Originally posted April 7, 2007. This is the an unaltered reprint.
1. An acknowledgment expressing regret or asking pardon for a fault or offense.
An apology can mean so many different things for people, both the giver and recipient(s).
So, I’ve been thinking a bit.
I believe it’s high time that Hip-Hop offered an apology to its women, in particular the females of color.
Here we are in the year 2007, a pivotal year for our culture. Music sales are down while criticism of Hip-Hop is up. The culture is under attack, at a creative crossroads and it appears people are acting crazier every step of the way. We have outright, bold misogyny and rampant sexism in our Hip-Hop culture as if it were indigenous to our people. We have our music, which can barely find a commercially viable female rapper. Meanwhile, a host of talented female emcees cannot get a fair shake even in the underground. We’ve watched the culture transform from one that was inclusive of WOMEN to one that resembles a gang initiation just to attend the party.
Now consider the parallels in society; because Hip-Hop is nothing but a microcosm of a bigger picture. Congress, one of the U.S. Government’s celestial bodies, seeks to apologize for slavery (not without opposition). After 140 years after the Civil War, the government body is considering offering a national apology to African Americans for the racial catastrophe that enslaved millions of Africans and institutionalized racism into our societal fabric. Now, slavery not only oppressed a class of people, but it economically raised another’s class and their businesses, aspirations and dreams.
With rap, you have the men – typically Black men – who are using this art for economic gain and then you have the women – typically African American women or women of color who are relegated to the most base role in the culture. I think it’s for men this collective apology could mark the beginning of a healing with women and as importantly, themselves. For women, this collective apology could mark the beginning of the mending relations with its men and, most importantly, themselves.
Lets be frank. The masses of people – male and female – hunger for more sustenance from its Hip-Hop.
Now, think about this situation in terms of food.
When you eat your typical fast food for an extended period of time, you experience a number of adverse affects. Initially, you might simply gain weight, something remedied with exercise and change in dietary habits. However, if you continue to ingest the bad food, you will begin to suffer ailments that are much more difficult to fix. (Think high cholesterol, obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease.)
I view the music we consume in a similar way. If you listen to music that is always violent, persistently misogynist, you could assume the negativity as your own and over time, it could become a shaper of your perspective. These images are conditioning the way boys see women and the way girls see what they will become. It’s a self-fulfilling prophecy that writes and re-writes itself in a vicious cycle. The blatantly, degenerate music is the food we masses feed our minds in every medium that means anything – online, television, musically and print.
I understand that there will be people that will inevitably disagree with my thoughts and even blast the mere thought of an apology. Hip-Hop is unapologetic by nature. Hip-Hop is a victim itself in many ways, if you know of its origins in the Bronx of the 80’s. It was considered Hell on Earth. So, in theory, one’s environment could be the “fast food” and harsh urban terrain never apologizes. But, playing victim is played out. At some point, mentally we have to raise up and move forward. Who can disagree with that?
An apology is also an admission of guilt, wrongdoing, regret and if properly executed, suggests strongly that the apology marks a imminent change in behavior.
Remember the forced apology when you were a child? You didn’t want to do it and furthermore you probably didn’t know why you were saying sorry. You just did it and it really didn’t mark any sustained change in habit. From that point of view, it’s probably too soon to expect an apology from Hip-Hop, much less a change in behavior. The change is the key…
Take Common as an example of a person that hasn’t made any recent apologies to women. He’s done something better, he’s evolved as a man and a human being. On his first album, Can I Borrow A Dollar, he penned a song called “Heidi Hoe,” that was an abrasive (and clever) dismantling of the “scallywag.” I loved that song too. But, what I can appreciate about Common is he didn’t feel compelled to stay there in his reality or his music (regardless of what public demands were). He would go on to write songs like “A Song For Assata” and “Come Close,” among others that examine the wide range of experiences men have with women.
So, while the Chicago MC didn’t necessarily apologize (or need to), the end result is the same. He kept making music and behaved in a manner than was consistent with evolution, the aftermath of any sincere apology. He simply altered his approach. Jay-Z, Nas, T.I. and others like Ludacris have been liberated from their former selves and still managed to stay relevant and successful.
Over the past 20 or so years, Hip-Hop has devolved from a revolutionary form of art that saw the rise of street intellectuals, rappers erasing racism and others proactive behavior to one that caters to the very base in humans. I see women all over Hip-Hop, but I still miss them.
Salt-N-Pepa, Queen Latifah, MC Lyte, Monie Love, Lauryn Hill, Rah Digga, Jean Grae and a plethora of others have offered their version of real womanhood. They were not a byproduct of a male rapper’s negative experience with a few bad apples. In many ways, these femcees’ messages balanced the men that were often talking about a “certain type of female.” But “The B***h” has now become the prototype for all women in Hip-Hop and mostly are regarded as hoes or some other culturally necessary sex object. Necessary un-desirables, like the slaves.
Enslaved people – even after abolition – were still only confined to the menial jobs and not offered the breadth of opportunity afforded their counterparts. So, yesterday’s Salt-N-Pepa’s, Sweet-T’s and JJ Fad’s are today’s video vixen and eye candy for your favorite rapper dude. I’d personally appreciate that apology from the U.S. Government on slavery, but I’d much rather that people would just stop practicing racism.
I’m sure the ladies feel the same about their plight.