Thursday, March 3, 2011

Sorry to Interrupt Your Flow...

I saw this video linked on Jezebel (what else is new?) And thought that it was 1.) adorable and 2.) really great! I mean, at 5, 9, and 10 years old, they are no Lauryn Hill (one of their idols), but I admire their message and agency in producing this video.

As they explain on youtube:
"Letter to Lil Wayne" is a direct statement of justice from Watoto From The Nile. Growing tired and fed up with the constant degredation of Black women inside of Hip Hop music, they voice thier views and opinions on this melodic track.
I like rap. I have for awhile, and sort of inevitably... I run into music that doesn't exactly jive with my politics. And like a lot of rap fans, sometimes I ignore it. Feminist-friendly rap is in short supply, and the lyrical quality of some songs with em... questionable "moral" quality (that doesn't sound right, but it's been midterms week and I'm too tired) is still sometimes amazing.

But I also want to point out that while rap has a bad reputation as far as women-friendly music goes, other styles of music are not so welcoming to the ladies either. Jazz is known as a boys' club (so much so that it is theorized that famed musician Billy Tipton--who upon his death was discovered to be a biological female--began playing as a male to gain access to the scene), rock is pretty heavily male-dominated (uhhhh, hello? Groupies? Where are the groupies' fighting words for the way they're treated by rock stars?! Groupies fight back! Groupies fight back!), and there's even huge inequality as far as gender portrayals go in genres like pop and R&B where women have been able to have some great success--but male artists in both genres are often stereotyped as more serious musicians.

Rap music is famously androcentric and misogynistic, and there are many, many songs that there is no argument about how badly they portray women--HOWEVER, I think there is a huge racial component to this stereotype. Black men--since antebellum days have been stigmatized (unjustly) as the "black rapist" and been portrayed as these evil, sexist, snatch-up-your-white-ladies people. And so when the misogyny in rap is pointed out people readily agree, and ignore the fact that sexism exists in all genres of music. (Just look at "Under my Thumb" by the Rolling Stones. Uhh... hello!? That's a terribly misogynistic song that really goes unexamined.)

I don't want this to turn into a rant against all male artists... I mean, I would say that a little over half of the music on my iTunes is male artists and bands, I definitely listen to male artists and like them (currently I am wearing a Dropkick Murphys t-shirt), even those that have questionable attitudes towards women, but I just want to make sure that there isn't this demonizing attitude toward rap that I think is a very racially charged issue. Sexism shows up in a lot of places, so we shouldn't be focusing all our energy on critiquing one thing and not another.

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