Tag Archives: hip hop

Quoted: Kimala Price on Hip-Hop Feminism and Choice

Excerpted from Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology, “Hip-Hop Feminism at the Political Crossroads: Organizing for Reproductive Justice and Beyond”

During discussions with other women of color about reproductive rights, sometimes I am confronted by a sista who insists that women of color have not been actively involved in the contemporary women’s movement or the reproductive rights movement, much less have been leaders in these movements. That is simply not true. Although the media may have promoted a select group of prominent white women as the faces of American feminism and reproductive rights, African American, Latina, Asian American and Native American women have a long history of being tireless advocates for abortion and reproductive freedom. It is a little known and under-documented history.

In 1969, for instance, flamboyant lawyer and activist Florynce “Flo” Kennedy was part of a team of lawyers retained by the Women’s Health Collective and 350 female plaintiffs to repeal New York State’s abortion law. That court case was a precursor to the 1973 Roe v. Wade U.S. Supreme Court case that legalized abortion in the United States. Many of the earlier black feminist organizations, such as the National Black Feminist Organization and the Third World Women’s Alliance, advocated for abortion and reproductive rights. The late Shirley Chisholm was a strong advocate for abortion rights and was an early president of NARAL (then called the National Association for the Repeal of Abortion Laws, now known as NARAL Pro-Choice America.) She argued,

    To label family planning and legal abortion programs as ‘genocide’ is male rhetoric for male ears. It falls flat to female listeners, and to thoughtful male ones. Women know, and do so many men, that two or three children who are wanted, prepared for, reared among love and stability, and educated to the limit of their ability will mean more for the future of the black and brown races from which they come than any number of neglected, hungry, ill-housed, and ill-clothed youngsters. Pride in one’s race, as well as simple humanity, supports this view. (Chisholm 1995, p.391)

Continue reading

Hip Hop & Patriarchy: My Struggle with Mobb Deep

by Guest Contributor M.Dot

It’s challenging to criticize hip hop publicly.

My rationale is that Hip Hop gets hammered by the popular media, so why should I contribute further to it?

When given more thought, I see this as a poor reason to avoid criticizing anything. As an athlete I know criticism is feedback and nothing is improved without feedback. Professor evaluations are feedback. Customer service evaluations are feedback. Feedback is in many ways the oil that greases the improvement machine.

However, my reluctance to criticize may also be related to the tendency within the African American community to avoid airing our dirty laundry. On balance, I also know that dysfunction
flourishes when concealed out of sight.

As a teenager and full-fledged hip hop head, I never listened to Miles because I learned that he beat Cicley Tyson and was unapologetic about it after reading Pearl Cleage’s “Mad at Miles.” I bumped Coltrane, Roach and Blakey, but no Miles. One day, a few years ago, a film Professor and jazz lover who I respected, asked me how could I avoid Miles and listen to so much hip hop?

It was then that I began to see that I would have some reconciling to do regarding gender and hip hop. Continue reading

The Muslim Women of Hip-Hop

by Guest Contributor Duniya, originally published at Muslimah Media Watch

Although still a male-dominated realm, women have been an important part of the hip hop world both as artists and consumers. Anaya McMurray, in her journal article* Hotep and Hip-Hop: Can Black Muslim Women Be Down with Hip-Hop? explores the relation of Black Muslim women to hip hop music and asks the question, “Can Black Muslim women be a part of hip hop and Islam?”**

McCurray says that unique spaces in the discourses surrounding Islam are often ignored, consequently ignoring certain groups of Muslims, including Black Muslim women. Black Muslim women have become “agents in negotiating Islamic faith and hip-hop culture.” She aims to examine the ways in which Black Muslim women create unique spaces and negotiate Islam and hip hop in their music, as well as ways in which society represents Islam and hip hop which marginalize Black Muslim women. She does so by discussing the works of Erykah Badu, Eve, and herself as Black Muslim women hip hop artists.

