Tuned In: My Relationship With Hip Hop

Sometimes being a Black woman and a fan of hip hop is like being in an unhealthy, somewhat abusive, relationship. I hear the derogatory terms, I see the objectification in the videos and I think, “They don’t really mean it. He’s not talking about me and it’s just a show”. A show that, if I were given a dime for every time the b-word spewed out of one’s mouth or women were de-valued as nothing more than mere objects of pleasure, I could easily pay off my student loans, buy enough food to end world hunger and have money left over to buy a brownstone in Manhattan. Or maybe one of those ritzy, overpriced high rises in Tribeca.

But I’m still a fan.

I can’t leave. Not when there remains a glimmer of hope. I tell myself artists with a message of positivity will make a difference or maybe Lauryn Hill will make a comeback on the scene and give me some music to help me embrace who I am as a Black woman. But a few socially conscious lyricists won’t be enough to change the whole game, the whole industry.

Hip hop has always had my heart in this sort of tug-of-war. My earliest love, Pac, had me feeling on cloud nine about my dark complexion, reciting the old Negro saying, “the blacker the berry, the sweeter the juice”. He gave me hope and told me to keep my head up. He told me that these men would make a change one day, that it’ll all be better. In the same year he was charged with sexual assault. And on the same album he boasted about how he got around. And he wasn’t the only one nor was he the last.

But it was love. He, among other rappers, was an activist. That’s what started the movement. Hip Hop was the voice for disenfranchised youth, and the glorification of sex, drugs and violence? Well that side was just the show, what sold records. Surely it couldn’t be a reflection of how he genuinely felt. It couldn’t be. It was an image and a way to sell records and make money. Even if the only sex being sold was – and still is – women.

I can’t quite leave hip hop because there’s still that hope. I just watched Common and John Legend perform “Glory”. My brothers in the hip hop culture aren’t completely lost. Sure, I attend a concert and watch you bring women on stage to twerk in front of strangers for $100. Objectification. Sure, you crave for my gaze to be on you and your boys, otherwise I’m publicly humiliated and doused with a 40. Hypermasculinity. The male gaze. Sure, you brag about molly and the lack of consent. Assault. Sure, this is a male dominated industry and if I want to join and be successful, I must be hypersexualized – nothing more than an object of pleasure for the men to see. Sexism. For some reason I still see hope.

But I can’t forget all the good you’ve been to me. You call me queen. You make me proud to be a Black woman. You give me music to start my day to and keep me motivated. You’ve provided messages of hope and overcoming struggles. You give me courage to stand against social injustices…unless that injustice is against my womanhood.

I’m confused. I’m hurt. And though we have had some wonderful moments and you have to make a living, I long for the day when it will stop being by means of the objectification of women. Of your sisters. Of me.

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