illest ever

A Woman Defending Rap Music (Part One)

For as long as I can remember, I’ve always been a fan of rap music. It’s been my favorite genre since I was a small child. The very essence of my being is attached to this love I have for Hip Hop. Every morning I wake up, I say Good Morning Hip Hop. My favorite rapper, Killer Mike, admitted to a sold out crowd that it was one of his favorite things about following me on Twitter. I try my best to study the entire culture. I love graffiti, I always respect the DJ, and the dancers have just been some of the illest performers I’ve ever witnessed. It’s not every day that a lot of people get into heated debates and discussions about what era was better or who deserves the props. People don’t sit around and discuss the best producers in their spare time. They don’t have a list of favorite DJs. They barely even read liner notes. All of these things, I’ve done since I was still losing teeth. As a nearly 28 year old Black woman, these are still some of my favorite things.

Knowing how much I love Hip Hop as a culture, it’s no secret that I own books, movies, magazines and just spend as much time as humanly possible thinking about it. The music I’ve been fortunate enough to purchase and witness live is my favorite thing of all. A few years ago I started attending rap concerts. This is the thing that changed my life forever. Doing this allowed me to participate more fully in something that I’ve already dedicated so much of my life to. Even my screen saver is dedicated to my love of rap music (and Prince). Rap music has fascinated me for almost 30 years. I even started rapping at a young age as a result. Since around 4 and 5 years old, I’ve been reciting rap lyrics. The very first album I learned was Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. My parents introduced me to it. Like most things, I first came into contact with them at home. So it shouldn’t be a shocker here that I learned quite a few things that weren’t exactly suitable for children to know in the process. I say they were not suitable for a child, but I am forever grateful to my parents for not robbing me of the chance to learn these things mostly under their supervision.

As a kid, I spent so much time studying my mom and how she set up her stereo. Nothing was better than spending the weekend seeing my mom go from Teena Marie and L.T.D. to Snoop Dogg and Tupac. Yeah, my Momma picked out the music. I loved watching my mom dub tapes, or record new songs off the radio. My mom had the antenna going all the way up the wall and speaker wire everywhere. For the longest time, the stereo was the nicest, most well maintained thing in our apartment. Daddy knew the best gift to give Momma, besides jewelry, was a good stereo. Back then she had a Fisher entertainment system. I could never mess with it, but I would always want to. Her music was her music, but it quickly became the soundtrack to my life. Many Friday afternoons, I would come from school and Mommy would be cleaning and cooking. Keith Sweat’s Make It Last Forever album was how she set her equalizer. She always told me that was the perfect album for the task. I realize now that I spent a lot of time shadowing my mom, and I never fully understood why, back then. Now that she’s passed, I get it. She was larger than life for much of my entire life. God rest her soul.

It’s important that I tell you guys the backstory to my love of rap music. I remember reading about the Quad Studios shooting of 2Pac in the Washington Post. I’ve always lived in Prince George’s County, Maryland. That story shook me, because I was a big 2Pac fan. My childhood consisted of cartoons, listening to my parents’ music and music videos. 2Pac was the man around my house. My dad used to collect issues of The Source inside and old school desk. Don’t know where the hell that desk came from, but I remember it being in our apartment. On my favorite road trip of all time, the summer of 1996, we played All Eyez On Me all the way down I-95. To this day it’s still my favorite 2Pac album, even though Me Against The World is his best work. I just love being able to associate that memory with the music. How bittersweet it was to return from that trip and have to watch 2Pac get shot and ultimately die. I cried so much when I learned that 2Pac was dead. It hurt me immeasurably, at 8 years old. My mom couldn’t understand why I was crying, but for some reason, I couldn’t stop. That’s how I knew it was bigger than anything I would ever come to like or know in my life.

Let’s take time to pay attention to the names I’ve mentioned. The only woman, other than me and my Momma, is Teena Marie. Do women exist in rap music by the time I’ve become a fan? Absolutely. Am I a fan of women in rap music at this time? Hell yes. I love MC Lyte. I love Queen Latifah. “Ladies First” is my jam. Salt N Pepa are the bomb, I remember rapping along to Nonchalant on the radio. “5 O’Clock” was all over The Box, man. My Mom even had a copy of Bo$$’s only studio album. Missy hadn’t quite taken off on her own, but she was getting work behind the scenes. While it wasn’t the rap game, but she did rap, Left Eye was easily one of my favorites. Of course there were names like Lauryn (still in the Fugees), Da Brat released her platinum, with the assistance of Jermaine Dupri. Lil Kim was emerging as was Foxy Brown. There were so many more, though. Ms. Melody and Yo-Yo, Monie Love, Lady of Rage (who I love so much) and so many others. I’d heard of all of them, but I still had my clear favorites. So there are women in rap. At this point in time, I’m only really paying attention to Queen, Lyte, Left Eye and Rage, though. They just had the lyrics and images that I liked more than everyone else.

