The Battle Between African-American Women & Hip-Hop/Rap Culture Pt. 2

Let's Get On With ItFollowing my last post, I discussed how women in hip-hop culture are portrayed in hip-hop/rap culture, which could be recognized as a betrayal to women around the world. Women are not as respected in commercial hip-hop media as they should be, making themselves vulnerable to adopt negative connotations of what a women is. Additionally, many argue that African-American women are targeted more, thus demoralizing the true essence of black womanhood as a whole. This is what is believed to create gender stereotypes among women of African decent that aren’t true. But, what does it mean to be African-American? Many theorists like Boykin and Toms suggest that, “racial identity includes incorporations of Afrocentric values, including spirituality, communalism, harmony, movement, verve, spontaneity, expressive individualism, oral tradition, and social time perspective (Boykin and Toms 1985).” We can conclude that commercialized hip-hop media doesn’t represent their definition of what it is to be of African decent. Either way, anyone has the liberty to classify as African-American regardless. Now another underlying question is at hand, what does it mean to be a woman? According to Carter and Parks, “research has found that womanist identity in adults is related to self-esteem, perceptions of environmental bias, and gender role expectations (Carter and Parks 1996 1996).” “Feminine characteristics of  a woman include positivity, submissiveness, and nurturance (Buckley and Carter 2005).”

Now tracing back to music, analyzing the many hip-hop videos today, we may see common trends of African-American women acting seductively in a sexual manner. Most of the time, a lot of body is exposed while the camera zooms in on their “best features.” Furthermore, people are upset because not only does it create a false impression of black woman, but also their self-esteem and confidence is also affected.

From these suggestive images by African-American women, many people are asking the same questions. What is the correlation of African-American women and hip-hop? Why are they always displayed the same way? Considering most rap artists are of African decent, it could be an ethnic preference for black women as requested by artists. But even so, that still does not excuse how the women are treated. Even if the woman complies what she has to do in the music videos, photo-shoots, or whatever it may be, subconsciously they are still being affected negatively. According to research study by Dionne Stephens & April Few -experts in psychology and human development- they examined the effects of images of African American in hip-hop. They discovered that subjective meanings of woman in hip-hop media affect a woman’s sexuality, physical attractiveness, and interpersonal relationships. In other words, with experiencing such visuals, woman lack confidence with themselves, mainly because they believe that physical appearance is what matters most to potential mates (men). More importantly, the sexual outcome behaviors of woman are more likely to have unplanned pregnancies, more sexual onsets, and greater chances to contract sexual diseases. Many of these consequences can turn serious, which can cause a huge toll on the mental well-being of a woman.

Further exploring this study there are eight terms that fallaciously frame the African-American woman in hip-hop culture. The terms are: Diva, the Gold Digger, the Freak, the Dyke, the Gangster Bitch, the Sister Savior, the Earth Mother, and the Baby Mama. Each term has its own definitions that inappropriately describe a promiscuous type of woman. In general, all the sexual images and implications have a direct impact on African-Americans’ sexual self-identity, behaviors, and experiences. With so much accessible technology, it’s very difficult to avoid all these images.

Finding a solution to end this issue of false representations of women is difficult. Yes, it is all around us, but there are alternatives. We have choices of what we want to listen to, and drive of what controls us. You may have to dig deeper to find something that is suitable for yourself. In addition, this post does not imply that one should be deemed by the mainstream hip-hop of today, but rather informational and conscious advice of what is served to you by the masses. Being aware about what these images can lead up to is one step forward with disallowing false impression of African American women and women as a whole. With perpetual sales of music that objectifies women, the battle will still continue against women.

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Are Women Betrayed in Hip-Hop/Rap Culture? Pt. 1

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Take it back to the early 90’s! Female pioneers in Hip-Hop!

Hip-hop is a lifestyle and culture that has been around since the early 80’s and has grown massively over the past century. Not only has it increased in popularity, but has also grown commercially and globally. Its beginnings, however, slowly developed not exactly for the best. Following early female rapper pioneers of hip-hop, like Queen Latifah and Salt N Pepa, their content in music was fresh, new, and positive. One would assume that this was the birth of a new trend with rappers alike, and that their successes would inspire and influence other rappers to do the same.

  • Queen Latifah rapping about the derogatory terms used against her and women.

