As a queer woman in love, sometimes it’s hard to relate to what my straight sisters are going through. What used to make me want to hold rap stars accountable is now likely to pass my ears without so much as a raised eyebrow of concern from me. This is deeply disturbing and I don’t know what to make of this shift. Is it age? A creeping conservative that has me running from my radical roots?
I honestly feel like I’m just so sick and tired of being sick and tired, I’d rather overlook the rampant misogyny and sexism on the airwaves to focus on what’s compelling in the music. This is really troublesome because I wasn’t this girl. In fact, there was a time when I abhorred people who gave conditional passes or tried to see the possibilities in a genre I thought was causing so many problems.
I feel like my ambivalence is in some ways a decision to opt out of the foolishness because honestly it’s just too much to bear at times. The seemingly innocuous radio hit “BedRock” by Young Money has a line penned by the now incarcerated Wayne that I hadn’t paid much attention to.
“I knock her lights out
but she still shine…”
Clever for sure, but violent as fuck. It really gave me pause because it’s the type of lyric that washes over you, sandwiched between lyrics that are more or less memorable. This slightly veiled violence is often dismissed because it’s said playfully and in the context of a medley that suggests a more amorous interpretation.
My reorientation to the misogynoir ruling the radio took place when I tried to make the argument that “All the Way Turnt Up” was a great song because it didn’t objectify women. This was something I could get behind; a song simply extolling the youthful value of keeping the bass bumping in your vehicle. That was until I read the lyrics and found the choice lyric “three dike bitches, and they all wanna swallow.”
Only one line, one line out of 40 odd rather mundane lyrics (materialism, present controversy, and drug use notwithstanding). Is this a big deal? Should I be offended? I do feel disappointed. Even when things attempt to move away from the formula, MONEY+ CARS + HOES = hit record, they can’t move that far; money+ cars+ hoes = hit record. A song about playing your music loud still has to call on the transformative power of Roscoe Dash, Travis Porter, et. al’s masculinity to make lesbians want to suck a dick? Nice.
I wonder what it means that there are no songs on mainstream radio that challenge the status quo. And when artists do manage to break out, they look so out of place. Did you see the trippiness that was Erykah “On and On” Badu on 106 and park last year? Painfully awkward. I think folks still don’t know what to do with her next to latest offering Jump Up in the Air, even with Wayne’s ubiquitous co-signing.
So rather than deal with the persistent and pervasive assault on women in the music, I’ve cultivated a world that supports the age old adage in hip hop apologist vernacular that used to make my blood boil; “He’s not talking about me.” In my mostly queer academic class privileged world, I am pretty much immune to the direct fallout of lyrics like the ones I’ve mentioned. They are frustrating and disappointing but their utterance and repetition seem to have less and less direct effect on my movements or relationships with cis gendered black men.
I see my work in this life as trying to address these issues in the music as oppose to retreat from them but I find a fatigued ambivalence the most accurate articulation of where I am right now. I am trying to figure out what my evolving relationship to rap music will be and I welcome you along for the ride.
My feelings might be best expressed by this video (what’s up w/ the (non) relationship between the single black girl dancer and the white girl ensemble?). Thanks @Chaseology for the link.
 Word I made up to describe the particular brand of hatred directed at black women in American visual & popular culture.