by guest contributor dnA, originally published at Too Sense
I used to hate hip-hop… yup, because the women degraded
But Too $hort made me laugh, like a hypocrite I played it
A hypocrite I stated, though I only recited half
Omittin the word “bitch,” cursin I wouldn’t say it
Me and dog couldn’t relate, til a bitch I dated
Forgive my favorite word for hers and hers alike
But I learnt it from a song I heard and sorta liked
-Lupe Fiasco, Hurt Me Soul
One of the unique things about Hip-hop is its ability to respond directly to criticism, which has been completely omitted in the ongoing mainstream media assault on Hip-hop culture and music. The root of Hip-hop’s mainstream popularity is its ability to provide to white men, access to a fiction of black masculinity that reinforces their own perceptions of what a man is supposed to be. This in itself is informed by thousands of years of Western Civilization, and is present in all aspects of American culture.
However, unlike other mediums of artistic expression, something which is rarely acknowledged is that rappers regularly adress the problem of misogyny in Hip-hop. Lupe’s verse above is to me, a powerfully simple explanation for the way certain ideas about gender are spread, he simply heard it from a song he sort of liked. But his admission of hypocrisy stands in stark contrast to the rest of American popular entertainment; when was the last time you heard anyone from a major television or film company admit that their product was sexist or misogynist, or in someway perpetuated harmful stereotypes about women?
That said, there is a strong reactionary sentiment among Hip-hop heads. Byron Crawford may be the single most popular Hip-hop columnist on the web, but there is little question that he absolutely hates women. He also apparently hates Muslims, and I will try to stay focused and not adress the absurd right wing talking points he clings to in this column on Lupe. More relevant to this post is that Lupe’s admission that Hip-hop’s depiction of women is harmful, and his criticism of mainstream Hip-hop’s excessive materialism tags him, in Crawford’s eyes, as a “suicide bomber”:
Does Lupe Fiasco consider himself the equivalent of a suicide bomber sent to rid the rap world of a few infidels (metaphorically speaking at least)? When you think about it, his album does seem filled with that kind of rhetoric. He speaks of the images of champagne and bling bling so often projected in hip-hop the same way that Islamic fascists speak of American culture in general and, in particular, the “MTV culture” that they view as such a threat to Muslim youth.
And his claim that he once hated hip-hop because of the way women were treated (presumably before he became a gat-toting crack slinger?) seems ripe for further inspection beyond declaring his views “refreshing.” Muslims, after all, aren’t exactly known for being progressive when it comes to that sort of thing. Does he find that the depiction of women in rap lyrics is especially harsh vis a vis other genres of music or is the thought of a woman in revealing attire alone enough to set him off?
Crawford is regularly clowned by his readers but the sheer number of people who read his column means that on some level, people are absorbing his watered down Limbaugh talking points. (When I say Limbaugh, I’m not speculating; Crawford refers to Louis Farrakhan as “Calypso Louis”, which is a term of Limbaugh’s invention).
But if Crawford wasn’t so bent on hating women for what may be a lifetime of rejection or the result of anger stemming from repressed homosexual tendencies, I won’t speculate further, (again, read the man’s column, he is unable to refer to gay people without using the phrase “teh ghey” and feared that if Imus were fired for referring to women as hoes that god forbid, people might actually stop doing that) he would realize that there is an ongoing discourse about the representation of women in Hip-hop. No one can argue that Jay-Z has been selling more albums for longer than anyone else still rapping, and he certainly took personally accusations of misogyny on Blueprint 2: Read the Post Hear Me Out: Hip-hop and Gender Criticism