But, comparing music in the 90’s and music of today, that old inspiration is out of date. Rap has become more male-dominated, and women are often objectified in music by acting provocative and sexual in music videos and magazines. However, the men in hip-hop are not the only ones to blame for the common themes of misogyny and sexual references in music. For example, female rapper Nicki Minaj, actually promotes this type of behavior in her music. Her music commonly references degrading and explicit suggestive themes. If we analyze Minaj’s music before her rise of stardom, her music is more and more suggestive compared to her music when she wasn’t popular.

Amazingly, music that express these negative ideas is what gains hip-hop massive popularity. Hip-hop, for what use to be conscious and had meaning, is frail against the Gods of commercial business. More so, money is overruling the humble kingdom of rap. Sadly, what was once known as an artistic expression, has sold its soul to the commercial world for a means of entertainment. (Sex Sells.) It has been whiplashed and brutally altered as if hip-hop were a car, totaled in a car accident. While the amount of money continues to be invested for commercial hip-hop, the engine still continues to run -similar to that of a broken heart after a break-up. Nonetheless, the repair-men at the auto shop are working hard to slowly fix the body of the car -while attempting to add old car parts, that are now foreign because they don’t seem to fit in like they use to.  Seems like this car has betrayed  its original form for what it use to be, which is changing the perception of women today. In the meantime, hip-hop and its culture remains notorious.

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Mainstream hip-hop has lost its substance of conscious rap. Most importantly, women turned into slaves of mainstream media, constantly altering the real perception of women. Today, women in hip-hop culture have adapted to look and act a certain way that creates false impersonations and ideals. Kanye West's Monster VideoAccording to an article, “The Exploitation of Women in Hip-Hop Culture” on mysistahs.org   -a website dedicated to young women to provide information and support on issues by activists organized by the Advocates for Youth– author Ayanna writes, “Exploitation of women in hip-hop culture has become an accepted part of it for both the artists and audiences alike, and many critics blame the music without looking any deeper (mysistahs.org).” More to speak, people need to realize that these types of themes are only glamorized because of the listeners. Considering mainstream hip-hop music is based on sales, we have to be aware that the production won’t stop unless we stop buying into the music that’s derogatory to women. In other words, we are all being affected because we are fed negative themes that damage our human psyche, especially towards women. According to professional psychologist Albert Bandura’s Social Cognitive Theory, “Stereotypical media portrayal of sexual roles can enhance the development and activation of schemas with similar stereotypical features (Bandura, 1986).” He addresses that people tend to learn from and imitate other people. He then mentions: “This process is not limited to reproducing real life people’s lifestyle and preferences, but extends to media models as well (Bandura, 1986).”

Therefore, the portrayal of women in hip-hop culture is relevant to that of most audiences because these themes can influence the way we act and think. Furthermore, in my previous posts I have mentioned that media heavily influences the youth. Not only can it affect younger generations, but it can also cause unacceptable actions that oppose American ideals. Being consumed by the demoralization of women makes our society look worse than what it already is. Of course, the commonplace of women objectified in rap, might be more relevant to hip-hip fans. However, considering the cited evidence, every person should be concerned.

Since hip-hop’s evolution, fighting for hip-hop’s sincerity is a constant battle. Many activists fight against the exploitation of women in rap culture, and form many organizations and groups. Much like Dereca Blackmon’s activism, to advocate against the negative influences in hip-hop culture, are positive role models to follow. These groups provide healing to women nationwide to make a stand to grow positively as a community. Even though this issue applies to all women, to be more specific, this issue may be more prevalent to African American women. Arguably, many believe that they are the most targeted in the commercial hip-hop industry, which will be discussed in my next post.

Mass Appeal – Gang Starr (Random Post of the Day)

Enjoy some 90’s hip-hop with this classic, Mass Appeal by Gang Starr.

How Hip-Hop Culture Influences Young Minds – Good or Bad

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Lil Poopy – 9-year-old rapper.

In my other blog posts I have briefly discussed how youth are influenced by the themes of hip-hop culture. Many of these themes include violence, drugs, sex, and misogyny that embed in the young minds of children. In an article, Lil Poopy -a nine-year old rapper– is already facing trouble with the law because of his suggestive behavior in his music videos. With gained popularity over the Internet, he has caused a bit of controversy. The state Department of Children and Families have charged his father, Luis Rivera, Sr., with child abuse and neglect for his son. Police feel that the lack of parenting has caused his son (Lil Poopy) to portray suggestive, and drug related themes in his music videos. In his video “Pop That,” Lil Poopy is filmed slapping the buttocks of a woman while she bends over.

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How does this make you feel?