When speaking of Erykah Badu we find out that the Islam McMurray tells us Badu follows is that of the Nation of Gods and Earths, or Five Percenters. Five Percenters are those who follow the teachings of Clarence 13x, a former member of the Nation of Islam. Five Percenters do consider themselves Muslims but not in the religious sense – in the political sense. Therefore, many mainstream Muslims do not consider them Muslims. And in reality their beliefs have very little in common with Sunni or Shia Islam. McMurray tells us how Badu does create a space for Muslim women in her songs by rapping about Five Percenter practices – practices which encourage men and women to remain within their respective, traditional roles. Beliefs which seem quite sexist but ones which Badu says are quite flexible, in her music. However, as Five Percenters have so little in common with mainstream Islam, and in fact consider themselves a part of a political movement rather than a religious one, using Badu to represent Muslim women in hip hop struck me as false advertising. She does not, from my understanding, represent the religion but rather the political movement.

The situation of Eve is not so clear. She has been quoted as saying that she finds Sunni Islam beautiful but cannot follow it properly. McMurray argues that, according to her calculations, Eve is a Muslim woman, though even McMurray admits she cannot be sure. McMurray reads Eve as a Muslim woman. Eve refers to Allah in her work as well as thanks Allah on her CD credits. Additionally, McMurray tells us that her own personal communications indicate that she is Muslim. McMurray makes an interesting observation about people’s assumptions about Eve and her religion. In one song Eve says “I thank Allah every night and pray there’s no turning back.” In many online lyrics sources this line is written as “I thank the Lord every night and pray there’s no turning back.” McMurray tells us that people, on all sides (within and without) just cannot fathom Eve as a Muslim so would never assume that she would use “Allah.” She tells us that people have never even asked the question of her being Muslim despite her use of “Allah”. Continue reading

Essential Reading – Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology

by Latoya Peterson

So, I grabbed Home Girls Make Some Noise: Hip Hop Feminism Anthology over the weekend and I cannot put it down. Seriously y’all – every spare minute I spend pouring over the pages. While this one is more intellectual than Chickenheads (which makes it a little less accessible) Gwendolyn D. Pough, Elaine Richardson, Aisha Durham, and Rachel Raimist brought it in this collection.

I’ll be posting excerpts a little later, but I just had to share the table of contents:

Forward, Mark Anthony Neal

An Introduction of Sorts for Hip-Hop Feminism
, Gwendolyn D. Pough

Section One

B-Girls, Femcees, Graf Girls and Lady Deejays: Women Artists in Hip Hop,
Rachel Raimist
Proven Presence: The Emergence of Feminist Politics in Cuban Hip-Hop, Sujatha Fernandes
Sista’ Outsider: Queer Women of Color and Hip-Hop, Eric Darnell Pritchard & Maria L. Bibbs
With Style and Grace, John Rodriguez
This DJ, Shaden Tavakoli
Beyond Every Ceiling Is the Sky, Darlene Anita Scott
Less Hustle, More Flow: The Role of Women in Hip-Hop Culture, Beatrice Koehler-Derrick Continue reading

Quoted: Jeff Chang on Hip-Hop

by Latoya Peterson

What you hold in your hands in not another book about rap music. This is about hip-hop.

To most people, hip-hop signifies rap. And perhaps well it should, for since the art of party-rocking was transferred in the form of 1979’s “Rapper’s Delight” to a twelve-inch piece of black polyvinyl chloride, born literally of salt and oil, then distilled further from fifteen minutes of rhymes to a three-minute pop song – in other words, a portable commodity that could leverage hundreds more valuable commodities, the salt and oil of the new global entertainment – hip-hop has been an inescapable fact.

But rap’s pop dominance has eclipsed hip-hop’s true importance. In particular, it has hidden the way that hip-hop has become one of the most far reaching and transformative arts movements of the past two decades. From condemned farmland barns in South Carolina to flashy post-modern boutiques in Shibuya, from brick-and-stone alleyways to the bright lights of Broadway, in airy suburban bedrooms crowded with the stuff of urban detritus and overheated inner-city schoolrooms set abuzz with the noise of personal journals, in front of white laptops, in black-box theatres and red-light districts, hip-hop has set the imagination of a generation afire. I don’t say this to make a “look how we’ve grown up” bid for acceptance, an “it’s more respectable than you think” apology, or even a “you better recognize” boast puffed full of triumphalism.

