Tuesday, July 01, 2008

A Response to BET's Hip Hop vs. America


Last week, Tracey Rose sent me the above video.
As I watched Hip Hop vs. America the video weighed
on my mind.

For example, in the clip titled TI and Nelly Speak Nelly continued to
talk about TipDrillGate.

The general sentiment of the women at Spelman
was that they wanted to host his bone marrow drive,
(his sister died of a bone marrow related disease) but that they
also wanted him to speak on the images in the TipDrill video.

Spelman's attitude towards Nelly was "We care about your sister,
but we care about our sisters too".

Dr.William Jelani Cobb
gets into the nuances of TipDrillGate
when he writes,

The flyers posted in Cosby Hall said it all: "We Care About Your Sister, But You Have To Care About Ours, Too." The slogan explained the position of the student-activists at Spelman College whose protests over Nelly's "Tip Drill" video led the artist to cancel his scheduled appearance for a bone marrow drive on the campus earlier this month. But in a real sense, their point went beyond any single rapper or any single video and went to the center of a longstanding conflict in the heart of the black community. But rarely do we hear the point that these students were bringing home: that this single video is part of a centuries-long debasement of black women's bodies. And the sad truth is that hip hop artists' verbal and visual renderings of black women are now virtually indistinguishable from those of 19th century white slave owners.

Nelly seems to want us to believe that the actions of his
non profit render us silent on a critique of the video.

Record scratch.

I have spoken here before on my view non-profit programs.
The general notion
is that they tend to have more to do with
serving the interests of those
who created them, than those who
they claim to serve.

However, Nelly does have a point about the positive contributions
of Black men in general and his contributions specifically
being unrecognized.

Perhaps it would behoove us to recognize the positive, tangible,
contributions that both the famous and the every day folks make.

Back to the segment. What was really telling about this clip
and about us as a people is the cheering of Nelly as he
expressed his anger towards Farai.

While watching this I thought, why was she the only person on
stage representing the interest of thinking about analyzing
how these images impact all of us?

Why did Master P get so defensive towards her as well? As if
she is responsible for him having to hustle.

That they were allowed to yell on stage indicated that
Toure was doing a poor job of moderating.

Then came the next segment titled, and Toure redeemed himself.

Nelly was mentioning how his daughter made recently honor roll,
that parents come up to him complaining about how
Hip Hop is "messing their kids up in school".

Nelly then states, "My daughter doesn't watch Tip Drill".

That, is what we call the rub.

Toure then, interjects and asks, "How can you make Tip Drill
but your daughter can't watch it?" Nelly's response?
"Tip Drill came on at 3am on a program labeled for adult audiences


This is odd. Rappers are artists and artists know that you can't
control product distribution. RIAA anyone? Once it is out it is
on the internet, on DVD's, youtube, its viral.

You can no longer control information.

Nelly appears to be lightweight enraged at the gall of us. At our
audacity about caring about how we are displayed in "Tip Drill".

Which brings me to the street.

Yesterday I saw a young man, maybe 16, with a t-shirt which
said "Bad Girls Suck, Good Girls Swallow".
His willingness to
wear the t-shirt is indicative of someone
who may potentially
lack respect for the sex and sexuality of another being.

If that statement is on his shirt and he is willing to wear it,
I could only imagine what was going on in his head.

Perhaps it is more important to me is that the message being
sent to all of the younger boys and girls that see him in the
street wearing it.

Which bring me to the street.

When the woman at the beginning of the video said, Dudes getting
at her on the street was normal, "everyday like breakfast".

I wondered how the rap panel would respond if I asked them,
"How do you think your videos contribute to how men treat
us on the street?"

Why do Black men speak to women the way they do on the street?

Why is there a presumption of access to us, our bodies?

Why is their a refusal to see that rap videos normalize the notion
of access?


jpollard said...

Damn this video made me feel like shit. I'm guilty of doing that non-verbal presence shit on the street sometimes. Powerful testimony from all the sisters in the video and proof of how we are destroying one another.

Sportaphile said...

Although rappers do hold some responsibility for the images they put out there, **Everything** starts with parenting.

