(VIDEO) "Letter to Lil Wayne" -- Young Black Girls on Misogyny in Hip-Hop
When rapper Lil Wayne was released from prison last year after being incarcerated for eight months on a gun possession charge , Hip-Hop media outlets and his fans welcomed him home with open arms. Last week, Watoto from the Nile, three precocious little girls, released a video on YouTube using Wayne’s track “Why I’m Single” to express their displeasure over his lyrics that contain misogynist content and in their opinion, glorifies drug abuse.
Here are some of the lyrics:
“I’m a girl that’s only ten, but for my sisters I must represent”
“I can’t understand the way you talk, act…I hate when you be doing that.”
“People say say no to drugs…so tell me sir who should I trust.”
“You lack the knowledge, information, inspiration and your single…and then you start cursing, they make it even worse when they play it on the radio”
“My daddy tell me I’m a queen, but you call women other things….sir don’t call me out my name again..be like Steve Harvey and show your love.”
While the sisters, Nia, 10, Nya 9, and Kamaria, 5, have produced a number of YouTube videos under their group name, this was the first one that has created an online buzz. This is the message that appears with their video:
“Letter to Lil Wayne" is a direct statement of justice from Watoto From The Nile. Growing tired and fed up with the constant degradation of Black women inside of Hip Hop music, they voice their views and opinions on this melodic track.
Since the beginning of the Hip-Hop genre and culture, women -- especially Black women -- have openly discussed their displeasure with artists who choose to use derogatory language and/or violent imagery against women. I remember listening to UTFO’s “Roxanne Roxanne” and then picking up their 1986 album Skeezer Pleaser -- and not realizing until much, much later, what a "Skeezer" actually was. This topic matter is nothing new, and the presence of extremely talented women MCs who provide an alternative view (focused on female empowerment, and positive sexual empowerment) seem to be ignored in favor of women who aggressively use their sexuality to be seen as relevant in the mainstream media’s eye.
What is interesting about this news item is the age of the girls and the assistance of their father in creating their videos. Obviously, they are the product of good parenting -- and many of the blogs who have written about this video have nothing but positive things to say. What is also interesting (well, more disturbing) is the venom from some commenters who do not see the video a positive (albeit critical) commentary on one of Hip-Hop’s most famous artists; but as a signifier that these little girls, a) do not have the right, as women / girls to comment; and b) that it is Black women in general who are the problem. Here’s a comment on the YouTube video page:
If this lil girl was doing homework and not listening to lil wayne in the begining then there would be nothing to talk about. He makes his money the way he do because people buy what he say. If the lil girl or anyone else dont like what he say then dont listen to it. If women stop acting like bitches and hoes then he would not have such personal experience to speak upon. I believe someone in her family seen a big ticket item and decided to use this lil girl to talk trash about lil wayne so that they could make money in the process. There are other ways to get her little career starting then trying to pick a fight with lil wayne just so she can become famous. Lil girl do yo homework and leave that grown man and his grown man business alone.
And another one from a commenter who seems to believe that when Black women -- in this case, girls -- have a opinion that differs from what he feels is the general Black consensus, that they are race traitors: (large caps courtesy of the author):
BLACK WOMEN ,YOU MUST UNDERSTAND ,YOU WERE BROUGHT TO AMERICA TO BE SLAVES ,NOT JUST TO PICK COTTON ,WASH PEOPLE CLOTHES ,CLEAN WHITE PEOPLE HOUSE, & TAKE CARE OF WHITE PEOPLE ,BUT TO DO ALL THE WORK FOR WHITE PEOPLE, BLACK WOMEN ,EVERY DIME YOU MAKE ,YOU SPEND EVERY DIME RIGHT BACK ,WITH WHITE PEOPLE ,BIG COMPANIES . THE SAME WHITE OWNED COMPANIES YOU WORK FOR OWN ALL THE COMPANIES ,YOU SPEND YOU MONEY AT ,IN OTHER WORDS ,YOU STILL WORKING FOR FREE.
Some commenters felt that the video was an offensive example of Black male bashing: that Black men have such a hard time in society that Black women (in this case, little girls) need to "step off" and leave them alone. Does commerce override morality? (Don’t answer that.) Some decided to roll out the "Black bitches ain’t shit" meme, which often pops up when Black women decide to express a view in opposition to what we're supposed to do -- which is to support our brothers no matter what. So what if some who have money, fame and fans from various ethno-cultural backgrounds perpetrate stereotypes?
The correlation between seemingly violent music and listeners perpetrating violent/immoral acts has been long debated in society. As a kid, metal music was the dangerous music: It caused young white boys to worship Satan and to kill innocent people. It caused people to do drugs and to fornicate with animals. Hip-Hop is still used to deride young African-American people, and has also suffered from the same ire. But I wonder if, in the case of Hip-Hop, we are doing it to ourselves.
Several Hip-Hop artists are providing lyrical content that is uplifting, like Canadian MC Shad, who is critically acclaimed on an international level, yet struggles commercially. We choose who and what we want to support with our dollars -- and people choose to support people like Wayne and Kanye West (who has also had his share of sexist outbursts). We choose them over artists with talent and less "bling."
The Crunk Feminist Collective has a different take on the video. They applauded the girls, but took issue with their lauding of Steve Harvey as someone whom Wayne should look up to. Harvey's the the author of a few contentious books "advising" Black women how to get and stay married ( because we are money-grubbing, opinionated bitches and no one really wants to f#$k us), although he also famously battled his ex-wife, whom he apparently cheated on with his new one:
Steve Harvey’s views on women are not progressive. He’s simply peddling a more respectable sort of black gender relations that still have women in the role of subservient sex goddesses but with a bit more modesty. To set him up as a positive alternative to Wayne misses his own belief in narrow gender roles for men and women. The song disparages Wayne for being single and seems to imply that ideally he should be married or that if he was acting right he would be. Erykah Badu is signaled as a “good” artist despite having worked with Wayne (and she’s single too; tweets is watchin’).
So what do we do with this video and its commenters? Some celebrate the fact that young girls have acknowledged that some of his lyrical content is offensive. Some question why such young girls have listened to Wayne's music in the first place). Yet others are outraged, want the girls to mind their own business, and have taken this opportunity to bash Black women for not knowing their place. Ultimately, these reactions are a reflection of how emotionally disenfranchised some parts of Black communities are, and how we, as consumers, take "freedom of speech" a bit too literally.
We still have a long way to go.
Contributing Editor - Race, Ethnicity & Culture
Blog: Writing is Fighting: www.lainad.typepad.com
Writer: Hellbound: www.hellbound.ca