Twerk, Miley Cyrus, twerk: Rap’s tired infatuation with white girls
OPINION - As mainstream rap music and white women fade color lines with mutual exploitation, who is really winning?...
In 1992, Sir Mix-A-Lot released his ode to the well-endowed backside titled “Baby Got Back.”
The video zones in on a pair of white women, who are openly disgusted by the size of a black woman’s derriere.
Somewhere in between that moment and right now, mainstream rap has switched its focus on white women from mockery to manipulation. It’s a cultural shift; one that has more detrimental effects than anyone cares to admit.
But as rap music and white women fade color lines with mutual exploitation, who is really winning?
“White girl” and it’s original meaning
“White girl” is a more recent euphemism for cocaine. Before rap shifted its tax bracket, cocaine was the primary means of income for many rappers, especially those who spearheaded the Coke Rap movement. There’s idolatry present in calling your moneymaker “white girl.”
In 2006, Gym Class Heroes released the track “Viva La White Girl” showing admiration for both the women and the drug in the form of a double entendre.
More recently, MDMA, rap’s latest drug of choice has been christened as “Molly,” a historically Caucasian name. It’s no coincidence that rappers connect these drugs with white women, and the events that followed since then have proven the change in tides for white women in the eyes of rappers.
Their participation in hip-hop, however, is compartmentalized. White female singer/songwriters like Dido, Skylar Grey, Lana Del Rey, and even to an extent Katy Perry have been placed upon a pedestal by rappers, collaborating with these women to either advance in the mainstream or gain their “intellectually interesting” card.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, deeply rooted in wishing for acceptance from either side. It turns toxic when there is one-sided artistry happening or no artistry at all, along with the sexual innuendo of fetish on behalf of either party.
Miley is more of the same
In April, Disney pop alum Miley Cyrus released a video of herself in a unicorn costume doing the suggestive hip-hop dance known as twerking.
The initial “that white girl can dance” was chased with months of melanin-deficient copycats creating their own twerking videos (producer Diplo even held a contest) until Miley surfaced again in June to twerk on stage to rapper Juicy J’s “Reaction.”
Now, the Golden Girls-esque reality TV show Golden Sisters is releasing videos with senior citizen cast members twerking, and Access Hollywood is referring to it as “the latest dance craze.” Miley is dancing no differently than 2 Live Crew’s dancers did in 1990, when Banned In the USA had Tipper Gore on proverbial suicide watch. The face has paled so the pass has been given. Are white girls the gateway drug to eliminating censorship? No. They just presently set the tone for all of black culture. That’s all.
Cyrus has since evolved into a “sensation” like PSY or 50 Tyson or Keenan Cahill or William Hung any other individual who has been given the thumbs up embedded in mockery. But who’s mocking who here? Are we to believe that a country girl like Miley Cyrus has always been an advocate of Black music or even Black people for that matter, before name-checking Jay-Z on her 2009 pop hit “Party In the USA”? Will her sudden merging into black acceptance allow her start affectionately using the n-word?
If Kreayshawn, V-Nasty, or any other White Girl Mob member raised in a predominantly black neighborhood isn’t allowed to, then Miley sure as hell isn’t. But that’s merely an assumption – of equal size as assuming Miley legitimately cares about the culture into which she’s now been inducted. She’s committing the same crimes that Elvis Presley and Pat Boone committed, but the offender is now a cute little blond girl, so it matters less, right?
Will the craze end?
The reality is that Miley Cyrus could have been white girl number-one nudging her friend Becky in disdain at the size of a black woman’s behind in Sir Mix-A-Lot’s video.
Instead of beating them though, she chose to join them, and in recent situations surpass them. Miley is one of many though, who have been given access to the rap music audience due to an inexplicable infatuation. It’s one where in the end, no one wins.
Whether its street cred or album sales, something will ultimately get sacrificed while Miley is still twerkin’.
Kathy Iandoli is a music journalist and cultural critic based in the New York metropolitan area. She has written for Rolling Stone, Village Voice, Billboard, VICE, MSN, and many others. Kathy is white, but has never (and will never) twerk.