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.
Hip-hop “brainwashed” by infatuation with white women
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.
Kanye West, whose music I happen to love dearly, has had a longtime obsession with the white aesthetic. His music tells the story better than I could. Visually, it has played out in his videos for songs like “Runaway” and “Monster.” Why did all the ballerinas in “Runaway” have to be white? In “Monster” we see the decapitated heads of white women hanging from ropes and rocking gold teeth. Most telling of his white girl fantasies was his cover art to MBDTF. But Kanye is far from alone in this line of thinking.
“My new young chick look exactly like Rihanna/A** like Nicki, but she yellow like Madonna.” – Meek Mill