Archives: hip hop

New Blackness And The Post-Soul Aesthetic: An Interview With Mark Anthony Neal

By Guest Contributor Lamont Lilly

Dr. Mark Anthony Neal is a professor of Black Popular Culture in the Department of African and African American Studies at Duke University. He is the author of five books including Soul Babies (2002), New Black Man (2005) and the forthcoming Looking for Leroy: Illegible Black Masculinities (2013). He is also co-editor of That’s the Joint! (2011) and is host of the weekly webcast Left of Black. After sitting-in on one of his classes, we paused for a few questions. Read along as Neal speaks quite insightfully on Spike Lee, Nas, Black feminism, and the n-word.

Lamont Lilly: Dr. Neal, in your book New Black Man, you describe how you were first tagged a “Black male feminist” on the BET Tonight Show. Being that you embrace this tag, can you share with us the meaning of a Black male feminist?

Mark Anthony Neal: (Laughing) Well, when I first began graduate school I was introduced to something called Feminist Theory, a body of work that attempted to intervene in both political discourse and everyday realities regarding the notions of equity between men and women. The idea that men inherited a certain amount of privilege from their maleness was a privilege even more complicated when factoring race into the equation. I was taking classes in the English Department and became curious to the question, “Where are all the Black women writing about this?” There I was, reading Barbara Christian and Barbara Smith, and on my own I began to seek out sisters like bell hooks.

I remember purchasing my first bell hooks reading on me and my wife’s first wedding anniversary. It was my first attempt at critically engaging that type of material. Hooks is one of the most important figures out there on studies of gender, sexuality, and race in the last 20 years. She’s written 15 or so books and none of them with footnotes. She was taking this high theoretical language and writing it in a way that was both applicable and accessible to everyday folks. It was under this context that I was introduced to not just feminism, but Black feminism.

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Race + Hip-Hop + LGBT Equality: On Macklemore’s White Straight Privilege

By Guest Contributor Hel Gebreamlak

Macklemore (left) and Ryan Lewis in video for “Thrift Shop.”

Much of the nation was introduced to Macklemore and Ryan Lewis this past weekend, thanks to their appearance on Saturday Night Live, a major accomplishment and promotional tool for any musical artist. Considering the indie-rap duo’s already growing popularity with their chart-topper and multi-platinum seller, “Thrift Shop,” it is important to examine the impact of their success.

Macklemore has already been touted by several media outlets as the progressive voice on gay rights in hip-hop since the release of “Same Love,” his second single to chart on the U.S. Billboard Hot 100. The song, which peaked at No. 89 last week, tries to tackle the topic of gay marriage and homophobia in media and US culture, focusing specifically on hip-hop with lyrics such as, “if I was gay, I would think hip-hop hates me.”

Though Macklemore is not gay, “Same Love” has gotten many accolades from fellow straight supporters, as well as members of the gay community. Macklemore and Ryan Lewis performed it on The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where DeGeneres introduced them by saying, “Here’s why you need to care about our next guest. No other artists in hip-hop history have ever taken a stand defending marriage equality the way they have.”
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*TRIGGER WARNING* How To Love? Thoughts On Lil Wayne’s Emmett Till Lyrics And More

By Guest Contributors Moya and Whitney; originally published at Crunk Feminist Collective

*TRIGGER WARNING: Expletives, misogyny, and violent lyrics*

Side by side image of Emmett Till and Lil Wayne with the words

Courtesy of FAAN Mail.

In the remix to Future’s Karate Chop, Lil Wayne sings the “very unfortunate” (really, Fader?) lyric that compares sex to the beating of Emmett Till.

Pop a lot of pain pill’

‘bout to put rims on my skateboard wheel’

beat that pussy up like Emmett Till

“I just couldn’t understand how he could compare the gateway to life to the brutality and punishment of death,” said Aricka Gordon Taylor, spokesperson from the Till Family. We can, though. It’s happened before, from Wayne and friends.

