Black men have a very particular history in this country. In popular imagination they are violent, hypersexualized monsters.
In rap music, arguably since The Chronic, the main type of rap artist who shines is the thug who gets money, “ho’s” and clothes. In fact, this is the predominant Black male figure in mainstream rap music and elements of this kind of masculinity can be seen in underground regional and underground national music as well (underground meaning music that doesn’t get radio play but has a substantial and growing fan base.)
How am I connecting Black men in being violent in rap music to White mens masculinity?
David Ikard does it for me.
Ikard talks about Black masculinity using Walter Mosely’s books Always Outnumbered Always Outgunned in the essay “Like a Butterfly in a Hurricane: Reconceptualizing Black Gendered Resistance in Walter Mosely’s Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned Walkin’ the Dog” which is in the book Breaking the Silence.
In the following quote, Ikard is analyzing how a character, Munford Brazille, in Mosley’s book Always Outnumbered, Always Outgunned,? has just gotten out of jail.? Brazille is trying to make sense of why he kept getting out of jail after continually committing? crimes. Ikard writes,
“I got in trouble again, and again they got me off. I kept on getting in trouble, and they kept getting me off. Didn’t wake up ’till I got to be nearly old as aI am now. Then I realized they kept getting me off because they [white me] needed a Munford Brazille. They need us.” Illuminating the link between black crime and white manhood Munford calls attention to how he was used, directly and indirectly by his white “benefactor” to secure the notion of white mens moral and masculine superiority over Black men.
Next Ikard connects Black men’s violence to White men’s masculinity when he writes,
By playing the role of? “bad nigger”- reckless killing other Black men- he unintentionally? reifies the man/boy, civilized/primitive binaries used to sustain white male superiority and to emasculate Black men.
Note: to reify something is to make it seem like its natural when it really isn’t.
For instance, Black men are NOT naturally violent (no one is) but if you look at media representations of them throughout history, you may be led to think that.
You ever wonder why it hurt Black men to be called “boy” by White men?
Because historically the assumption about Black people during slavery is that they were incompetent children who couldn’t take care of themselves so they needed to be enslaved and looked after. #absurd.
Language makes power visible.
Ikard explains the history of what it meant to White men’s masculinity for Black men to be called boy and for white men to be called “master”, “boss” and “mister.” Ikard writes,
Socially these binaries were visible (particularly during the Jim Crow era) in the ways that white men would refer to black men as “boys” and “children” while demanding by force and law that Black men refer to them with deferential titles such as “mister,” “master” and “boss”…reinforced the paternalistic notions that white men were the moral and physical guardians of Black people. Without White guardianship, the thinking went, blacks would perish in “civilized” society.
How does this relate to rap music?
I wonder to what extent is the thugged out cat allowed to be the MAIN cat in mainstream rap music because it reaffirms White men’s humanity and masculinity.
Ikard quotes Munford saying, he basically kept getting out of jail because “Then I realized they kept getting me off they need a Munford Brazille. They need me to prove they human.”
Are the Munford Brazille’s in the rap game proof of White men’s humanity?
Why or why not?
Did I completly lose ya’ll?
Let me know.