What Prince Taught Me: The Importance of Ownership

Prince Post

Prince, our new genius ancestor, taught me the sheer importance of Being a Black woman creative who owned as much of my work as possible. He taught me by example that in order to own my work that I would have to fight, and that the stakes were high. Black women’s work is often undervalued and stolen.

I know this is true because our genius ancestor Ms. Zora Neal Hurston died in penniless in an unmarked grave.

As a teenager, who Loved hip hop I read The Source avidly. I will never forget an interview that they had with Prince’s then attorney, Londell McMillan, where he discussed the politics of Prince’s relationship with Warner Brothers, the inability of Prince to use his name and the impact that it had on his creative process.

It is from Prince that I learned that it was okay to be absolutely clear about the value of my creative work in a world that says that Black women’s labor is worthless. He was also a fierce champion of Black women artists. See WEAREKING. See Misty Copeland.

Here are Eriq Gardner and Ashley Cullins of The Hollywood Reporter on Prince:

The story of how Prince — full name Prince Rogers Nelson — changed his name to an unpronounceable “love symbol” in the 1990s during a contractual fight with Warner Bros. is legendary. Rolling Stone magazine ranked it as the fourth-boldest career move in rock history. The story goes that the artist wanted to release more music and wanted to own his masters. The record company wouldn’t let him. When that happened, he began appearing in public with the word “slave” written across his face. The change of name even had Warners scrambling to send out font software so that reporters could incorporate the symbol into stories. Many of those writing about the musician just found it easier to speak about him as “the artist formerly known as Prince.”

To value yourself in a culture that says that you are invisible is the embodiment of being a Black girl from the Future. #blackgirlsarefromthefuture

To be able to dictate the terms under which your work will be consumed is a damn near miracle.

Prince taught me that I would have to be clear on the value of my work and continue to tell the people who desired the work the value of it over and over and over and over and over again.

Is it labor intensive? Exhausting and a fucking shit show. Yes. Everything has a cost. And my rational is that this is the cost of doing this kind of work for Black people in general Black women in particular.

Do you value your creative work?

How do you demonstrate that you value the creative work of someone else?

Who is your favorite Black creative and why?

On Black Women x Hip Hop x Feminism in 2014

 

I am going to be @ UDC doing a panel on Hip Hop and Sexuality as a part of the One Mic DC Festival. If you are in the area, please stop by, I’d love to see you.

Feminism and social media has hit a tipping point of sorts over the last 6 months with regard to online conversations. As a person who has been blogging/writing about the intersection of hip hop and feminism for nearly, gasp, ten years, I have a unique perspective.

So here is what I am thinking about. Boom Bap. Feminism and the Political/Politics of who gets in the archive.

  • There is a post right now on The Awl about Women of Color and boom bap, as it pertains to the documentary series “The Tanning of America.” These conversations are peculiar to me because the elephant in the room is that SOME people just are not interested in hearing what Black women have to say. Now a lot of folks won’t say that shit out loud, BUT, I think that that is the subtext to a lot of these conversations. This blog post which addresses gender and why some men CAN’T listen to Nicki Minaj underscores it.  Furthermore, Choosing NOT to listen to someone is an act of power. It isn’t also lost on me that Black Girl Emcees are underrepresented in the documentary “The Tanning of America.” In fact it underscores a clear pattern with regard to the treatment of Black women and girls. Black women solidly voted democratic and for president Obama, we are a key part of his base. However his most recently policy chooses to focus on our brothers and our sons, but we street teamed for him in ways like no one else did. The data shows this. One of the central jobs of Feminists in general and Black feminists in particular have been writing Black women back into history even if we have to do it in the crevices; for now. Choosing to write yourself into history is an act of power as well.
  • So I have been thinking about Nas and his feminist mafia tweet. Nasir Jones’ Illmatic has been central to my identity since I was as a teenager. Especially as a teenager.  So has Black feminism. See this blog post “Michele Wallace and Illmatic.”I had been going back and forth with Britni Danielle about Nas and that tweet and I came to clear conclusion. I am not really invested in what Nasir Jones thinks about feminism unless and only if he is using is platform as a space to interrogate healthy forms of Black masculinity, and toxic Black masculinity!!! The hood needs it. AND, I really think it would be interesting. This is no shade to Britni, she is my homegirl we’ve been in this internet game together for a hot minute and if all goes well we will be doing a book reading in LA next year. However, I needed to untangle, and mark my concern OR lack of investment in what he has to say about that topic. I think the other things is, two Black girls, queer Black girls were murdered two weeks ago ostensibly because they were a couple.  In fact, Britney Cosby and Crystal Jackson may have been murdered by Britney’s father. They were killed and left near a garbage can. The fuck? And Relisha Rudd is still missing. I think that questions of state violence against Black people, and violence against Black girls in Black families presses ME more right now.
  • I just want Black girls to be free. Not just the sons. If I ruled the world. <—You see what I did there? #blackgirlsarefromthefuture.
  • All this being said. I am happy that there is a lot of theoretical energy invested in Black feminism online. I think it is the work of 100 years of often unacknowledged/ under acknowledged work by Black women and women of color.

