by guest contributor Nina
Over two days this week, Oprah dedicated her show to a Town Hall Meeting to address misogyny in hip-hop. All this as a result of Don Imus’ “nappy headed ho” comment, and his trite excuse that black women are called these names by their own men. I was interested to see how Oprah would handle this matter since she has long come under fire for not having hip-hop artists on her show and she has said that she does not appreciate the degradation of women in hip-hop music.
The first show aired on Monday and was entitled “Now What?” It consisted of panel of black men and women, including a former CBS executive, two journalists, two author/magazine editors, activist Al Sharpton and the artist, India Arie. The second show on Tuesday entitled “The Hip-Hop Community Responds” was made up of a much smaller panel, Russell Simmons and Dr. Ben Chavis of the Hip-Hop Action Network, record executive Kevin Liles, and the rapper Common. There were no women on this second panel and there certainly were no female artists whose careers are built on their overt sexuality (L’il Kim, Foxy Brown, Khia etc.). Nor were there any of the female video performers who so willingly prance around in thongs and bikini tops pouring Cristal down their bodies while shaking their “bump, bump, bumps.” Female students from Spelman College attended both shows by satellite from their campus.
[Note from Carmen: Oprah has actually had Karinne "Superhead" Steffans on the show before to talk about the objectification of women, believe it or not.]
All the panelists (except the Spelman students) seemed to talk in circles around the issues and used far too many metaphors (Dr. Robin Smith’s “you feed someone garbage, eventually it starts to taste good”) to address the issue of female degradation in the hip-hop world. The world of which they spoke was of course mainstream hip-hop-rap videos you see on MTV/BET (both owned by Viacom) or songs you hear on commercial radio stations (many owned by ClearChannel). But there were some strong comments. Diane Weathers, former editor of Essence magazine called for Snoop Dogg to lose his contract due not only to his lyrics and videos but his side hustle as a pornographer.
Stanley Crouch called the hip-hop music world a minstrel show and said he would not allow these “clowns” to relinquish their responsibility due to the poverty and crime that they came up in. Panelists on the second show continued with the metaphors. Common stated that hip-hop, at only 30 years old, was just a child that needed tending to by its parents. Common has certainly evolved into a conscious artist since his first few albums contained plenty of bitches and hos and one song in particular where he talked about shooting a homosexual. Russell Simmons insisted that he mentored many artists during his reign at DefJam and while he would not censor what a poet wanted to say since it was a reflection of their own experiences, he was constantly guiding artists to learn more and be more and perhaps present themselves in a different way. The Spelman girls got very frustrated, particularly with the second show’s panel. One woman stated that rap music informs the way the world feels about black women and that there was a lack of accountability from the panelists. The women demanded that the problem be acknowledged and that steps be taken towards a solution. They even offered to work with the panelists towards that solution. Continue reading