Again, it’s just simple fact.

—Introduction, Hip-Hop Arts: Our Expanding Universe, from Total Chaos: The Art and Aesthetics of Hip-Hop

A Continuing Conversation on Feminism: What Did We/Do We Hope For?

by Latoya Peterson

So, tensions are still running high. People are raw. Emotions are just out there in cyberspace. And this tough month is drawing to a close.

A couple nights ago, I put “Take Off Your Cool” on repeat, grabbed a glass of wine, and my copy of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost and tried to figure out why I had ever chosen to take on the mantle of “feminist.”

What is the point of identifying as a feminist? Why do I choose to do this?

Re-reading Chickenheads helped me to discover I want to help people. I want things to change. I want to use progressive tools to get there. I do not want to be held back by the people who are supposedly my “sisters.” Chickenheads resonates in me so strongly because I see so many girls that I know in Morgan’s prose. I see so many women I know in that prose. That novel contains the me that I didn’t find in mainstream feminism.

But feminism isn’t just about me. There needs to be more. If I only look at the lives of my friends, I can see that the concepts feminism tackles needs a lot of updating to help them as well. Feminism needs to recognize Asian American women, Latinas, Mulimahs. It needs to recognize lesbians and queer identified women. It needs to discuss ability and sexuality and freedom. It needs to discuss complexion and racial divisions and international perspectives. It needs to encompass love and both sides of the beauty debate.

If feminism is going to claim to be for all women, it needs to be about all women. I’m not sure mainstream feminism is there yet.

However, I have chosen to stay.

My preferred label is hip-hop feminist. Those will be the texts I start with, the ideas I build upon, the blueprints that I expand in order to create a feminism that is rooted in thought, challenge, and action. That is the kind of feminism I want.

And I believe, in order to get it, I will have to work on creating it.

So, I will start here. On this blog. With a continuing conversation about feminism and what we want to see happen.

So, I open the floor to you.

What kind of feminism do you want to see? And what tools will we use to create it?

Quoted: Joan Morgan on Feminism, Hip-Hop and Everything Else

Excerpted by Latoya Peterson

(All bold emphasis mine.)

Joan Morgan on…

…finding the truth

Trying to capture the the voice of all that is young black female was impossible. My goal, instead, was to tell my truth as best I could from my vantage point on the spectrum. And then get you to talk about it. This book by its lonesome won’t give you the truth. Truth is what happens when your cumulative voices fill in the breaks, provide the remixes, and rework the chorus.

— When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, intro.dress up, p. 26

…on coming out as a feminist

Feminism claimed me long before I claimed it, The foundation was laid by women who had little use for the word. […] I did not know that feminism is what you called it when black warrior women moved mountains and walked on water. Growing up in their company, I considered these things ordinary.

—When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the f-word, p. 35

…on white feminists

The spirits of these women were no where to be found in the feminism I discovered in college. Feminists on our New England campus came in two flavas – both variations of vanilla. The most visible were the braless, butch-cut, anti-babes, who seemed to think the solution to sexism was reviling all things male (except, oddly enough, their clothing and mannerisms) and sleeping with each other. They used made up words like “womyn,” “femynists,” and threw mad shade if you asked them directions to the “Ladies’ Room.” The others – straight and more femme – were all for the liberation of women as long as it did not infringe on their sense of entitlement. They felt that men should share the power to oppress. They were the spiritual descendants of the early suffragettes and absolutely not to be trusted.

—When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the f-word, p. 35

…on racism and racial solidarity

White girls don’t call their men “brothers” and that made their struggle enviably simpler than mine. Racism and the will to survive it creates a sense of intra-racial loyalty that makes it impossible for black women to turn our backs on black men – even in their ugliest and most sexist of moments. I needed a feminism that would allow us to continue loving ourselves and the brothers who hurt us without letting race loyalty buy us early tombstones.

