Tag Archives: hip hop

Unblurring the Lines

by April Gregory, ’13

A recent onslaught of tits-in-your-face (TIYF) music videos has catalyzed much hullabaloo in the blogosphere. If you haven’t seen Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines,” Justin Timberlake’s “Tunnel Vision,” or The-Dream’s “Pussy” (yes, just “Pussy”), you may wish to view them now. On Vevo or Vimeo, though, because they were pulled from YouTube. And not in a place where your supervisor might drop in to give you some Chobani coupons, because they are very, very TIYF.

To start, I should make one thing exceedingly clear: for years I was a more or less passive acceptor of the contradictions inherent in my favorite music genres. I love hip hop and R&B. LOVE. I love booming bass and releasing my inner Bey on the d-floor whenever possible. Consequently, I had — and still have — a tendency to ignore the often unsavory lyrics that float atop said booming bass. “She eyein’ me like her n***a don’t exist / Girl, I know you want this dick,” to name a recent favorite.

At Stanford I had the opportunity to learn from and connect with some of the world’s foremost hip hop scholars, who dropped more knowledge on me than I knew what to do with. They encouraged me to engage more critically with the voices in my earbuds, which in turn inspired some original musings about hip hop and feminism. The more I thought about the dissonance between my personal ideologies and the hot misogynist mess that is mainstream hip hop and R&B, the less passive I became.

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$ex Machine

by Lyla June Johnston, ’12

I wrote this poem on an airplane a few years ago. It’s been sitting in my notebook for a long time. I took it out the other day and decided I wanted to make a hip-hop track of it. I wanted to reclaim hip-hop as the healing force it was born to be by making it flashy, sexy and truthful. It’s main message is that we are not the sex slaves that pop music tells us we are, we are human beings that deserve love and respect.

How it developed was pretty interesting. I found the beat to go beneath it from the creative commons search on soundcloud.com. It was produced by a man in Sweden whom I’ve never met who goes by the name of “Dr. Mess.” I asked him if I could overlay some lyrics on it and he was fine with it. This is the beauty of making art for the people, not for the profit, under creative commons license as Dr. Mess does. The greed and fear that comes with copyrighting is relinquished and so we can collaborate more freely, even from across the ocean. Continue reading

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Cultural Work in the Philippine National Democratic Movement

by Julian Jaravata and Michael Tayag, ’13

From May 18 to May 20, activists from throughout the country travelled to Chicago to attend the 4th congress of BAYAN-USA, the 2nd congress of Gabriela-USA, and the founding congresses of Anakbayan-USA and the United States Chapter of the International League of People’s Struggle (ILPS)—all of which are progressive, anti-imperialist alliances of groups fighting for genuine social change in the Philippines and other countries around the world. Anakbayan-USA (the youth organization to which we belong), Gabriela-USA, and BAYAN-USA are national democratic alliances that work specifically to address the root causes of issues such as forced migration, corruption, and poverty in the Philippines. The movement working for national democracy in the Philippines offers an important example of how peoples subjected to colonialism and imperialism have risen up to reclaim the history, land, and culture that have been taken away from them. Furthermore, the establishment of a US chapter of ILPS highlights the need for international solidarity, especially as a weapon against imperialism. The congress included figures such as Fred Hampton, Jr. and Carlos Montes, who spoke out about the oppression engendered by imperialism. One May 20, the congress attendees mobilized against the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) and the G8, a military alliance and the world’s eight most powerful economic powers, respectively. Continue reading

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Eminem: Hi! My Name is WHITE

by Sarah Quartey, ’14

In the past twenty years alone, Eminem claimed the title of the seventh most top-selling artist and the first most top-selling artist of digital sales (The Nielson Corporation).  But when Eminem entered the hip-hop nation, he brought with him the issues and identities of white Americans.  The offensive and occasionally vile content of Eminem’s lyrics have triggered massive media attention: with controversy, lewdness, and popularity, Eminem wedges open a place for white identity to be addressed in America’s race conversation.  Eminem skillfully harnessed the power of hip-hop as a hyper-racialized medium.

For many social scientists, authors, and historians like Bakari Kitwana, “the term ‘hip-hop nation’ is used interchangeably with black youth culture” (xiii).  With his record-breaking sales and media-stunning controversies, Eminem is the representation of a culture associated with black youth, and yet Eminem is a white artist. Continue reading

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Nicki Minaj: The Flyest Feminist

by April Gregory, ’13

“You Could Be the King But Watch the Queen Conquer:”
Nicki Minaj as a Model of Empowerment for Female and/or Queer Youth

“In between the beats, booty shaking, and hedonistic abandon, I have to wonder if there isn’t something inherently unfeminist in supporting a music that repeatedly reduces me to tits and ass and encourages pimping on the regular.” Such is the dilemma of hip hop feminist Joan Morgan, author of When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost.  Like Morgan, I consider myself to be a fairly ardent feminist.  I also consider myself to be a fairly ardent hip hop fan.  It’s no secret that these two identities, as Morgan points out, are frequently in conflict with one another.

So imagine my utter bewilderment when, in 2009, I heard a woman spitting lyrics as crude and grimy as those coming out of the mouths of male rappers.  Nicki Minaj had flown into my hip hop radar with her mixtape “Beam Me Up, Scotty.”  Its cover art, which features Nicki and her bountiful curves in a skintight, barely there Wonder Woman outfit, was in itself enough to make the feminist in me have a stroke.  Her rhymes provoked equal alarm.  How could I, as a feminist, respect or support a woman who spit quasi-pornographic lines like “Bitches can’t find their man ‘cause I ride it good” (“Itty Bitty Piggy,” 2009) and “Maybe it’s time to put this pussy on your sideburns” (“BedRock,” 2009) while prancing around in outrageously stripper-esque garb?

To be blunt, Nicki Minaj frightened me.  Her abrasive, slightly schizophrenic tone and unabashed use of misogynistic diction made me uncomfortable.  I could not accept her brazen female sexuality as anything more than a ploy to obtain male attention and furthermore, I felt a little violated by the ease with which she could talk about her body and her sexual exploits.  As an ally of the queer community, I was likewise bothered by Nicki’s claim to be bisexual, which I perceived to be an exploitation of queer identity for the purpose of appealing to heterosexual male fantasies of lesbian and bisexual women.  And, above all, I was horrified by the fact that young girls were idolizing Nicki, especially the fourteen- and fifteen-year-old girls from East Palo Alto that I mentored through a college access program.

Then, on August 27, 2010, my relationship with Nicki Minaj was changed forever. Continue reading

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