People are mad. Real mad. They’re even talking about it on the radio here in Atlanta, while simultaneously continuing to play the song with Emmett Till bleeped out. Folks are calling for a boycott of Clear Channel and the removal of the song from the airwaves. There’s Twitter activism in motion as well from Dream Hampton to shame LA Reid (who should be shamed, for this and more) because he should know better. Epic, Future’s label not Wayne’s, has apologized saying that this lyric won’t appear on the final version of the song and the family has written an open letter to Wayne.

We understand why folks are mad and in no way want to diminish this important call to action. One of the things Moya hated about other media activism she’s been involved in is the question, “why you mad about this and why now?” We want to think about these lyrics in the context of calls by feminists of color to interrogate the problems of violent sex metaphors before the name of a slain civil rights icon was invoked. With this in mind, we want to add some thoughts to the growing conversation.

1. We need intergenerational conversations–“beating the pussy up” is a hip-hop metaphor for sex that’s not new. We need and have been trying to have a conversation about the violence this metaphor (and others) conjures, but folks using it don’t understand themselves to be talking about intimate-partner violence when they use it. It is used by men and women to describe sexual prowess, not violence, despite its employment of the violence of “beating.” In reading the framing of the outrage we see elders taking issue with Till being compared to the “anatomy of a woman” and “domestic violence.” That’s not quite what’s happening, and we wonder if intergenerational strategies can help alleviate some of these misreadings. Rather than domestic violence, perhaps we can shift our frame to think about sexualized violence and violent sexualities more broadly, which, to be clear, are not always practiced in the context of traditional understandings of intimate partner violence or under duress or coercion.  Patricia Hill-Collins already hipped us to the violence that undergirds many discussions of black sexual prowess in her incisive reading of black colloquial usage of the term “booty” and its dual meaning/invocation as both the spoils of war and conquest (i.e. violence) and as the long-standing icon of black women’s sexual desirability.  Too much connection to be coincidental, no?  This framework might allow us to see how violent sexual prowess acted out on the bodies of women of color is a staple of hip-hop and popular culture more generally.  The issue is not just the ill-informed invocation of Till’s brutal murder but the normalization of brutality acted on women’s bodies.

Additionally, what does bleeping out words on the radio do? Particularly when it’s part of a rhyme scheme? The absurdity of radio editing is just more than we can fathom sometimes. You want to protect children from hearing the words “Emmett Till” and “pussy” but not the “beating up” they are used in conjunction with?  Not to mention any other songs that have other violent metaphors that don’t have curse words in them that are perfectly fine for radio play. Can we talk to children as opposed to shielding them from certain words? Why are words bleepable but problematic concepts aren’t under review?

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What Are Rappers Really Saying About The Police?

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

Hip-hop music is frequently described as violent and anti-law enforcement, with the implication that its artists glorify criminality.  A new content analysis subtitled “Hip-Hop Artists’ Perceptions of Criminal Justice“, by criminologists Kevin Steinmetz and Howard Henderson, challenge this conclusion.

After an analysis of a random sample of hip-hop songs released on platinum-selling albums between 2000 and 2010, Steinmetz and Henderson concluded that the main law enforcement-related themes in hip-hop are not pleasure and pride in aggressive and criminal acts, but the unfairness of the criminal justice system and the powerlessness felt by those targeted by it.

Lyrics about law enforcement, for example, frequently portrayed cops as predators exercising an illegitimate power.  Imprisonment, likewise, was blamed for weakening familial and community relationships and described a modern method of oppression.

 

 

Their analysis refutes the idea that hip-hop performers are embracing negative stereotypes of African American men in order to sell albums.  Instead, it suggests that the genre retains the politicized messages that it was born with.

Steinmetz and Henderson offer Tupac’s “Crooked Nigga Too” (2004) as an example of a rap that emphasizes how urban Black men are treated unfairly by police.

Yo, why I got beef with police?
Ain’t that a bitch that motherfuckers got a beef with me
They make it hard for me to sleep
I wake up at the slightest peep, and my sheets are three feet deep.

The authors explain:

Police action perceived as hostile and unfair engenders an equally hostile and indignant response from Tupac, indicating a tremendous amount of disrespect for the police.

