It’s the Friday before Christmas, but it’s full of fuckery for Brown/Black female hip-hop fans and sneakerheads … like me. First, the new Air Jordan 11 Concords were released today, resulting in pepper spray used to subdue unruly shoppers and leading me on a goose-chase for my nephew, and apparently culture critic Touré, via the New York Times, believes that the new challenge to black masculine dominance in hip-hop will come from … white women? To his credit, the article is earnest in its attempt to examine the rise of popular white female rappers like Kreayshawn, Iggy Azalea and K.Flay which is intriguing since these ladies haven’t credibly existed in the space with the exception of being arm-candy or ironic references in lyrics (see Kanye West’s “When he gets on, he’ll leave your ass for a white girl,” etc.). Yes, white women rapping is new (well not really, but new to many) so naturally anything new will instantly grab attention. However, once the piece attempts to introduce issues of race and sex, it gets a little jarring:
“Strangely, for a video so overtly sexual, she spends a lot of time with a black boy, maybe 6 years old, sweetly draped on her back or playing at her feet or making sexually suggestive moves on a toy horse. Is she bad at baby-sitting or does he represent a man she’s been with and dominated so completely she’s infantilized him? Iggy Azalea is unsigned, but she has high-powered management, so she won’t be for long. Expect a lot of noise to surround her 2012 debut album.
Where Iggy Azalea works at establishing her hip-hop bona fides, Kreayshawn, a 21-year-old from Oakland, Calif., plays with hip-hop signifiers but sees no need to establish her cred. She has black men in her video for “Gucci Gucci” but spends most of it with her white female D.J., who oddly looks like her twin, at her side. The first time I watched “Gucci Gucci,” which has become an Internet sensation with millions of views, my primary thought was “interloper.” Does she really understand or respect what hip-hop’s all about? I doubt it, but if her audience doesn’t, then it won’t hold her back.”
Frankly, I was expecting a comparison to the classic story of the dangerous black male slave and helpless plantation mistress to come up next, since that would be just as salacious. But instead, when speaking on K. Flay, Touré writes:
“She dresses like an un-self-conscious hipster, wearing T-shirts and Nike high-tops, little makeup and barely styled dark hair. K.Flay has no black people or hip-hop signifiers in her videos. She represents a generation of white kids who grew up with hip-hop but who weren’t obsessed with it so they feel rhyming is theirs to use without needing to pay homage to the culture.”
The truth is, no one culture truly owns hip-hop in 2011. But to use the reasoning that due to the lack of black men or “hip-hop signifiers” present in her videos means that K. Flay (who cites Missy Elliot, Liz Phair and Lauryn Hills as influences) doesn’t feel the need to “pay homage” would suggest that any non-Black rapper absolutely has to have a token brown person present to actually be taken seriously as a hip-hop artist. The fact is hip-hop was born out of class, and when you blend an affected and disadvantaged class with the inner-city in the seventies you have the Black and Latino experience which set the groundwork for hip-hop and urban culture as a whole — but the ladies were there from day one. Hip-hop isn’t merely just a celebration of black masculinity, it’s a celebration of power and that need for power and acceptance transcends race and gender.
Maybe the saddest thing about this piece is that there is little mention of the Black and Latina female rappers that have effectively challenged male dominance in hip-hop for over 20 years, which actually created the path of opportunity for white female rappers today and would’ve made for a great study in comparison. But maybe juxtaposing white women and black men is just a little more satisfying to Touré’s need for racial and sexual sensationalism? Who knows, maybe that’s a bigger story, but it’s Christmas. Bring on The Temptations and Donny Hathaway. *Kanye shrugs and goes back to eating oxtails and wrapping gifts*
READ: Challenging Hip-Hop’s Masculine Ideal [NYT]
Thank you to @djtara for putting me on.
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