Tag Archives: hip hop

Sundance Pick: Filly Brown

Walking in, I thought I had Filly Brown pegged. The trailer gave me the impression it was like every other hip-hop movie I’d ever seen:

  • Young kid from the hood trying to make good? Check.
  • Prerequisite positive rap song that feels like it was pulled from Ghostwriter? Check.
  • Street pressures that are easily overcome? Check.
  • Mandatory plot for women, involving sexing up your image to get signed to the majors? Check.

But hey, I had just gone through three really depressing movies about the fall out of the drug war. I needed something to lift my spirits, and I will shamelessly admit that I enjoyed Brown Sugar. On the real, Filly Brown could have been a Lifetime produced version of the Somaya Reece story, and I still would have watched it!

Luckily, I was wrong.

Okay, on second thought, I wasn’t that wrong. Two and a half of the four I listed above were in the movie. But the team behind Filly Brown managed to add enough new elements to make the standard tropes feel fresh. Continue reading

Live Tweets from the Hip-Hop Kung Fu Panel at the Smithsonian

On Sunday, I got a huge treat – I met Kelly Zen-Yie Tsai for lunch, and we headed downtown to check out the kung fu classic Drunken Master – and Kelly’s panel on Hip-Hop and Kung Fu. Tweet stream (with vids) are below.


In His Own Words: Gil Scott-Heron (1949-2011)

The catchphrase, what that was all about, “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” that was about the fact that the first change that takes place is in your mind. You have to change your mind before you change the way you live and the way you move. So when we said that “The Revolution Will Not Be Televised,” we were saying that the thing that’s gonna change people is something that no one will ever be able to capture on film. It will just be something that you see, and all of a sudden you realize I’m on the wrong page, or I’m on the right page but I’m on the wrong note, and I’ve got to get in sync with everyone else to understand what’s happening in this country.

But I think that the Black Americans have been the only die-hard Americans here, because we’re the only ones who carried the process through the process that everyone else has to sort of skip stages. We’re the ones who march, we’re the ones who carry the Bible, we’re the ones who carry the flag, we’re the ones who have to go through the courts, and being born American didn’t seem to matter, because we were born American, but we still had to fight for what we were looking for, and we still had to go through those channels and those processes.
- Mediaburn, 1991

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Quoted: Ashley Judd’s Feminism and Hip-Hop

Aside from the fact that Ashley Judd has no clue about Hip-Hop as an art form and a culture, her comment shows an underlying prejudice towards black men. She says that Snoop and Diddy’s participation in YouthAIDS raised a red flag for her. If she knew anything about Hip-Hop or maybe even had a conversation with either one of these men, she’d know that neither condone rape or create violent music (at least not in the last decade), both are intelligent and savvy media moguls, and both are fathers (each has a least one daughter). So why wouldn’t they use their star power and influence to spread the message to young people, and especially the Hip-Hop community, about the importance of HIV/AIDS prevention? Shouldn’t they be lauded? If their music is so sexually irresponsible, isn’t it a good thing that they are talking about safe sex considering that HIV/AIDS transmission rates are so much higher among African-Americans?
What’s particularly dangerous is the use of the phrase “rape culture” in this context. In the wake of the Cleveland, Texas rape case, we have seen how stereotypes of sexually aggressive black men spin out of control and dredge up historical beliefs of black men being rapists. This is the latest incarnation with Ashley Judd, a well-respected advocate for maternal health and women and girls, attacking Hip-Hop. Commercial Hip-Hop is misogynous. So is underground shit. Rock, metal, house, R&B, techno, etc. all have misogynous and violent content. But none is as popular, commercially viable, or controversial. There’s a difference between talking about the music as being misogynous and honestly deconstructing what’s behind that, and saying Hip-Hop as a whole promotes “rape culture.” It shows a lack of understanding of the diversity of Hip-Hop and the commercial decisions that shape how it is sold and capitalized upon (and who makes those decisions).
I know that she is promoting a book and people think it’s a publicity stunt. I don’t know…maybe it is, generally speaking we as listeners and consumers of Hip-Hop (at least her definition of it) aren’t her main audience. As a publicist and communications strategist, I think that’s idiotic and shortsighted but I’m also not a big supporter of the idea that all publicity, even bad, is good publicity. If that’s the case then mission accomplished…now people who didn’t know or care about her memoir think she is a racist dumbass. Or some people think she is speaking out about negative imagery of women in Hip-Hop and pop culture. That depends on your point of view. What I do believe is that Ms. Judd wants to advance the discussion of attitudes that lead to sexual assault and rape since she experienced sexual abuse. Yet this is hardly a constructive way to do it.
I have looked closely at the feedback I have received about those two paragraphs, and absolutely see your points, and I fully capitulate to your rightness, and again humbly offer my heartfelt amends for not having been able to see the fault in my writing, and not having anticipated it would be painful for so many. Crucial words are missing that could have made a giant difference. It should have read: “Some hip-hop, and some rap, is abusive. Some of it is part of the contemporary soundtrack misogyny (which, of course, is multi-sonic). Some of it promotes the rape culture so pervasive in our world…..” Also, I, ideally, would have anticipated that some folks would see only representations of those two paragraphs, and not be familiar with the whole book, my work, and my message. I should have been clear in them that I include hip-hop and rap as part of a much larger problem. It is beyond unfortunate that I am talking about some, for example, of Snoop Dogs’ lyrics, an assumption has been spread I was talking about every single artist in both genres. That is false and distorted. Here, I am again aware that it would be impossible for me to get this “exactly right.” Some will find fault, no matter how careful I am, no matter what my intentions.