In defense, his father states that he is not doing anything wrong saying that, “He goes to school…and he is a good kid.” Additionally, Lil Poopy’s producer, Brian Slay defends these charges stating that the young rapper is only expressing how he feels. But most importantly, he says that Poopy is covered under the First Amendment, meaning that he has freedom of expression and speech. Slay also mentions a common statement that I hear a lot when people defend hip-hop. He sated that, “people are only mad because they don’t understand the lyrics, the play on words, and the hip-hop culture. The people complaining are those that hate hip-hop and want to end it.” On top of that, he admitted that “Hip Hop is an act now, whether you like it or not.” He feels that Lil Poopy is just “acting,” because he is emulating the hip-hop culture, and “if dancing and grinding is part of the hip-hip culture he’s going to do that…”

It’s interesting to me how Brian Slay feels that people don’t understand hip-hop culture. But is hip-hop culture misunderstood? Is that why people complain about it so much? Arguably, a child performing suggestive behavior at such a young age is not acceptable. This leads to my next point. Following Slay’s quote about Lil Poopy emulating hip-hop culture, proves that youth are influenced by what they see!

To explore the correlation with hip-hop media and youth, in ““Shake It Baby, Shake It”: Media Preferences, Sexual Attitudes and Gender Stereotypes Among Adolescents,” a research study was conducted by Tom ter Bogt et al, experts in behavioral and social sciences at Universities in the Netherlands, to furthermore explore the influences and behaviors of youth with exposure to media. The study took place in the Netherlands, surveying middle schoolers-aged 13-16-about their preferences with media regarding sexuality and romance. The survey helped classify what genre of media the students liked more, and helped determine their likelihood of premising gender stereotypes and sexual attitudes. Sexual attitudes meaning views of men as sex-driven and tough, and of women as sex objects. The results concluded that:

“For both girls and boys, preferences for hip-hop and hard-house music were associated positively with gender stereotypes and preference for classical music was negatively associated with gender stereotypes. Particularly for boys, using internet to find explicit sexual content emerged as a powerful indicator of all attitudes and stereotypes (ter Bogt 1).”

Furthermore, the internet plays an important part of how the youth portray themselves and interaction with others. In the eyes of Lil Poopy, what is it like to be a child rapping about whatever he pleases? Imagine being the kid surrounded by older rappers who support your music. Being around an older crowd-not kids-that forces you to grow up quickly. Not allowing you grow at your own pace with other children. Of course, a young child wants to be with older “cool kids,” and at the same time, you’re getting paid. What concern should a child have? Nothing. The only concerns are outside observers, worried about the trouble this young child is getting into, while questioning where is the parenting?

As hip-hop rapper Method man has said, “Rap is a gimmick, but I’m for the hip-hop, the culture.”

  • Good, Bad, Freedom of Expression? See for yourself.

Sex Sells

Whether you listen to hip-hop or not, hip-hop culture can be difficult to avoid. From watching rap music videos of today, we may notice repetitive and unoriginal themes, such as flaunting money, showing off expensive cars and women. In addition, women often are represented negatively, which changes the perception of how they should be viewed by their audience. Most rap videos primarily focus on displaying women as a means of collection. In other words, women are just there to please a man only and nothing else. In an article, by Brandon Albert, he discusses the problem with how women are portrayed in the rap industry. He says that rap has changed over the years because of the demand for it. He uses an example of how hip-hop back then (in the 80’s, early 90’s) rarely used women as objects in music. But as the years progressed, “capitalism sank its claws in the heart of rap, women began to show up more in music videos because it is what the public wanted to see.” However, most women being recognized in the rap world did not come into existent in a positive way. Women became known as provocative and sex appealing.

Imagine being a woman in a rap music video changing your own image about how people view you. Being forced to act a certain way because you’re getting paid. Showing your sacred body next to an expensive car, while a rapper touches you and possibly throws money at you. Then you’re required to wear an exposing shirt, high heels, and short shorts. After the music video is filmed, you eagerly wait for the video to be edited and processed. Once the video is uploaded on the Internet, you receive all the positive and negative feedback. Some comments may be hateful, because opinions question how a woman can be degraded so much in a video. Or how can they let a woman do things you don’t believe in, all for money. Other comments may be positive, adoring how “sexy” and “bad” you are. But deep down, you don’t feel sexy. You feel neglected because they like you a certain way that’s not you! You question why is it that they find me beautiful when I’m next to an expensive car or barely clothed? Unfortunately that’s how the mainstream hip-hop industry works. Corporations and record labels buy you and sell you to an audience so they can make their money. Yes you made a lot of money…but you’re left with a hurt soul -a soul that dwells in a ceaseless cycle because you’re going to partake in another video. Why? Because you’re “gonna” get paid.

