AllHipHop.com Editorial  

The Brutal Truth: Hip-Hop and Black Love

adisab

I was recently watching a panel on sexism in Hip-Hop and one of the topics mentioned was how black women feel Black men  no longer love them. I believe a quote attributed to Jill Scott asking, “Who loves us?” became central to the dialogue.As a Black male, I want to make it very clear that I love and respect Black women. As with all men, I have my flaws.  Often hearing I have been or am a “sexist,” I would rather position myself as what I like to call a “recovering sexist.” Through no fault of my father’s, I have been sexist for a long time. I remember being as young as nine arguing with my father about why men should not clean bathrooms or do dishes. Even after becoming more aware of myself as a Black man in America, I retained many of it’s ugly precepts. As I entered my adult life, I converted to Islam and married a beautiful Black woman. Years later, she gave birth to a wonderful son and the three of us grew spiritually and mentally. However, it was not until my daughter was born that I could truly see how extremely sexist I still was and how far I had to go. Sexism, very much like racism, has very sublime expressions that are not always seen in a Nelly video, a Lil’ Jon record or a television show by Snoop Dogg. The truth is sexism is an ugly beast. Sexism can be in the condescending smile I give my wife when we play chess. It can also be in the frustration I feel when she wins! As a man, you must first take responsibility for your shortcomings. My sexism did not spring from my father or Hip-Hop. I own the sexism in me and I work to fix it. Unlike Don Imus, I will not say “I am confused by the line of sexism, because all these rappers and their lyrics.”  So to listen to anyone suggest that Black men or Hip-Hop is the sole factor creating a degrading environment for Black women, is insane. Equally, Black men must accept the role they do  play in this explosive trend. Only after accepting the role we play in the degradation of women can black men become the great force needed to reverse this shameful trend. After observing my daughter’s sacred spirit and the greater spirit of my wife while giving birth did I begin to see how horribly flawed I had been living. Only after those two precious moments, did I really begin to read books authored by women.  Such books as Women, Race & Class by Angela Davis, various works of Terri McMillian, Sister Souljah, and more recently, Chess B***h by Jennifer Shahade, have all helped me refine some of my sexist mind. I have much work to do, but it must be done if a Black man is going to have a solid role as a father. I have seen many discussions on Hip-Hop and sexism and  I deeply appreciate the research on such sensitive topics.  At the same time, I feel as though some of these discussions remain over intellectualized. Do not get me wrong, Black intellectuals are one of the most neglected resources America has within its reach. However, their important ideas about rap videos by intellectuals do not trickle down to the block. It would be interesting to see the discussions about rap music’s impact on young minds occur away from the university setting and more on high school grounds. Hip-Hop was not created on college campuses. It is a true product of the streets. One of the reasons  the work of Malcolm X was so effective is that he always went where the people were. Today’s intellectuals almost seem to be allergic to the prisons and juvenile halls (despite the fact that statistics tell us this is where many of our youth are). These panels should happen in prisons, juvenile halls and recreation centers (sponsored by the universities). I believe there is a horrific chasm between Black intellectuals, rappers, and rap fans who constantly analyze. A repeated problem in discussions on sexism and Hip-Hop is that more time is spent beating up the negative rappers and almost no time is given to championing the rappers who show respect to the sisters. No one mentions that 5% Nation of Gods and Earths, The Nation of Islam and the Sunni Muslims pioneered the idea of respect for women in Hip-Hop.  I do not hear these intellectuals talk about Amir Sulaimans poem about a woman who was raped entitled “How Beautiful Are You.” Moroccan Wu-Tanger Cilvaringz recently dropped what I believe to be one of the best love songs written in the history of Hip-Hop called “Sheherezad My Beloved.” Paris wrote “Assata’s Song” way back, and it is a timeless song of Black love. Immortal Technique made many men cry with “You Never Know” and T-K.A.S.H. championed respect for women all over with“Turf War Syndrome.” Yet in discussions on Hip-Hop and sexism, we rarely find in-depth lyrical analysis on the rappers who hold women in high esteem. Hip-Hop intellectuals need to be openly encouraging corporate radio and TV to support specific artists. Beyond that, these artists need to be on the panels! Sometimes I believe we get so political, or religious or philosophical about Hip-Hop that we lose sight of one simple fact. This is art!Another enriching element might be if the panelists were more  honest in their discussions on love between Black men and women. If I want to know about war, I will ask a general who has been in the heat of battle. If I have a question about planting a tree, I will ask a farmer. It is very hard for me to use academic scholars as a source of Black love, when it is something they themselves have not achieved. Real love is more than cool quotes and demographic research. It is harder to watch discussions on what it takes to turn Black boys into productive men from women who hate men and men who hate themselves. Maybe we could see more happily married Black men and women talk publicly about navigating the ocean of love. I would like to see Black women in solid relationships with Black men help teach other sisters how to overcome issues of distrust and allow themselves to be loved by a good Black man. It is time for more personal stories from Black parents who identify with Hip-Hop on complex dilemmas such as raising teen girls in an oversexualized world. Yet, when it comes to Hip-Hop and sexism, we are still stuck on video girls, Imus and Snoop. I think if we can have dialogue that is more honest about our discussions, we can refine our approach. If we refine our approach, we might just reach the people we say we want to uplift. Nevertheless, unless and until the rappers redeem the Black women inside Hip-Hop, this genre of music will never again be that powerful tool of entertainment, education and political information it once was. I dedicate this to my mother, my wife and my daughter.Adisa Banjoko is cofounder of the Hip-Hop Chess Federation.

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