Courtesy of The Grio
By the time I was 11 years old my next-door neighbor, who was a few years older than me, had given me Nas’ 1996 It Was Written album. Knowing that the explicit content would send my mom in a fury if she found it, I insisted she keep it, but she refused to take it back. Frightened, I sneaked it into our two bedroom apartment to add to the rest of my mostly R&B music collection. When I eventually popped it in to my CD player, I was in awe. It was that moment I fell in love with Nas’ music — and more in love with hip-hop. That was 16 years ago.
For so many in my generation, hip-hop has served as the backdrop to our childhoods. Its appeal was not only the heart-pounding thump of the beats, or the coolness of the women and men rapping. Finally it seemed like someone was telling our story. Rap music spoke our language in a way nothing else did. It was the true essence of giving the voiceless a voice.
Since then, feminism has changed my relationship with my beloved hip-hop. As much as I love it, I hate how it treats women. Hip-hop and black women have an abusive relationship in a sense. Its lyrics advocate violence and sexual assault against women; and it often reduces us to gold-digging “hoes” unworthy of respect.
As I plow through Tom Burrell’s book, Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority, I think about how the black inferiority complex (BIC) plays out in pop culture and music, particularly rap.
One of the things that has become more prevalent in hip-hop is the adoration of white women, juxtaposed with its seeming hatred of black women in rap lyrics. Historically, white women had been off-limits for centuries — black men were literally lynched; killed for allegedly whistling at white women. Therefore, snagging a white woman was the ultimate slap in the oppressors’ face — a “look, I’ve made it and I have one of your women!” statement of sorts. Now, instead of rappers, en masse, toting white women on their arms, they parade them on wax.