Lynne d Johnson



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03.19.04 10:31 PM

"Black females are valued by no one."

Isn't that a very powerful quote? It's a quote from the authors of a recent study about African-American youth and sexuality. Thulani Davis penned an article in this week's Village Voice that discusses the study, and focuses on the notion that since the hip-hop generation came about (those born 1965 - 1980 would be considered the first hip-hop generation) there has been a dearth of feminist voices.

Those interviewed for the study were aged 16-20, and the following 15 identifications are what they came up with to describe women: block bender, woo-wop, flip-flop, skeezer, 'hood rat, 'ho, trick, freak, bitch, gold digger, hoochie mama, runner, flipper, shorty, and wifey. Some young women also used these terms to describe their own gender.

Hip-hop music and culture, are more and more, being expressed as the culprit contributing to the disrespect of women. For instance, more openly female-on-female sexual relationships were evaluated, with (scholars) attributing the rise in these types of relationships to mistreatment by men. Another factor, experts claim, is that many women don't feel self-identified with pop culture's standards of beauty (a la Beyoncé) - 'cuz we know all straight men, shoot some gay men too, want themselves a Beyoncé. And though some of the mentioned issues might play keen contributors to the rise of homosexuality amongst young women, it is also highly likely that women not only feel safer with women, they could very well (oh my) actually be attracted to the same sex, and in being exposed to it more they in turn feel more comfortable to be themselves.

[Don't dwell on that, because it's not really the singular thread of this entry.]

Of course what was most disparaging about the article and the study, is that black teens are engaging in more-and-more risky sexual behavior and are contracting HIV/AIDS at alarming rates. Factor in that we're talking about young'ins on the lower end of the economic scale here.

While I was reading this Thulani Davis article, I thought about a post I was going to put up a couple of weeks ago. One Sunday, while reading The New York Times, I came across an article that talked about hip-hop artists joining the ranks of the adult entertainment industry. I didn't really read much beyond Lil Jon and the Ying Yang Twins and 50 Cent's foray into the porn industry. I believe the reason I never finished it was because I kept getting stuck on the fact that after the Grammys, Lil Jon was running upstairs to film some girl-on-girl action for his adult film series. Not so shocking of course, if you've seen Nelly and the St. Lunatics video for the "E.I. (Remix)" also known as "Tip Drill." Petey Pablo's "Freak-A-Leek" video pales in comparison, though it does have some moments where one would question how in the world it got past the censors. Hip-hop videos, often border the boundaries between soft and harcore porn, and if you've got a public access cable station in your hood, or watch BET uncut, trust you've seen what I'm talking about. Women never appear in a positive light, but the truth is these women agree to appear this way.

Back in 2001, an artist who exhibited in One Planet Under a Groove: Hip Hop and Contemporary Art at the Bronx Museum of the Arts, juxtaposed images from adult entertainment and hip-hop music videos. I'd be damned if you could tell them apart. Women are to blame, just as much as men here.

For one, there is no strong female voice in rap music today. I mean the Queen, not the Bee, but the La, hailed once, but will an era like that ever have its chance to shine again? Shoot, even the first hip-hop act to really have some serious sales, Salt-N-Pepa, topped charts with hits that sang of "pushing it real good." Doesn't that kind of remind you of Ghostface & Missy's new song, "Push?"

Sorry, I'm digressing here.

At one time, when the whole black power and native tongue movement of hip-hop was the ruler, there were females with messages in their music. But what was interesting is that as time passed, women had to be as hard and as aggressive as men - remember Yo-Yo in her baggy jeans? Lyte, Rage, and a slew of female rappers went the boy/girl route for awhile. Then when Foxy and Kim hit, everything became sexualized (we watched Salt-N-Pepa go through this type of transition during their time of making records).

Whose the hottest female rapper today? It's probably, that's right you guessed it, Missy. And didn't she lose a "few pounds in her waist fo' ya?" C'mon, you gotta' see where I'm going with this. And I'm one who once wrote of Lil' Kim representing freedom of sexual expression for women. But when does enough become too far?

Hasn't bell hooks and others in the cult crit circle spoken again and again about hip-hop's misogynistic stance? Somehow those messages fall on deaf ear. As Todd Boyd pointed out in The New HNIC, hip-hop has somehow replaced the civil rights movement. And what is its message?

I'll give you an example. An animated film that Sony was going to bring to a theatre near you in either the 0-3 or the 0-4, entitled Lil' Pimp, about a white, freckled, 9-year-old pimp who struts his ho's around the 'hood is said to feature the voices of various hip-hop artists, including Ludacris and Lil' Kim. Sony has since pulled the movie back either for straight to DVD, or on demand release. You can actually check it out at

All of these things are brutally connected. And trust, I'm no hip-hop hater, but as Ta-Nehisi Coates pointed out in The Village Voice back in its June 4-10 2003 edition, many of hip-hop's artists tend to keep it unreal and overblow ghetto stereotypes. Coincidentally, these stereotypes are what "our" youth are hailing as their own version of the Bible, and it is manifesting itself in the most ugliest of ways in their lives, every day.

Again, I'm not a hip-hop hater, there are other factions of hip-hop (though they don't rise to mass cult status), and I still have hope for the music and culture as a whole. Also as I've written here several times over, parents need to be responsible for their children, not hip-hop. But if in fact, today's youth are the descendants of hip-hop's first generation, then what does it say about how the first wave of hip-hop influenced lives just like mine?

posted by lynne | |


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