I don't care what kind of material is available in the world, if a child is properly raised the chances of him/her fucking up are dramatically reduced (not eliminated).

For every 1 time you point the finger at what some rapper says, you should point 50 fingers at the broken and dysfunctional homes we come from and try to fix **THAT** instead.

I seriously laugh when anyone talks about a child watching tip drill. If your kid is up at 3am watching booty videos, something is wrong with YOU.. not Nelly. If you arent monitoring your kids internet usage something is wrong with YOU, not Nelly.

The crack era is more responsible for how black men live right now than any rapper ever will be.

M.Dot. said...

Wooooorrrrd. I got jase to speak.

Aye blood. I been really thinking.
The only way we are going to get some traction w/ HIP HOP/ young bucks is to get the young bucks in front of the camera, hopefully, with some emcees kids.

What do you think? Sounds like a thesis, no? Would you be able to help?

M.Dot. said...


Although rappers do hold some responsibility for the images they put out there, **Everything** starts with parenting.
Let me ask you this.
When shit is fucked up with your life, do you start trying to fix it blaming what "should be" or do you start with where you are and take it from there?

Crack came and took my fucking parents. It took my father, and my mother started drinking like there was no tomorrow. I was saved by the grace of god, prep schools and teachers that gave a fuck.

I am the anomaly.

There are thousands like me
who didn't have a prep school or a teacher that gave a fuck.

Girls that came up with me are on that shit or rehab.Dudes are in San Quentin or in the ground. Its not a game.

If you say blame the parents, then
you are acting just as indifferent as George Bush to the fate of Black children (and all poor children) whose parents who, for one reason or another, cannot raise them properly.

Where is the humanity in that?

Black people are notorious for taking care of one anothers kids.
Where is THAT spirit?

The words that rappers say matter.

The same way that the words that I say to you matter.

The same way that the words that you say to me matter.

The same way whether or not your girl/momma/daddy tells you they love you matters.

Did you see the little girl in the
video last week call the Black Doll ugly then CHOOSE the black doll as
the one SHE looked like. This ain't a game.

Is your interest in serving the kids, or absolving yourself and emcees of responsibility?

corto said...

@ The words that rappers say matter.

Not only do the words that rappers say matter, but the images in the videos create a longstanding impact on viewers!

The video culture that is now ruling our society has created an insane 'parent' like fixation on young adults. Without intervention these children believe this imagery to be TRUTH. Of course parents are necessary. Nelly doesnt let his daughter watch TIP DRILL because he realizes it implications. But, what about the rest of kids out here whose parents are uninvolved or even worse, watching the videos with their kids idolizing NELLY and his actions?

The fact that parents are refusing to parent kills me.
But the fact that these images are allowed to be predominant is worse.

People always say..."But our parents hated our music and videos too!" SMH... yeah, but this foolishness has to have a stopping point right? My son is 9. Will naked girls be allowed in videos during prime-time for his seeds? Is that the next logical progression?

We must reclaim a sense of pride and self-worth within our culture, and if it is to have any impact, it must be witnessed in music videos.

What ever happened to respect, education, character and pride?
Now-a-days these kids respect the game, get a street education, act like a character and have pride in material possesions. F-that.

That is exactly why we don't have cable in my house.

The Socialite said...

Although I agree that everything can be linked back to the home and parenting, I think that there are some other issues that need to be addressed first. What is happening is that the reason that we lack good parents in the home is because of the media and what some of the rappers put out there.

What happens is that children watch television and take in the images and the messages that they see, thus becoming the reason why girls and guys are having sex younger and younger each day, and other major issues are occuring. As a result, you have children having children. Therefore proper parenting will not happen. They are too young to teach some of the morals and values we learn as we continue to get older.

Thus the cycle continues. What really needs to happen is that we need to go back to the idea that it takes a village to raise a child.

If everyone in the African American community takes responsibility for their actions, we might be able to save our Youth. That includes parents, teachers, rappers, and anyone else.

What we have to understand is that children learn things not only from the home, but from their envrionment. Peer Pressure is a B*****

corto said...

