To ALL Rappers: Michelle Obama Is Off Limits

“You seem to be only concerned with dissin’ women”

—Nas, “Ether,” Stillmatic (2001).

“To all rappers: shut up…”

—MF Doom, Beef Rapp, MF Doom – MM.. Food? (2004)

“Look at all the bad things that they tried to do to you/And you’re still queen of the earth, and you’re beautiful/… If you ever need me/… I’m coming through squeezing/”

—Jadakiss, “Smoking Gun,” The Last Kiss (2009).

What happens when a Black family rises to the highest pedestal of importance in the world? From what we’ve seen, thus far, they face challenges their white counterparts never had to deal with. Most of these “challenges” often have less to do with their political ideals, but more with their presence on the world stage. Their very presence suspends the legitimacy of highly-esteemed dogmas that have operated unimpeded, for many years, in the highest levels of government. The fact that they defy long-held scientific beliefs about skin-defined genetic inferiority means a great deal to those who’ve subscribed to these theories for decades, and centuries. Refusing to come to terms with the reality that now envelopes them, these dissenters air out their frustration by engaging in acts which can only be described as barbaric. If you’re not slow-witted, you should, by now, have a clear picture of the landscape—reality—I’ve begun painting. 

These last few months, the First family has been barraged with a barrel-full of insults, meant to degrade, demean and disqualify them, in ways unforeseen by some observers. From the circulation of an e-mail, by a California mayor, depicting a watermelon garden on the White House lawn, to the sales of merchandize bearing the caption: “Do we still have to call it the White house?”—and not with a revolutionary intent—many individuals have begun their campaign of painting the Obama family as unworthy of respect and reverence. In the attacks, even Malia and Sasha, their two precious daughters, haven’t escaped unscathed. Blogs have called them “sassy,” with fashion companies capitalizing on this “trend,” by creating products suited to mimic their appearance and taste. Barack Obama has himself been through the storm, but none other has suffered more than the First Lady, Michelle Obama.

On channels like FOX News, she has been accused of expressing “a kind of militant anger,” threatened with a “lynching party,” and reduced to a “Baby Mama.” The same network charged her, earlier this year, with the “instinct” to “blame America,” at every opportunity granted. Political sites have labeled her a “frenemy” of the White house, and satirical publications haven’t restricted themselves from degrading her as a ‘70s radical, and a gun-toting-sex-driven-drug-using bandit. Within the last three weeks alone, conservative pundits have referred to her as “trash,” with a right-wing magazine complementing her as the “First Bitch.”

For these reasons, a dialogue centered on the role Hip-Hop media has played in some of the attacks, and what the future is threatening to produce, couldn’t be any timelier.

Last week, the right-wing cacophony-chamber didn’t hold back attacking Eminem, for a reference in his latest single, “We Made You.” As they saw it, his riff on Alaska Governor, Sarah Palin was grounds for a full-court demonstration. For two bars, Bill O’Reilly and his bandits were riled up: “Give me my ventolin inhaler and 2 zenedrin/ And I’ll invite Sarah Palin out to dinner then.” Whether you agree, or not, with the brand of thinking O’Reilly subscribes to, one thing is clear: If Eminem could so effortlessly invoke Palin as a sexual playmate, Michelle Obama might not be as safe, as some think. Many have argued that because of Mrs. Obama’s elegance, grace, sense of self and self-respect, any comparison or parallel, borderlines on insanity; but I respectfully disagree. And I’ve got proof.

Eminem isn’t the only Hip-Hop artist to verbally place Gov. Palin under the sexual microscope. Last year, super-producer and N.E.R.D. frontman, Pharrell, had some choice words for the failed Republican V.P. candidate. During a September concert performance, at New York’s Nokia Theater, he remarked: “We’re gonna do what we gotta do to make sure that the person that goes after Obama is not holding a baby in one hand and a soccer ball in the other.” Soon after, he noted: “But she’s a hot MILF though, isn’t she?”

Unless we decide to cling unwaveringly to the idea that some imaginary quality separates Palin from Mrs. Obama, in the minds of most Rappers, a sexualized Michelle Obama name-drop is an almost sure thing, at this point—if this dialogue doesn’t take place.

It’s extremely important that Hip-Hop artists come to full understanding of this point: Nothing good can/will come out of a sexual reference to Michelle Obama. Regardless of how witty the rhyme scheme might appeal to you, I can only assure one thing: It would cost you so much less, to abstain from it. As a dignified mother of two, a renowned social worker, and an accomplished attorney, the impulse to see her through the prism of sexuality and sensuality should find no justice. Michelle Obama has carved out a legacy of triumph over the rabidly racist stereotypes many in the media have sought to reduce her to, and this reality alone is worthy of all the support the Hip-Hop community, if it truly values women, can provide. Unfortunately, many in the Hip-Hop media are still stuck on an island where stupidity dominates. They have either not gotten the memo yet, or simply refuse to read it.