— When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the f-word, p. 36

…on embracing the term

And there it was, the f-word all up in my face daring me to blanket myself in the yarns I’d spun to justify my rejection. Go on, girl. Deny me and tell this fool about cha lover and the butch-cut white girls and see if he gives a fuck. Searching for a viable, less volatile alternative I did a quick mental check of the popular epithets. Strong Black Woman. Womanist. Warrior Woman. Nubian Queen. Bitch. Gangsta Bitch. Bitches With Problems. Hoes With Attitude. None of them offered even the hint of protection.

Finally, I realized that in the face of sexism it didn’t matter what I called myself. Semantics would not save me from the jerks I was bound to run into if I continued to do this for a living nor would it save women from the violence of teenage boys who suffered from their own misconceptions of power and manhood. If I truly believed that the empowerment of the black community had to include its women, or that sexism stood stubbornly in the way of black men and women loving each other or sistas loving themselves, if acknowledged this both in print and in person then in any sexist’s eyes I was a feminist. Once I recognized these manifestations of black-on-black love as the dual heartbeats of black feminism, I was purged of doubt. I accepted his challenge with confidence.

— When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, the f-word, pp. 43-44

…on rap music

Any feminism that fails to acknowledge that black folks in ninties America are living and trying to love in a war zone is useless to our struggle against sexism. Though it’s often portrayed as part of the problem, rap music is essential to that struggle because it takes us straight to the battlefield. […]

As a black woman and a feminist I listen to the music with a willingness to see past the machismo in order to be clear about what I’m really dealing with. What I hear frightens me. On booming track after booming track, I hear brothers talking about spending each day high as hell on malt liquor and Chronic. Don’t sleep. What passes for “40 and a blunt” good times in most of hip-hop is really alcoholism, substance abuse, and chemical dependency. When brothers can talk so cavalierly about killing each other and then reveal that they have no expectation to see their twenty-first birthday, that is straight up depression masquerading as machismo. […]

This is crystal clear to me when I’m listening to hip-hop. Yeah, sistas are hurt when we hear brothers calling us bitches and hos. But the real crime isn’t the name-calling, it’s their failure to love us – to be our brothers in the way that we commit ourselves to being their sistas. But recognize: Any man who doesn’t truly love himself is incapable of loving us in the healthy way we need to be loved. It’s extremely telling that men who can only refer to us as “bitches” and “hos” refer to themselves only as “niggas.”
—When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost, from fly girls to bitches and hos, pp. 72-75

Miss Rap Supreme and gender in hip hop

by Carmen Van Kerckhove

I started watching the new VH1 show Miss Rap Supreme after catching a few clips on either Talk Soup or Best Week Ever.

It’s the ego trip crew’s follow-up to The White Rapper Show, with the same tongue-in-cheek tone and painfully corny humor. (Case in point: MC Serch wears a postal worker outfit for a challenge in which the contestants have to dress up as famous male rappers. Mail. Male. Get it?) It purports to explore “the intriguing plight of yet another disenfranchised group in the rap game-the female MC.”

This week’s episode contained some run-of-the-mill reality show racism, with a white contestant telling a black contestant she’s the devil (because of a dream she had), and the black contestant retorting “Who’s the one with white skin?”

But what caught my interest more than the race stuff was the gender stuff.

One of the challenges on this episode was a he said/she said scenario, where the contestants were asked to respond to a sixteen by Too Short. His verse comes around -01:00:


Here’s what they came up with:


It was a pretty clear illustration to me of how hard it is to counter a sexist attack. There are no words equivalent to “bitch” or “ho” or “pussy” to denigrate a man for his masculinity. The worst thing you can call a man is a woman (using misogynistic terms). Or a gay man (using homophobic terms).

As with The White Rapper Show, I’m left wondering what ego trip’s point is. By singling out white rappers and female rappers, it seems like they’re trying to make some comment on race and gender in hip hop. Anyone care to venture a guess as to what that comment is supposed to be?