Easily the most ludicrous thing about the Twitter wars has been the perpetuation of the ridiculous accusation I am blaming two musical genres for poverty, AIDS, and the whole of rape culture. Please, people. Seriously? It’s beneath all of us that this even merits a comment. Gender inequality and rape culture were here a long before the birth of the genres and rage everywhere. Someone pointed out American history includes extensive white patriarchal rape. I’d add genocide, too, but that is another essay.

Regarding what is happening on Twitter:

Thumbs Up: In those 2 paragraphs, I was addressing gender and gender only. However, the outcry focused so much on race (and at times class) that it was naive of me to assume that everyone knew I was discussing only gender. My favorite feminist teachers, such as bell hooks and Gloria Steinem, would probably have admonished me, as they write that gender, class, and race are inextricably bound in the conversation about gender equality. My amends for thinking you could read my mind and know I was only talking about gender. I understand why you were offended.

“Why don’t we [help] end rape culture instead of getting mad that we’re getting called out on it?”
Photo Credit: huffingtonpost.com

Mr. Cee, Brooke-Lynn Pinklady, and Transphobia

By Sexual Correspondent Andrea (AJ) Plaid

On March 30 hip-hop producer Calvin “Mr.Cee” Lebrun—he of Notorious B.I.G.’s Ready to Die fame–was busted by New York City police allegedly receiving oral sex from a sex worker. Reports said Lebrun supposedly received the sexual favors from “a man” .  This got some people feeling some kind of homophobic way, complete with saying that “we all should have seen this coming” because of his alleged “golden showers” kink.  As Sister Toldja wrote earlier this week :

To be totally fair, this isn’t the average gay rumor; not only was the other person in the case allegedly paid for the act, the writer who dropped this gossip also claimed that Mister Cee has a thing for urinating on female strippers. So while much of the chatter is about Mister Cee being (allegedly) infected with The Gay, folks are aghast by this pee thing, too. Considering our attitudes about sexuality, that’s no surprise.

With homophobia and anti-kink sentiments roiling—and Lebrun and his supporters doing the NYPD Hip-Hop Conspiracy Step hip-hop artist and critic dream hampton provided some level-headed analysis about the situation:

While highly regarded in the hip hop industry and in New York, Mister Cee is not necessarily famous. Still, his arrest gave opportunity to talk about the persistent poking around hip hop’s “closet,” where speculation about sexual orientation is practically a sport. Charlamagne actually elevated the conversation by asking why a married 44-year-old man was seeking sexual favors from a 20-year-old, professional or otherwise, and if that, then why in a parked car? I argue that none of this would be a discussion, viral or anywhere else, had Cee been arrested with a 20-year-old woman, be she prostitute or not. I also don’t believe, 2011 or not, that hip hop is a safe space for anything other than aggressively heterosexual public behavior or affirmation. While obviously lesbian women MCs and personalities remain silent if not closeted about their sexuality, there is even less space for men to appear bisexual or homosexual.

I believe that Mister Cee’s sexuality is a personal matter, one he must reckon with himself and his wife. But Charlamagne’s co-host Angela Yee took the position widely held by heterosexual women—that closeted bisexual men are a health hazard, exposing trusting women to AIDS and more. While I’m not dismissive of those concerns, particularly in a marriage, where condom use is expected to be abandoned, I do know that we heterosexual Black women don’t exactly offer safe spaces for bisexual men to express their desires.

