Sunday, August 19, 2012

Bitches Ain’t Shit But Hoes and Tricks: Fear of the Black Female Voice in Hip Hop and How Dream Hampton May Have Single-Handedly Emasculated the Black Rapper


     Rumors and truths are always revealed by those that are ‘in the know’ or have ‘private’ access to others.  Journalists, writers, and reporters or biographers are an artist’s worst nightmare. Particularly if that alleged artist may be a plagiarist-of-sorts.  One Tweet, said with so much obviousness that Samson-after-the-fall could see, has basically obliterated the authenticity of not only one Nasir ‘Nas’ Jones, but also the validity of talent and creativity in the entire realm of Rap/Hip Hop music.  Will we begin to question all of the greats or self-proclaimed greatest rappers of all time?  Via @dreamhampton, the social media audience was privy to the following post:  Dream Hampton

“I think Jay writes what he believes. Nas' "Nigger" album was largely written by Stic of dead prez and Jay Electronica @JusAire...”  
     This one tweet may have single-handedly blown the lid of authenticity off of Hip Hop/Rap music as a whole. I will not attempt to deconstruct the misognistic and gender hierarchical structure that has existed in Hip Hop, which mirrors and mimicks American society, since its inception in the late 70s and burgeoning presence in popular culture in the 80s, but I will try to defend not only Dream Hampton as a writer, author, journalist, and Hip Hop historian, but women as well who do not fear public criticism in speaking freely about social, or in this case entertainment, issues.    
     The potency of this tweet really struck a chord in the Hip Hop community because the one rudimentary element, atleast from a fan’s perspective, of the genre of music is that the lyricist is the verbal and written author of either their verses or their songs and for one to allege that Nas, who is considered by the consensus to be one of the all-time greats in the Rap game, had a ghostwriter to pen his album ‘Untitled/Nigger’ is mind-boggling to Rap aficionados, if not blasphemous.  How could this great poet allow another great poet to do his work for him.  It’s like the valedictorian cheating on a final exam.  Why would they need to do that?  They are already talented and respected and have cemented their place in History.
     Aside from Dream Hampton’s accusation that Nas subcontracted Stic Man of Dead Prez and Jay Electronica to write the majority of the lyrics on his ‘Untitled’ album, to which both Stic Man and Jay Electronica have publicly denied to Vibe Magazine, the more problematic circumstance is the Hip Hop community’s backlash aimed at her for this assertion.  I am not sure whether it is because she may be throwing salt in the game by causing those who use ghostwriters to now avoid that ‘artistic’ option, which in essence would cause many a ghostwriter’s plate to be a little more empty or because Hampton, a woman of color, chose to speak out.  It’s situational irony at its best:  A woman, who has been around Hip Hop’s greatest artists and minds and has been the auditory recipient of a plethora of dehumanizing and objectifying lyrics aimed at females, decided to pull Nas’ card.  I would say that is feminine empowerment to say the least. 
     Would fans of Hip Hop and Nas be as offended and blatantly disrespectful if Dream was a Black man?  Would anyone even be talking about this allegation as much?  Would Jus Blaze had stated that Hampton needed to be “bled out” as she claims he stated in an open forum to if she had been a male?  Particularly a male who could have not only verbally defended themselves or physically and, more than likely, violently retaliated against that threat.  Probably not. 
Rap music, its artists, and its audience has been subjugated to the ideological dominance of the Black male since the music’s inception, and the fact that a female had the proverbial balls to out Nas’ possible artistic plagiarism in an artform that is predicated upon authenticity and the backlash from male artists, fans, and music producers reiterates Snoop Doggy Dogg’s old adage from his ‘Doggstyle’ album that “Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks.”  Maybe Snoop meant that women should not be trusted and will do anything to one-up a man and bring a tragic demise to the male species similar to a whore on the 'hoe stroll' that will rob a John and tell the police that he assaulted her,. 
     But what was wrong with what Hampton tweeted, if it was a truth?  Was she not being authentic in exposing Nas' lack of artistic effort on the 'Untilteled' album?  Why is Dream being villified by Hip Hop?  I guess she's a bitch or a 'hoe' or a trick because she told the truth on a man--even if she was doing her job as a journalist or an insider and a social commentator.   Former U.S. Congresswoman Shirley Chisholm once stated, "The emotional, sexual, and psychological stereotyping of females begins when the doctor says, "It's a girl."  Well, I say to Dream, "You go, girl." (in my Martin Lawrence voice)  You have succeeded in turning Hip Hop on its head and you didn't have to physically and verbally sex yourself up like a Lil' Kim or a Foxxy Brown or a Nicki Minaj to do it either.  Your mere tweet of less than fifty words is more potent and impactful than the exhausted Rap beef.  It seems like those males in Hip Hop who are for some reason mad at Hampton for 'lying' may be the bitches, hoes, and tricks that Snoop Lion referenced almost twenty years ago.
                                                                                                      -Gee Joyner


Saturday, August 4, 2012

Black Hair & The Single Black Mom: America's Fascination with Gabby Douglas

     I don’t know whether or not to celebrate the Olympic triumph of Gabby Douglas or malign the African American community and American media for lauding her as a ‘Black Exception’.  On July 31, 2012, Gabby and her U.S. teammates won the team all-around gold medal and two days later, she won the individual all-around gold medal making her the first African-American woman, and female of color, to win the event in the history of the Olympic Games. 