  • Consider this video (warning, explicit content)

With a man-driven society, one may question, why aren’t women in hip-hop represented in positive ways? The truth is, that they are there…behind the scenes, where no one will notice them. The problem is that they are hardly ever presented to the public as social figures or role models. Without these positive role models in the hip-hop culture, where does a young mind get their inspiration? With the constant representation of sexy, half-naked women, these images penetrate into the young minds of children and eventually, they want to imitate what they see. In my opinion, the business corporations run the mainstream hip-hop scene. They chose what sells! We all know that sex sells to the consumer. But if we find that being provocative is so offensive to people, why does it keep on selling? There are many underlying questions of how the industry works. In conclusion, I think we can make stance of how people in the media are portrayed by taking a stance with what the media throws at us.

To Love or Hate Rick Ross?

Courtest of https://i2.wp.com/4.kicksonfire.net/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/17.jpg

It definitely takes more to make a classic, Ross…
(courtesy of Kicksonfire.net)

When companies want to market their products to more people, it is obvious that they will tell a celebrity to advertise their products. By doing so, it serves as a marketing strategy to sell more and target a specific public. Some people may know that within the past year Reebok has signed an endorsement with rapper Rick Ross to advertise their products. Since then, he has been featured in many Reebok commercials and flaunts Reebok attire in his music videos. But what every company should be aware of is whom they select to market their product. When Rick Ross was featured on the song “U.O.E.N.O” with an upcoming rapper named Rocko, his choice of words would soon get the best of him because of a controversial lyric that caused a stir among many hip-hop fans, women activists, and respected rappers like Talib Kweli. Seems like it takes more to make a classic song… Reebok on the other hand did not approve of the famous rapper’s actions. Eventually, Reebok forced to remove Rick Ross’ endorsement deal. When a successful company like Reebok takes action to do something like this, it’s amazing to know that they care about their reputation, and are cautious for whom they want to promote their items. The controversial lyric goes as follows:

“Put molly all in her champagne, she ain’t even know it. I took her home and I enjoyed that. She ain’t even know it.”

This lyric was eventually heard by Rosa Clemente, a hip-hop activist, community organizer, and vice presidential running mate of 2008 Green Party Presidential candidate Cynthia McKinney in the 2008 U.S. Presidential election, who stated that “This lyric is promoting date rape, rape culture, and violence against women.” She also mentions how Ross’s lyric is highly offensive towards black women. In all honesty, I think this lyric is offensive to women because it speaks on “enjoying someone” without their consent. However, I don’t think that this lyric isn’t exclusively offensive to women of color. In fact, I believe it is offensive to every woman, regardless of race. In a discussion on Huffington Post Live, Rosa Clemente, Talib Kweli, and two other women activist discuss the controversy in an interview. In the live video, Kweli says he believes that everyone should approach the men in hip-hop who use negative lyrics in a positive and  loving way. This caused quite some disagreement with Rosa Clemente because she felt that Rick Ross is entirely responsible for his actions, and that if she feels threatened, she can approach him in an aggressive way. It’s obvious that Clemente feels strongly against the topic, but arguably, how should Ross be approached in this matter? Shortly after the song became notorious, Kweli had addressed Rick Ross via twitter stating Ross’s wrongs, and in the video interview he says that the only reason that he rebutted Rick Ross through twitter is because he has love for him. He thinks that Rick Ross along with other rappers like Drake, Lil Wayne, etc. represent hip-hop as role models, and if someone like Talib, doesn’t speak up, it suggests he doesn’t care about people, and Rick Ross. On the other hand, Rosa Clemente continues to bash Rick Ross, disregarding Talib’s statement. It’s hard to say, who is correct and incorrect to approach the situation. But I think, both Rosa and Talib have a point of view that is valid. I think the problem is gender. Since Talib is male, it’s apparent he’s going to tell Rick Ross “look man that’s not cool,” yet not be offended. Going back to Rosa, she is a female, so it’s normal for a woman to feel threatened and scared of a lyric about date rape.

