Monday, July 27, 2009

Did I JUST Hit Puberty???

The last post about sexism in Hip Hop has been on my heart for a few weeks now and I'm just getting around to putting it down on Internet paper. My thoughts since then have made me think about my femaleness in a way I haven't ever had to. I'm feeling my womanhood like never before. I've always been a female. No, I'm not a transsexual post-op just getting the swing of things. I was born with a vagina and have always been recognized as a female but suddenly something has changed. At 25-years-old I woke up and realized I'm a girl!

That's one of the good things about Hip Hop. One rhyme can pull you out of your naivety. One line can change your entire perspective. Why didn't I have this realization when I was introduced to the great Too $hort as a child? I don't know. Maybe because I can't take him seriously. I know he's dead serious but Freaky Tales still makes me laugh. The ridiculousness of it all makes it hard to internalize. I guess that's how I managed to float through life oblivious to the fact that some men really feel this way about women, it's just too ridiculous to take seriously. I've been a Hip Hop fan for as long as I can remember and I guess I've always thought, "all this 'bitches aint shit' mess... They CAN'T really BELIEVE that. It's just posturing. They're saying that for play play. No one REALLY feels like that about women."

I know what you're thinking. How could you not feel the sting of sexism with all the hardship women must face daily? Well, I'm still trying to work that out. What I do know is that I've always focused more on being Black than on being a woman. I've always thought of myself as Black first and a woman second. That may sound crazy to some of you but it's the truth. I don't recall talking about sexism in my house when I was growing up but race was a pretty common topic.

My mother was a woman who came out of Memphis, TN in the 60s to go on to receive her Ph.D. and become a very well-respected and accomplished educator. She ended up making more money than my father (and all the men in my family, for that matter) but never did I hear her complain about sexism. Never. I'd hear her tell stories about the racism she encountered in grad school, but never did I hear her say a word about being discriminated against because of her gender. We never talked about limitations being placed on me based on my gender so I simply never thought about it. Maybe this was purposeful on her part or maybe not. That we'll never know. But I do know that I never felt any type of way about being a girl. Until now. Now I'm walking around giving everyone the side-eye, bracing myself for a demeaning blow that may never come. Thanks Hip Hop... Love you lots! *rolls eyes*

I've felt this way before. Becoming suddenly self aware of something I should have noticed years before. I remember one time in high school I was walking down the hallway with my boyfriend when one of our classmates yelled out to him, "Dang Dre! You always get the girls with the big booties!" Dre's ex-girlfriend was notorious for her big butt so I was shocked that he would put me in the same big butt boat with her. I couldn't wait to get home and look in the mirror. After school, I did just that and sure enough I saw my donk sitting right there on my back! How had this escaped me? It took a fool literally yelling something ignorant in the hallway for me to see it. But even ignorant abrasiveness wasn't enough for me to see what has been right in front of me for years about my favorite musical genre's relationship with women.

Of course I've heard other women protest against misogyny in Hip Hop, but I always thought, "These rappers aren't talking about ME, so what's the big deal?" I thought these feminist hip hopper types were just being up tight and were taking it too seriously. Damn, have I become one of them?? I've noticed that the words hoe, bitch, slut, etc. have taken the place of girl, woman, lady in much of Hip Hop. If every time you reference a female you say hoe or bitch, you ARE talking about me. If I walk up to one of these random rappers on the street just to say what up, they don't see a young lady, they see a bitch. Young ladies obviously don't exist in the rap world because they never rap about them. I might be stating the obvious here but it's all new to me. Just like my big butt was in 11th grade.

Sunday, July 26, 2009

Kid Cudi and Wale Beat Me Up!!! (Not really but read anyway)

So, clearly I didn't get the Ike Turner treatment from Cudder and Mr. Folarin but being a female hip hop fan feels like being in a relationship with Chris Brown at times. I recently felt like I'd been punched, kicked and bitten by two of my favorite up and comers when they questioned whether females understood their music. On the introduction to Wale's "Let's Ride" from his 100 Miles and Running Mixtape he advises the listener to "Tell your girl don't talk to you for about two minutes, thirty seconds. Three minutes, however long we about to do it." Then he addresses the girlfriend, "Yeah you. Don't say nothing. Ok? Just bob your head like you get it." Uhhhhh... ok, we'll get back to this...