@ What we have to understand is that children learn things not only from the home, but from their envrionment.

That is so true! And that is why these videos and the language in them is paramount. Without some sort of positive interaction, what type of youth are we raising? What type of culture are we creating?

I wish parental guidance was enough to counteract these images, however it is not. The plight at hand is severe that I am often clueless as to my path, however so long as I step forward...

Sportaphile said...

I'm not gonna shit on anybody elses opinion, because I respect what yall have to say.


I just can't wrap my head around the fact that you guys dont want to attack this problem from the GROUND UP. Without a strong foundation, no building can stand. That foundation is the childs HOME. Their Parents. Their FAMILY. thats where everything begins.

It's like we're making skyscrapers with faulty material and no structural integrity. We can't stand up if we're ankle deep in quicksand.

Let's work on the foundation before we start blaming ANYTHING else in the elements thats bringing us down.

I was raised poor, I only had one parent, i went to public schools, I saw people shot right in front of my house before I even hit puberty. But my mama raised me right...

No amount of bullshit hip hop and booty videos is gonna change what she did for me...

Penni Brown said...

@We can't stand up if we're ankle deep in quicksand.

If you're ankle deep in quicksand, the last thing you're going to be thinking about is building a structure to avoid quicksand traps. Your going to be screaming, 'THROW ME A DAYUM ROPE!'

Vee (Scratch) said...

M.Dot, a great number of posts that truly serves as a reminder and eye-opener.

^Sportaphile, while I understand your argument about parenting, what do you say about the young children who grow up without parents or very little supervision from their parent(s). I'm witnessing those children become parents themselves and it is not pretty.

Raising your children correctly still does not address the sexism in our society nor does it address the disturbing images and thoughts advocated by hip hop music and videos. Nelly's argument falls flat in the face of the slogan "We Care About Your Sister, But You Have To Care About Ours, Too."

I just simply think the argument of "everything starts with the parent" falls short in the face of a community. A family is a unit of a community. It truly does take a village to raise a child.

M.Dot, I'm going to check your blog out often. Your posts are needed.

RPoeta said...

Thank you for this essay and sharing this wonderful video.

Black men harass Black women in the street because they have learned to objectify us the same way whites do. I can recall many situations where I had to make a decision whether I was going to respond to the verbal assaults or bite my tongue because I did not want the verbal attacks to lead to physical ones. Young Black women experience this and it becomes so normalized that we just learn to avoid it try to react nonviolently. Its messed up!!! Black women's bodies continue to be objectified and dehumanized. I can relate to the sister in the video (withthe beautiful 'fro) who mentioned that she would wear big clothes in hopes of avoiding the street harassment. I did the same thing in the early 90s growing up in the Bronx but they didnt stop. Most recently in Philly, my sis and I were walking down Center City when two dudes riding by were tryingto get my attention..so i tried to play it safe by ignoring him when he spit at me. Yes, he did. I was so angry I tried to catch up to him but it was too late. Spit right on my coat. I was vexed.

I believe those rap videos normalize the objectification of our bodies but they are also teaching Black men how to be "real" men and that is to treat Black women like ish..

Model Minority said...

so i tried to play it safe by ignoring him when he spit at me. Yes, he did. I was so angry I tried to catch up to him but it was too late. Spit right on my coat. I was vexed.

Say word. Thank you for being open and honest enough to share.

Part of me wants to believe that this didn't happen to you.

Thats some foul shit dude.

But at the same time, this and more happens to us all of the time.

B, I am sorry that that it went down like that. Ironically, reading it, I felt my violence reflex flare up. It's bananas.

See. Thats why I need both Baldwin Martin & Jesus, because those, I wish I had a gat moments are more trill than I want to admit.

neo said...

Why do Black men speak to women the way they do on the street?

--Lots of reasons why. I'll give mine:

a. Lack of home training
b. Lack of positive male role models who treat their women with dignity and respect
c. Lack of positive female role models who teach them how not to treat a woman. I mean I'll never forget the day my mom dang near embarassed me for not opening the door for her when she worked as an industrial nurse. Had me going back through the door to open it for her. I'm thankful for that experience.