The Pittsburgh-based, fire-breathing MC/News anchor, Jasiri X, recently penned a blog post, highlighting some of our media’s disgraceful attacks on Michelle Obama. On RealTalkXpress.com, Jasiri called out Complex Magazine and SOHH, which have both recently referred to Mrs. Obama as a MILF. Complex, labeling her “First MILF,” added: “We’re putting it out there: if Barack’s punk ass ever tries to Lewinsky her, we’ll be waiting on that 3 a.m. phone call, ready to tear that Jackie O. suit off and treat her right.” On SOHH, a blogger said the following: “Yo I’m sorry but our First Lady could get it. Michelle is such a MILF. You know she is.”

Even the liberal news site, Huffington Post, didn’t abdicate its responsibilities in crowning Michelle Obama one of its “cougars and MILFs” that are “way hotter than 20 Year-Olds.” It shamelessly featured a picture of Michelle Obama next to one bearing the naked body of actress Cindy Crawford. If the labeling of Michelle Obama as a “MILF” is now as commonplace as these incidents suggest, the prospect of male rappers finding license to follow suit doesn’t seem so jarring anymore.

But female rappers aren’t innocent, either. In certain elements of Black culture, there is the notion that derogatory words can be reclaimed and reused to reverse their initial impact. The word, Nigger, is one of them. Many younger Black males, and some older ones, speak of their use of Nigger in transformative ways. According to them, by revising it to a shorter and less lyrical form, Nigga, the sting of the past has been stripped from it. Tupac (R.I.P.) was famous for claiming its present form is an acronym representing: “Never Ignorant About Getting Goals Accomplished.” 

In like manner, some sectors of the Black female community began experimenting with the words, “Bitch” and “ho,” which, for many decades, has been used, and is still being used, to tear down walls of self-esteem and self-regard built around them. Consequently, some have sought to “internalize” the interpretation of those words, thereby, they argue, lessening their value as pejoratives and slurs. The short-lived mainstream appeal of H.W.A. (Hoes Wit’ Attitude) and B.W.P. (Bytches With Problems), in the ‘90s, validates this contention. Regrettably, some modern-day female rappers, unlike the Roxanne Shantés (Ph.D.), MC Lytes, Monie Loves, Antoinettes, Lauryn Hills and Nefertitis of yesterday, have found some value in such philosophy. As a result, some of today’s female rappers come across more prolific in self-degradation, than their male counterparts. Because of the deeply entrenched values of misogyny and sexism in commercial Hip-Hop, and the Hip-Hop industry at-large, this religion of self-flagellation has found more converts. What female rappers should be aware of, is that Michelle Obama bears the same burden they carry on a daily basis. She can be a genuine and bountiful source of inspiration, in this fight against industry-sponsored and individualized patriarchy. But one thing must be clear: She’s neither your b***h, nor your n***a. Michelle Obama is turning out to be the hope many have waited for—for so long. 

There’s a strong possibility of her turning around some of society’s ingrained notions about Black and Brown femininity. If we would be candid, it wouldn’t take long to admit that commercial Hip-Hop hasn’t been the greatest helping hand Black and Brown women have sought, and still seek, in times of need. In fact, it’s not an exaggeration to conclude that commercial Hip-Hop artists have played a pivotal role in perpetuating those oppressive belief systems, to which Black and Brown women are subjected. As Michelle Obama begins repairing those broken and dysfunctional pipes of humanity, the only noble deed worth considering might be to: Step aside. Fall back. And understand that this track ain’t about you. The baton is in the hands of better equipped runner. You had your chance, and blew it.

What Hip-Hop artists should be encouraged to do, is what several MCs have done all along. Though Hip-Hop is largely considered a synonym for misogyny, many uninformed critics refuse to acknowledge that, during its three-decade course, Hip-Hop has put forth a laundry list of tributes to Womanhood. Artists like Tupac “Keep Ya Head Up” (Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z., 1993), “Dear Mama” (Me Against the World, 1995); Nas “Black Girl Lost” (It Was Written, 1996); Black Star “Brown Skin Lady” (Mos Def & Talib Kweli are Black Star, 1998); Reflection Eternal “For Women” (Train of Thought, 2000); Big Pun “Mamma” (Endangered Species, 2000); Jay-Z “December 4th” (The Black Album, 2003); Ghostface Killah “Momma” (Fishscale, 2006); Amir Sulaiman “How Beautiful Are You” (Like A Thief in The Night, 2007); Jadakiss “Smoking Gun” (The Last Kiss, 2009) have all made public their respect—even if they self-contradict soon after—for strong women of great character. Hip-Hop artists can keep this tradition going, as Jadakiss did on his latest effort, even, and more so, in the age of Michelle Obama.

On a last note, I offer this cautionary tale to Hip-Hop artists, male and female: Don’t be used as a pawn in the chess game. There are numerous factors who seek to strip the First Lady of her dignity, integrity and humanity. Let it not be said, that after eight years, some “rapper jock,” as DOOM put it in “Microwave Mayo” (Born Like This, 2009), refused to “put a sock in they chatterbox”—was the conduit through which the racists’ objectives were met.

Tolu Olorunda is a Columnist for BlackCommentator.com.

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