You don’t know how much I’ve always hated talking about image in rap music, because I believe the music matters the most. However, being a young girl who loved rap music, and coming up in the era of the music video, you saw a lot of different images, and a lot of the same ones on display. Many of the rappers I liked were the rappers nearly everybody liked. You liked 2Pac, Snoop, Ice Cube, LL Cool J and other alpha male types. These were the guys whose music I heard a lot of. Unfortunately, more often than not, they appeared to have a very specific idea of women in their music. Women decorated the videos and weren’t much else outside of sexual conquests or objects in the music. I say this at 27, because I know more about what the words mean now. Back then I was just learning the lines so I could perform along with the music. Did I know which ones where considered bad or offensive? Yes, because you got popped if Momma heard you using them, lol. In all seriousness, though, I’d heard those words in several places outside of rap music as well. Were they words that I used to describe myself? At the time, no. I had no real preference for any of these words except gangsta. I knew I wanted to be a gangsta because Scarface said it felt good to be one. There wasn’t a record going around saying “damn it feels good to be a hoe”.

For every song I really loved, there wasn’t a lot of anything directed to women, outside of sexual preference or sexual instructions. Which at the age I was listening to it, meant absolutely nothing to me because I wasn’t having sex, and wasn’t going to be for a minute. What would I have taken offense to at that point? I was a kid, and even when I entered my teens, I still didn’t feel like these records were written with me in mind. I accepted this as something that didn’t apply to me, mostly because I believed it didn’t. Call me crazy, but I didn’t think I had anything in common with the women in the music videos, because their particular style didn’t suit me. Back then it was spandex, short skirts and low cut tops. I’m still not into that look, to be honest. Hell, I just bought my first pair of cargo shorts last month. (If at all possible, I try to always be wearing pants, usually jeans and if not that, dress pants will do.) I formed no negative opinion about the women just for wearing tight clothes, but I saw that the rappers got to wear baggy jeans, sweatshirts, jerseys and hats, which seemed more like what I wanted to wear in the first place. Not until TLC popped up did that become a good look for women in music. So I just picked the cooler outfits.

What wasn’t cool was the fact that as I matured, I heard people tearing down my favorite genre. How I managed to ignore it during the 90s, I don’t really know. I knew Tipper Gore had her issues, C. Delores Tucker, Bob Dole and a bunch of other people didn’t like the messages in rap music, but I rode with the rappers. Did that mean there was nothing wrong? No. But I sided with the people who were anti-censorship, especially bullshit censorship. Claiming it incited violence and demeaned Black women, specifically, hit me differently than it should have. I didn’t think rap music was any more violent than the biggest action films out at the time. And I didn’t fully recognize how Black women were the only women who were being disrespected in the music. In fact, I still don’t. Because for as much music as I’ve bought, I’ve not heard bitch or hoe specified as any Black woman or modified to make certain to exclude white women or Asian women or Latina women. I don’t recall white women protesting hard rock artists. They didn’t feel that all of the white women glorified in rock music were whores or tramps. Yet rap got the bad rap for things that other genres were spared. I think it’s been carried in a manner that depends on Black women to be the most outraged by it, in order drive it out. But the problem there is that there are also Black women in the rap game. During the earlier extremely problematic era, rap music had groups like Oaktown’s 357 and Hoez With Attitude on the scene, who were the supposed women versions of their male contemporaries.

Hip Hop culture is absolutely nothing without Black women. We were at the park jams. We were dancing, we were writing and tagging buildings and trains, we were DJing and we were rapping. Rap music is problematic as fuck. The industry is some bullshit. It’s unwelcoming and designed to make people rich, who don’t give a damn about this culture or this art form. The fact remains, rap music needs Black women. It wouldn’t have the trends or the success or the appeal without us. Many men relied on the fact that women danced to their music or bought their albums or came to the shows. It’s not like these guys wanted only men to buy their music. If the objective was to get rich, why not try to profit from the largest possible audience? It makes no sense to refuse good money. However, in treating this like a consumer/business relationship, it requires that we take customer complaints seriously, and work to improve the product. That I know hasn’t always happened, but it cannot be said that rap music has always been toxic and detrimental to women. Despite the misogyny and the under to complete misrepresentation of women, there have been great achievements in recording excellence, by many of music’s more problematic people. In the next part I aim to discuss how as much as I’ve loved it, by no means has it been an easy line to walk.

Peace, Hip Hop & Purple Rain

caedesdeo  asked:

I know this is after Lovelace's species has been observed and collapsed into a fixed state, but look at the lesser sooty owl and it's creepy broken-looking neck! visuealist[tumblr]com/post/80379592507/an-eerie-looking-lesser-sooty-owl

Oh my god that owl looks like it’s either demonstrating right angles for small schoolkids (probably in some kind of animated educational film) or like it’s listening to some phat beats and is about to lay down the illest rhymes ever.