I’m also far more concerned that the transgendered 20-year-old who allegedly serviced him be safe, particularly if he is a sex worker. I wished aloud on my own Twitter feed that the discussion about Mister Cee would be one about decriminalizing sex work and focusing on harm reduction rather than speculating if Mister Cee is closeted.

Hampton is right in this respect.

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6 Things To Know About The Black Rock Audience

By Guest Contributor Rob Fields, cross-posted from Black As Love

It was close to a year ago when I started research that would begin to answer the question, “so, who exactly is the audience for black rock?”  Of course, the unspoken part of that question was the assumption that this was and continues to be, something fringe.  But we know that’s hardly the case.  In fact, the audience for black rock and black alternative music is growing, and that growth is powered by an ongoing cultural shift.

I won’t bore you with the demographic recap of those who took the survey (50/50 male/female split; 76% African American), as you can read it in the executive summary below.  What’s most interesting to me is the psychographic—or attitudinal stuff—that the research uncovered.  After all, attitudes drive actions.

These attitudes are important to note for another reason: It speaks to the need/opportunity for broader institutional and, yes, corporate, support for black rock and black alternative music.  There’s still the belief out there that

  1. Black folks are monolithic and;
  2. We can all be reached by using hip hop.

The first supposition has never been true.  As for the second, hip hop, particularly in its commercial form, is easily a shadow of what it could have been.  Moreover, by virtue of its inclination for entertainment over substance, it has abdicated any right to say that it’s representative of black folks.

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Cult of the Freaknasty: a Glimpse into the Hip Hop Erotic

By  Guest Contributor Regina N. Barnett, originally published at Red Clay Scholar

A couple of weeks back I had the pleasure of attending a Rap Sessions panel that discussed the question of women and their role in Hip Hop. One particular response by Dr. Raquel Rivera really stuck with me: “we are too fast to demonize the raunch. Don’t demonize the Raunch!” Joan Morgan (yes, THE Joan Morgan) followed up with an astute observation that American society does not have a discourse available for the erotic. My first response? “Ha! I love that!” The second response? “Yeah, that makes sense.”

What is our fascination with sexuality? Particularly, what is our fascination with the erotic and its impact on our understanding of blackness? (Hyper)sexuality often frames our understanding of men and women of color since our implementation into western culture. It is a gendered and oppressive space, often maintaining rigid boundaries and unilateral interpretation. For centuries, the black body existed primarily within the confinements of sexual expression. And, unfortunately, that space has not completely evolved. The Americanized erotic is transfixed within the slave discourse and white privilege that dominated the antebellum United States. Although I do not deny that women have been objectified via the infamous “male gaze,” a “one-up” that white women have over black women is the fact that at least their “honor” and “purity” granted them access to the coveted cult of true womanhood. Their bodies and sexuality are considered worthy of preserving and being respected. Black women, however, have inherited membership in the cult of the freaknasty. Breeders, freak (a leek)s, Jezebels, and, as Abbey Lincoln suggests, “sexual outhouses of white men,” African American women have not been able to remove themselves from the perspective of a sexual lens. Continue reading

Crack and Hip Hop Politically Underdeveloped Young People

by Guest Contributor M.Dot, originally published at Model Minority

On a fluke a few of weeks ago, I picked up a dvd about the Black Panthers and the student and employee strike at SF State that created the first Black Studies department in the country.

It was in watching this video that realized that both crack and hip hop politically underdeveloped young people. Much of this statement comes out of my reading two or three books a week along with five or six articles last month, while simultaneously watching the fall out from Sasha Frere Jones’s post about the end of hip hop and a post about rap critics. Blog posts, long blog posts take a lot of work. At least coherent ones do.

Reading and writing is labor and I am thinking about to which ends, those of us who are in our twenties and thirties, are reading and writing.

While watching the responses percolate, I wondered what would happen if we invested the same time in rap blogs in making politics to address our lives?

What is our investment in a music that has made it clear that it doesn’t give a fuck out us in a time where we live in an unsustainable world?

For the folks who say that hip hop is related to a political project, I would say, place a link in the comment section. By political I mean a group of people organizing to serve a communally determined group agenda. This doesn’t mean that it hasn’t served as a conscious raising tool, in the past, but Post Chronic or even Post Blueprint, the music has ceased being for itself and currently exists for Black respect and White dollars.

Given that this is the case, what does this mean for Black people and what does it mean for Black music? Continue reading