Last month, Kid Cudi took to his blog to get some things off his chest in his post "science to my shyness." His blog is frequently an outlet for him to release his frustrations regarding his transition from an unknown to that dude that random folks run up on and tell how awesome he is. I'd imagine the transition from obscurity to notoriety would be a tough adjustment for anyone so his candidness on the matter has made him all the more endearing as a pubic figure, in my eyes. So that warm and fuzzy place where I keep my thoughts of Cudi was shocked at this little passage, "i never got love from chicks like dat, i mean i did but it was mostly cuz of my personality and every so often my looks. so the attention and love from gurls is of course awesome but it makes me wonder, do they like scott, or kid cudi? hell, do they even understand wut i talk about in my songs? thats wut runs thru my brain with every gurl i meet now and its a question ill never b able to answer off the top." Uhhhh... why wouldn't we understand what you're talking about in your songs, Cudi? Ok, I totally understand why someone with new found fame would be skeptical of the slew of people who suddenly find themselves interested... but what does my gender have to do with understanding your art? The fact that I have a vagina makes you question whether I can comprehend your lyrics?

Now, hearing this same pattern of thought from two of my favorite new artists really pissed me off. Like REALLY. Maybe I was so shocked because for some reason I expected more from these guys. If Gucci Mane makes sexist comments, I shake my head and move on. But Wale and Cudi? I had to sit and ponder this thing. I mean, hell, they talk and rap like they read books, so they CAN'T be that ignorant, right? Apparently I was wrong. And apparently it's not a matter of intelligence at all.

I don't think Wale and Cudi are stupid, per se, for belieiving these things, but I do think they're sexist. Some people think Hip Hop is just for boys. Forget the fact that females actually purchase more music than males do. Forget that. Men are clearly the only ones who understand what Hip Hop is REALLY all about. Women just like the beats and imagining themselves as some rapper's baby mama. Hip Hop metaphors clearly go over our heads. Kid Cudi and Wale are WAY too deep for the female brain. [insert blank stare here]

Now, I'm sure some of you will argue that anyone who believes men innately understand "complex" issues better than women are morons and I'm not so sure I'd argue with you on that. But I will suggest that they don't MEAN to be sexist and they probably don't even realize what they're saying. This line of thinking is so ingrained in our culture that we don't even question it. But it's a new day boys! We've got a Black President (Ok, that's not really relevant but whatev!) and it's time for us to step our game up. We can no longer fall back on sexism as the law of the land as an excuse. Why? Because we KNOW better. I don't fault Cudi and Wale for the sexism and misogyny that run rampant in Hip Hop culture but I DO blame them for not thinking about what they're saying before they say it.

So, let's go back to Wale and the "Just bob your head like you get it" foolishness. If he had simply thought this through he would have seen the ridiculousness of the whole mess. First of all, he's talking to the listener ASSUMING they're male, which is in itself problematic. Second, let's break down what it is that we, as females, don't get about Wale's rhymes. If you listen to Wale for any length of time you'll see a few recurring themes: DC, sports, and fashion. Now, I've been living in DC for seven years now so I (even with my ovaries) get the DC references. Now, my male friends back home in Minneapolis surely have no idea what Wale means on one of my favorite of his mixtape joints "Work" from 100 miles and Running when he says, "I been getting busy since Back was hitting Skillet." Hell, there's a bunch of folks born and raised in DC that don't get that line. Lots of MEN don't know that Back is short for the legendary GoGo band, the Backyard Band, and Skillet is one of their ever evolving songs from the '90s. As for the many sports references, Kid Cudi probably doesn't get those. NEXT! And it should go without saying that not all men are up on their sneaker game to get all of Wale's fashion references. I'm quite sure it was news to the rest of the country that Nike even MADE boots. I sure as hell had never seen them prior to coming to DC to go to Howard.

The bottom line is unless you're rapping about how it feels when your doctor tells you to turn you head and cough, females are capable of understanding your rhymes. Period. If I don't get it, it's not because I wear a bra, it's just that I'm unfamiliar with the reference. Newsflash: Lots of men don't get your rhymes fellas, so stop selling your female fans short.