“They always allow ONE,” is the response I did not have time to give to this brother who dared say that you cannot deny the doors that Nicki Minaj has opened. Huh? What I did manage to say was “I do not know what doors you are referring to, but trust that they haven’t done shit for me.” I was on a panel for hip hop appreciation week representing the voice of women. And like Nicki- I was the only one. No pressure. But honestly, I was grateful to my homie for putting me up there to provide my perspective. Some brothas in the game know what they need to do.
Listen to me: it’s historical. ONE femcee has always been“allowed” out. She is the Queen B of her crew. The token female. And while this has definitely brought us some of the most amazing women (and allowed many of them an opportunity they would not have had), I am really all set with the “One at a Time” model these days. Honestly.
This is not an attack on Nicki. This is not a conversation about how she is “ruining our image.” I think she is a tight emcee when she is not being controlled, whose spirit may have gotten led away for a little while by the desire for fame. Or maybe it was just her willingness (or forced hand) to do anything for what she loved. Whatever it is, tryin’ to diss Nicki is not the issue.
What IS the issue is the patriarchal structure that hip hop has built itself on that perpetuates this cycle. A structure that is so deeply engrained, that men cannot even see when they are emulating the very system that they complain about--especially men of color. Men who claim that they are “going to bring hip hop back to its roots,” but obviously has its roots confused with the arrival of Columbus. It’s still immersed in the idea of conquering, because women still have to do far too much to get heard and recognized in the game. Especially when we once existed in societies built by the wisdom of our clan mothers.
I know. I know. “Oh god. Here she goes again.” If that is your attitude while you are reading this- know YOU are exactly who I am talking about in this article. And trust me, you are not the first and won’t be the last. So let me save you some time and air.
Let me address some of the complaints I have received and my response.
#1: I am asking for an “invitation” when hip hop is about the hustle, not being invited.
No. Let me make this VERY CLEAR: This is not about an invitation. It is about respect. I have watched countless shows and moments where women emcees who have been in the game for just as long as their colleagues (if not longer), and rocked TWICE as hard, were not acknowledged or brought on a bill when they were more qualified than the men who did perform. And do not say it wasn’t because she had a vagina. Afterall, “who wants to hear a girl rhyme?” is still a myth running around out there. The honest answer is PLENTY. Ask Tiye phoenix, Jean Grae, and Bahamadia. Stop basing your actions on this capitalist structure of supply and demand. Rock the Bells is one of the biggest culprits of this. It then trickles down to the local male emcees who think that fighting for gender equality is a burden. Which brings me to my second “complaint.”
#2: I am too intense. Too feminist.
Or maybe you are just too uncomfortable with my truth. Here is the reality: Black men have historically been made to believe that racism is more important than sexism. This was actually one of the “divide and conquer” tactics used by slave owners when they began to fear black women and men uniting for the takeover. No one is immune. I remember sitting with a “prominent” black male who ran a venue that centered around African Americans. A man considered very “for the people.” But when I asked him his thoughts on being responsible to stand up for women of color and fight for sexism his response was degrading and horrifying. He stated that I was engaging in ”tricknology” or something ridiculous. It was followed by the typical male shut down of “here we go.” He had the audacity to end with “Its bad enough I gotta fight racism, now you want me to fight for yall too.”
YES, “brotha,” Yes. Because until you respect your women- your life and all of hip hop will stay off balance. You might have everyone else fooled- NOT ME. Nicki needs a remix- cause WE see right through YOU.
#3: “Well its not our fault more women do not support women hip hop artists. How can you want us to do what even the women won’t.”
Oh short sighted blind brother- here is my response: What you are seeing are women who have been (in the words of my man Malcolm) “Hoodwinked” and “Bamboozled.” They have been drinking the patriarchal koolaid for so long, they forgot their own power, stories, and names- that is why they allow you to call them out of theirs so damn often. Understand that hip hop and its communities have marinated in a poison so severe that now ALL of the people are suffering. What can you do instead of blame US for being trapped in the same system that is obviously still holding YOUR mind captive? You can start to wake up your sisters (and yourself) by praising them and bring new voices to the table, helping us all awake from our comas of self-denial.
My point is this: Please do not speak to me about my struggles in hip hop and blast me for my truth. Until you walk on that stage with breasts & a vagina (or fight to get on it), you have no say here. Do not tell me that I “sho is lucky I gots me one female rapper who holdin it down” massa. Instead see the larger structure that hip hop has succumbed to, and not just when it is convenient for you to “save hip hop.” That shit is old. If you really want to “save hip hop,” you can start by really taking an honest look at yourself, then look at everyone affected in the game, and use hip hop in its original manner: to heal the ills of the ENTIRE community. Say WORD.