Likewise, Jay-Z, in “Pray” (2007), raps about cops who keep drugs confiscated from a dealer, emphasizing a “power dynamic in which the dealer was unfairly taken advantage of but was unable to seek redress”:

The same BM [‘‘big mover’’—a drug dealer] is pulled over by the boys dressed blue
they had their guns drawn screaming, “just move or is there something else you suggest we can do?”
He made his way to the trunk
opened it like, “huh?”
A treasure chest was removed
cops said he’ll be back next monthwhat we call corrupt, he calls payin’ dues

Henderson offers Jay-Z’s “Minority Report” as a great overall example:

Of course, the rappers — in their collective wisdom — are absolutely correct to suspect that the treatment that their communities receive from the police, corrections, and courts are unfair.  African Americans are routinely targeted by police (see the examples of New York City and Toronto), even though racial profiling doesn’t workBlacks are are more likely to be arrested and sentenced than Whites, regardless of actual crime rates; schools and juvenile detention systems are increasingly intertwined in inner citiesimprisonment tears families apart, disproportionately harming families of color; and even Black children don’t trust the police.

Steinmetz and Henderson conclude:

We actually found that the overwhelming message in hip-hop wasn’t that the rappers disliked the idea of justice, but they disliked the way it was being implemented.

These communities, then, have a strong sense of justice…rooted in the sense that they’re not getting any.

Lisa Wade is a professor of sociology at Occidental College. You can follow her on Twitter andFacebook.

Monday Video Roundup

By Arturo R. García

In lieu of a regular roundup, something a little different, with all sorts of video goodies.

Rise of The “Harlem Shake”: First off, compare this:

To this:

The one up top, as The Root pointed out last week, is the actual Harlem Shake.
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Rap, The Creative Process, And Power

By Guest Contributor Lisa Wade, PhD; originally published at Sociological Images

 

 

Sociologist Jooyoung Lee is writing what sounds like a truly fascinating book. Titled Blowing Up: Rap Dreams in LA, it follows a series of young Black men who are trying to make it as rappers.  ”Together,” Lee writes, “their stories show how rapping–and hip-hop culture more generally–transform the social worlds of urban poor black youths.”

The video below gives us a taste of his findings.  In it, he’s asked why he thinks rappers are “so maligned in our culture.”  He explains that it’s because people often “take violent and misogynistic lyrics” literally.  Doing so, however, is to misunderstand “how the creative process works.”  He goes on to explain how one of the men he studied was pressured by a music label to cultivate an image that conformed to stereotypes of young, urban Black men.

The Racialicious Entertainment Roundup 1.12-18.13

By Arturo R. García, Kendra James, and Joseph Lamour

Samuel L. Jackson (l) and Quentin Tarantino. Photo via Film Buff Online.

Golden Globe Awards: I didn’t enjoy my Django Unchained viewing experience. Just putting that out there before I admit that, while I generally find Quentin Tarantino to be in extremely poor taste, I think he’s a great screenwriter. Reading his screenplays for Pulp Fiction and Jackie Brown (two movies I don’t actually enjoy watching) were a much-needed respite in the first film class I took in high school. While I haven’t read the screenplay for Django yet, I don’t doubt it’s any less well written than his others and, for that reason, I didn’t have any problem with him winning the Golden Globe for Best Original Screenplay last week …

… until he went backstage and pulled a Typical Tarantino, dropping the N-word 30 seconds into his press conference much to the discomfort of every other sensible person in the room.

Mr. Jackson, come get your boy.–KJ
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Meanwhile, On TumblR: Bed-Stuy, Tupac, And Azealia Banks

By Andrea Plaid

Usually, this review spotlights an item or two that the R’s Tumblizens have been checking out/liked/reblogged during the week.

This week, though? Let’s just say that folks were feeling quite a few of the posts, starting with one about some mystery posters appearing in Brooklyn’s Bed-Stuy neighborhood.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

Racism Still Exists poster, via Colorlines.

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