Why is there a presumption of access to us, our bodies?

a. Video
b. Music
c. Film
d. Patriarchy as a result of the above
e. books
f. Other ppl

Why is their a refusal to see that rap videos normalize the notion
of access?

a. hypocrisy
b. capitalism
c. video vixen interviews..lol
d. other women - I mean to be honest it still bugs me out when I see women jumping up and down for the most mysoginistic nonsense that even though is catchy as all heck is downright degrading, lyric for lyric, hook for hook, rhyme for rhyme.

Model Minority said...


J~Dick said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

I am so glad to have come across this site. You have no idea how hard it is to find women of color who integrate theory with practice and who are actually addressing the issue of street harassment. Have you by any chance read Cynthia Grant Bowman's article: "Street Harassment and the Informal Ghettoization of Women"? It speaks to the issue at hand. And coincidentally yesterday I blogged about street harassment and I'll share a piece of that I think is relevant to your questions at the end
"Street harassmentis against the law. It is a violation of personal space, essentially, one’s privacy. Unfortunately many judiciaries (male) do not prosecute accused defendants on these charges simply because such incidents are too frequent for a justice system to handle them efficiently. This is the result of society’s general acceptance of street harassment. Many people view or rather argue that when a man approaches a woman and and says sexually suggestive things or talks to her about her attractiveness she should take it as a compliment. But in actuality, it is not about complimenting one on their beauty. It is about power and control. Street Harassment detracts from women’s freedom. According to Bowman, when women are constantly harassed in public they hear the implicit (and sometimes explicit) message that women do not belong in public, where they draw more attention by their mere appearance, but rather in the private sphere, at home. She goes on to further argue that analysts have concluded that the intent of street harassers is to remind women of their gender identity in order to keep them in their private spaces and reinforce gender hierarchy. She concludes that street harassment has serious consequences for women and society. It psychologically disempowers women, which creates distrust between men and women, while reinforcing rigid gender roles, hierarchy, and the confinement of women to the private sphere."

More women of color need to get together nationwide and coalition against street harassment because there is more power in numbers. holler. by the way my blog is here at wordpress

neo said...

What up blood-ette?

Golden Silence said...

I am glad I came across this. I deal with street harassment frequently from men of all races, but I get it the most virulently from Black men. I feel they try to attack me where it hurts as opposed to non-Black harassers. They beep their horns at me obnoxiously, tail me in their cars as I'm trying to walk home, call me stupid made-up names (like "Shorty" and "Boo"), and don't let me reject them, because then I become a "f***ing bitch." I've been threatened with violence by these guys who don't take no for an answer, and I'm sick and damn tired of it. I even had one guy tell me "Cut off yo' dreads!" because I told him I wasn't interested in him. Why did he need to go there?

Man! I went to a donut shop today to get treats for my martial arts classmates, and this one Negro working there wouldn't stop going on about how beautiful I was. I was not flattered, I was embarrassed. I told him "Stop hitting on me and do your job!" and it turned into him saying "Bitch, I'mma f*** you up!" He apparently didn't care about his minimum wage job to act appropriately. I reported him and his crew (who yelled at me from across the street 15 minutes after the first incident) to corporate.

There are too many angry, misogynistic Black men out there, from the guys I deal with frequently on the streets, to the angry Black men bloggers and YouTubers. There is so much hatred festering in them towards Black women, it's no wonder why more of us our choosing to date outside our race.

I tell you all, I am just sick of the abuse---that's what it is, abuse. I am sick of being threatened and called out of my name simply for not wanting to deal with a shiftless, ignorant, uncouth Negro. They've got a lot of issues, and they're taking them out on the wrong people. They need to find a better way of channeling their issues.

Model Minority said...

@ JDick,

I just came across Cynthia's piece and I am, AT THIS VERY MOMENT, trying to figure out how to work street harassment into an essay on Hip Hop and feminism. I am glad you stopped by. Keep coming back.

@ Golden Silence
Thank you for your testimony. I think...I am going to do a street harassment chart..e-mail me m. dotwrites (@) gmail.com.

I may want to interview you for a piece that I am working on.

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