     Sure this feat is outstanding for any woman, no matter her race, to accomplish, but much of the media fawning has come due to the upbringing of young Gabby being raised by the proverbial single Black mother, as well as social network jabs on Twitter and Facebook aimed at the styling, if not the texture, of Gabby’s hair.  But, the issue here is much more than low brow ridiculing of a young, Black teen’s hair or the heroism connoted with the matriarchal perception of the strong and devoted Black woman.  It is Black America, and America, deeming what is acceptable in a Negro’s public appearance via hair, and the ‘After School Special’ commercialization of the sacrifices of the single Black mother, though foolish as it may be, and the paramount focus Black Americans put on this particular circumstance.
     Ironically, when Black Americans, particularly athletes, attempt to assimilate and infiltrate American popular culture they must ‘look’ the part, at least with their kempt if not ‘good’ hair, and their origins should be, and are oft times most preferably by the media and the consumers and patronizers thereof, from a ‘broken-home’ ( one’s father must be estranged, neglectful, absentee, or unidentified ) in order to substantiate or validate the Horatio Alger story that has, for almost a century, been America’s calling card and utopian-like ideological insurance policy that implies that ‘anyone’ can make it in the U.S.A, home of the free, land of the brave. 

     So, when Gabby Douglas, daughter of an unwed mother of four, wins Olympic gold, and she happens to be of African descent, popularly referred to as ‘Black’ since the mid 20th century, she must align with the sociocultural attributions that one in her position must possess:  Single mother? Check. Stereotypically athletic?   Check. Recognizably Negro?  Check.  Kempt hair? Not so sure.  Yes, the Twittersphere and Facebookland, or at least the Black residents thereof, had differing opinions on the presentability of Gabby Douglas.  I believe the answer lingers somewhere between ¾ of ‘yes’.  Sure, she’s Black, and is the product of the proverbial single-parent home and maintains elite athletic abilities, yet whether or not her hair is kempt or ‘good’ is up for debate, particularly amongst the millions of pairs of eyes of the Black critics. 

But the irony of Gabby’s media-constructed story of the against-all-odds achievement Black athlete is that she isn’t ‘really’ a product of a single-parent home.  For all practical purposes, young Gabby is a product of two loving and sacrificing parents who happen to not be in a marriage or relationship or reside in the same home. But for the media to construct the young Olympian’s biography as if her mother’s sacrifices, both financially, emotionally, and physically (she allowed Gabby to move from Virginia to Des Moines, Iowa to train under renowned gymnastics coach Liang Chow), are the impetus for young Gabby's success is a tool of disempowerement that further castigates the Black American family and the individuals thereof as dysfunctional and scarred. This is the part of the story that the media supresses:  Her father, Timothy Douglas, who has only been briefly mentioned in newspaper articles, blogs, and visual news outlets, is a member of the U.S. armed forces and is currently serving a tour of duty in Afghanistan, yet he did find the time and the funds to attend her gold medal performance this past Thursday.  This act doesn’t reek of an absentee father or paint the picture of a man who is inactive in his daughter’s life.  Timothy may not be in the Virginia home with Gabby and her siblings and Natalie, but I imagine he visits, calls, and pays child support in order for his seed to be properly nurtured and eventually blossom into a successful adult. 

I hope the viewing and reading audience uses the gift of discernment to deconstruct the narrative that has been parlayed to us via the national media pertaining the Gabrielle ‘Gabby’ Douglas.  I especially hope, Black Americans, don’t buy into the stereotypical mythology of the Black athlete rising out of the gutter to achieve tremendous success through talent and a ‘strong,’ ‘independent’ Black woman as her ‘only’ guide in life.  Numerous fathers, Black particularly, who maintain their duties and responsibilities of fatherhood should be ashamed at the way the media is seemingly deleting Mr. Timothy Douglas from his daughter’s Olympic victory and athletic triumph.  Though her father is deployed, I am almost positive the U.S. military will allow and the media can finagle some form of accessibility as a means for this man to garner the same recognition that her mother is receiving.  Gabby was not conceived in a sole effort by her mother and her mother should neither receive the sole authorship nor copyright to the narrative of American success which is Gabby.
                                                                                   Gee Joyner