More to speak, one’s gender plays a big role on how this is perceived. However, in contrast, in an Open Letter From An Industry Vet, Dee Dee “Hip-Hop Mama” Cocheta, writes to Rick Ross addressing her reaction to his lyric by explaining how she was a rape victim in her early teens. She goes on by saying that it is unacceptable and sorrowful for a person to express such hateful words in a song. In the letter she shares her love and concerns for Rick Ross sympathizing that it is not too late to make an apology, to get his life together, and that he can make a shift in his life to stop the pain and suffering of rape victims around the world. Considering her past traumatic experience, clearly, Dee Dee has approached him with love and understanding, which changes our perception of how we should feel about the controversy.

Admittedly, the more attention this song gets, the more I question myself. Are people putting too much attention on this because there’s so much publicity of it? Or did Rick Ross really cross the line this time? Considering Rick Ross is not the only rapper who has said something disrespectful through music and rap, it’s surprising that people care so much. Misogyny in hip-hop is nothing new, and has been going on ever since.  Many people who are not against the situation feel that hip-hop is a form of artistry, and when fighting against their musical ways of expression, one is not allowing their freedom of speech as an artist. Arguably, I don’t think it’s necessary to use such suggestive themes for no reason. According to KRS-ONE, a rapping veteran, he defines hip-hop a certain way. The definition of “hip” means to know, it is a form of intelligence. While “hop” means a form of movement. He says,

“You can’t just observe a hop. You got to hop up and do it…Hip is the knowledge. Hop is the movement. Hip and Hop is an intelligent movement. Or relevant movement…”

The reason I use this quote is because Rick Ross should be knowledgeable with times of today. He should be aware that rape is very relevant because it affects many people in this day and age. He should know that the chances of offending someone are very likely considering so many women are victims of abuse and rape.

In conclusion, Rick Ross did apologize via twitter for the controversy he caused, using the hashtag “BOSS” at the end of his tweet. However, people did not buy his first apology because the public felt he was not sincere enough. Therefore, he apologized again saying sorry for the misinterpretations he caused. Still, people feel that Rick Ross has some unfinished business to clear up with the public. I believe that Ross is right for apologizing twice, however, there is nothing we can do change the song because it will always be there for the record.

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Bad what? Sorry I misunderstood.

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Lupe Fiasco

“I use to hate Hip-Hop because the women degraded”

That lyric can be found in Lupe Fiasco’s song “Hurt Me Soul” on the album Food & Liquor. Lupe Fiasco has always been the type of person to express exactly how he feels about the world around him through his music and performances. For example, the Barack Obama incident, which was when he was kicked off stage at a concert celebrating President Obama’s re-election for performing his song “Words I Never Said,” which features anti-Obama lyrics, explaining how he didn’t vote for Obama. The irony right? With that being said, we can assume how he feels about mainstream music today. Most of his thoughts can be explained in the songs “B**** Bad” and “Hurt Me Soul,” which explain how vulnerable we are as listeners and viewers to adopt themes that is displayed among mainstream media.

In the song “Bitch Bad” Lupe raps about a young boy hearing his mother call herself a “bad bitch” (a term that may be viewed as positive towards women), which overtime misuses the word as he grows older. In the next part of the song, a small girl watches music videos without discretion of her parents, and imitates being a “bitch” by what she sees in the videos. At last, to end the song, these two children who grew up misinformed, meet each other as adults, and create ultimate misinterpretation and chaos because the term “bitch” was never understood throughout their lifetime. Some would agree that the song “Bitch Bad” foster’s a positive message toward our youth and women to be conscious of what our children hear and see. But Mychal Denzel Smith  disagrees. He believes that the song does empower women, but it demeans them at the same time because Lupe shouts out “I’m killing these b*****s” throughout the song. In fact, what is Lupe implying? Is he saying that he wants to change people who misuse the word? Or is he just using the word inappropriately like every other rapper? In my opinion, Lupe does a right to bring up these sensitive topics to a wider audience because people need to see the harsh truth. It also makes the youth more conscious to think about what is being fed to them. However, he still uses the word in context. Arguably, if one really wants to banish the misunderstandings and uses of something, one must not use it in context when informing your audience.

Either way, why should people care about this song anyways? More to speak, why should anyone care about what Lupe Fiasco says? Well, to start with, as I like to say, “it’s deeper than rap.” Hip Hop/Rap is a culture and has the power to either uplift, bring down, and or influence a community. If you watch the “Bitch Bad” music video, I’m sure people would agree that the young minds of children are influenced very easily and that the people in the video very easily reflects real life today. More so, as a frequent hip-hop listener, it’s about time that these themes are challenged. I believe Lupe Fiasco, does a great job with the song, disregarding what Smith’s article says.