Being Pimped Ain't Easy
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Last year, rapper Nelly was ejected from a mall for being in violation of the mall dress code. He was wearing a do-rag. The local National Action Network, a Black civil rights group, was all over it. Showing up at the mall the following day 150-strong, wearing bandanas and do-rags, they accused the mall of promoting a racist policy towards African-Americans. Reverend Al Sharpton, president of the organization, issued a travel advisory, warning Black people not to patronize the mall because of its discriminatory practices.
The Black community was ready to rally to Nelly's aid for being thrown out of a mall, but has remained eerily silent about the blatant misogyny in his lyrics.
Don't get me wrong, I'm a huge believer in free speech and know that Nelly has every legal right to call me and my Black sisters "bitches and ho's." I just don't understand why the leadership in the Black community thinks that it is okay.
Atlanta Mayor Shirley Franklin recently attended a fundraising event for a charity founded by locally based rap superstar Ludacris. This followed the controversy surrounding his being dropped from Pepsi as an endorser because of his sexually explicit lyrics. She said that his charity was separate from his music and since the two weren't connected she could support his foundation. It seems Black women are so undervalued in this society that not even we will fight for ourselves.
These are a few examples in a long list of instances where misogyny, patriarchy, and the degradation of Black women in rap music is ignored or overlooked by the bigwigs in the Black community. The Grammys have even come to embrace these negative aspects of hip-hop music, nominating for an award Nelly's "Hot in Herre" in which he instructs women to take off their clothes and asks "what good is all the fame if you ain't f-----g models?"
To be fair, these lyrics are surprisingly tame when compared to others or even the visual images accompanying such a song. As scantily clad women gyrate around fully clothed slightly swaying men, the message is clear: Women are simply sex objects to be ogled and had. Put most succinctly by rapidly rising 50 Cent: "I'm into having sex, ain't into making love."
R. Kelly, provider of such R & B gems as "Feelin' On Your Booty" and " The Greatest Sex," is reaping benefits from his high profile child pornography accusations. He continues to produce music and the profits continue to roll in. As a friend astutely pointed out, had the videotape revealed Kelly having consensual sex with an underage boy, the community would be in an uproar. But because it was a girl, she has been dismissed as another oversexed fan that knew what she was doing.
It's not fair. It's not fair that these male rappers continue to demonize and brutalize women in songs and videos and the female voices who try to challenge these characterizations are silenced. Poet and activist Sarah Jones, daughter of legendary poet/activist LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka), released a single called "Your Revolution . . ." The song draws inspiration from "The Revolution Will Not Be Televised" by Gil Scott Heron. She took sexist misogynistic lyrics from existing songs that get radio play and wove them into a declaration of how she will not be used and mistreated. When her song was banned by the FCC, no Black leaders came to her aid.
Hip-hop's irreverence towards women is now being used as a marketing ploy. In a recent Heineken ad, Rapper Jay-Z dismisses his female guest's request for a drink refill, opting instead to get himself a Heineken. There seems to be a complete lack of criticism of this new advertising trend from men and even women journalists.
As far as I can tell, the best way to combat these negative images of women in lyrics and videos is to hurt the industry in the pocket by not buying this music anymore. The music industry is being upheld right now by hip-hop, and a severe dip in sales might be the warning needed for artists and record companies to change their ways. I'm not saying you can't listen anymore. You can download artists that don't need to be supported and buy the records of those who do. It is important that you only use your buying power to support artists who do not present misogynistic views of Black women.
I know it's hard. I have been known to bump the Ignition remix on my computer. That's why providing alternative artists and songs is so important. We can write our own songs, create our own beats. Producing lyrics and images that counter this misogyny is a step we all can take.
"Producing lyrics and images that counter this misogyny is a step we all can take."
I'm going to make my own CD. I'm going to call it "Being Pimped Ain't Easy." Look out for hot tracks like "I'm Not A Ho," "Why Can't I Be Fully Clothed?," "I Don't Want Your STDs," and "I Don't Want to Date a Playa Because..." I'm going to have a hot video too. I'm going to rock the ice (of the H2O variety), show off all my cars (at a Mercedes dealership), and have male dancers (oiled up and grinding on each other, barely clad). Maybe that's what it will take to get some support from the leadership in the Black community.
Moya Bailey is a rising junior Comparative Women's Studies/Pre-Med major at Spelman College in Atlanta, Georgia.