What do you think about hip hop and feminism and 2014?

Is the issue really that some folks don’t give a shit about what Black women have to say?

Or is the issue that I am tripping because we can care about Relisha, Britney and Crystal AND Nas?

Oh and I LOVE my Ice Cube meme. I am winning!

Hip Hop is a Masculine Space

Peace to Vince Lopez

How did I get into hip hop as a feminist?

As a teenager, I found, in the early 90’s that the cool
kids, at least the ones I wanted to be liked by where
into hip hop.

Furthermore, as I got older, and got into The Source,
but Fridah, Basquiat and the Guerrilla Girls as well,
I found hip hop as a space that validated my lived
experience as a nerdy Black girl from east Oakland,
at prep school in ‘Frisco.

I found that teenage guys, the boom bappy ones
took me seriously, they listened to what I had to say, given my
knowledge of and interest in that genre of music.

I was also able to build relationships with other women
of color. We would hang out on Telegraph, go to rap shows
in Oakland, Frisco and Berkeley. It provided a space for us
to kick it.

I wore big clothes to conceal my body, thin as I was,
or if I wore more feminine attire, it was relatively conservative,
long skirts and head wraps. I was a “Queen” they were “ho’s”
according to my 5%’er boyfriend at the time. (Even then
I was trouble by the fact that Black women fell into two groups.)

Now I can live in magenta leggings, men shirts/hoodies and 575 New Balance’s. We grow up, don’t we.

This past weekend I was reminded of how much hip hop
is a masculine space. Created by men, largely, to be
enjoyed by men. Hanging out with the fellas.

The crazy thing, for me, was being in such a masculine
space, was how familiar it was. Took me back to ’94.
I was home. But I haven’t been to that home
in years.

Many of us of have critiques of misogyny and racism
in rap music, but I was reminded in being in that space
recently, how it is primarily for and about black masculinity.

Weird how an experience can do that.

I wondered how our critiques and expectations of rap music
would change if we acknowledged what while there were
some spaces for Women, post “The Chronic” album, it has
been a space profoundly about and for men.

Backpacker Week Presents Volume III: Grand Puba

Puba. One word.

Those throaty rhymes where you could hear the juice in the corner of his lips. Many images conjured.

The unmistakable low eyes.

Hillfiger.

Spirit.

O-kay o-kay o-kay, what more could I say?
Alamo get the boom and.. parlay parlay
Im far from the average, civilize the savage
When Im low on protein Im with the bean soup and cabbage

Skins on the diet, kick the flavor, cause a riot
Do a show
and get the dough and then Im off to the hyatt

So tie me on the spliff, aint no ands or if
And if you really wanna riff you just might end up playin stiff

Girbauds hangin baggy, hilfiger on the top Knapsack on the back,
thats just my flavor hobbes
As my man gives a zigga zigga,
watchin three grow bigga bigga
To pos k, thats my nigga
Here goes the wreck, whaddayou expect?
If you wanna see some wreck, send cash, not a check
Grand puba, more than a public figure

Quick to kick the bone up the butt of a golddigger
Now tic-tac-toe means I hit three in a row

If I do a show then you better have my dough
Low, low, well how low can you go?

Call on grand puba if you really need a pro
Cause my shits more rugged than g.i. joe
Dont front honey, act like you know

Now big up to my brooklyn mob (brooklyn! brooklyn!)
Big up to my uptown mob (uptown! uptown!)

Who better represents Bkpcker than Puba?

Sh*t. He MIGHT even be the inargural Backpacker.

Puba was one of the only golden era cats, besides Bussie, to give us one of the flyest ‘GON SOLO Albums ever.

There was a minute last year, while warming up before running on the treadmill, I would listen to Reel to Reel.

Talk about EXTENSIVE replay value.

At the end of the day.

It comes down to what you want from the music.

Can WE live.

Can we have a little of everything?

Party and Bullsh*t.

A lil fun sittin up trippin on some 22’s and video vixens gettin some D’s.

Some garden variety misogyny and sexy gun play.

And some stories about the 360 degrees of life.

For trill.

The Backpacker Manifesto/a.


I will admit it: I was and still am a colossal dork. But I was and still am happy being that dork. And no matter what it is that we all, respectively, are, we’re inclined fairly strongly to hang onto those identities if they make us comfortable. Perhaps we might gain some perspective as we grow older; I can’t watch Voltron beyond the opening theme because it’s too slow and simple. But while recognizing the limitations of our old routines and habits, we can still appreciate how much joy we derived from them.

Loving 89-92 hip hop publicly, is seen as being a backpacker, an old fart, in authentic, behind the times, old, wack and old.

I listen to Main Ingredient about once a week.

I started playing Supreme Clientele last week, every day, and truly began appreciating how inspirational it was. I FORGOT how dope that album was. Ghost has the ability to make you feel like he is in the room with you.

Bahamdia or Missy?

Nia or Halle?

Hip hop is interesting in that its ascension corresponded to the advent of the music video, the internet and the usage of a Black Angry Urban music as a marketing tool for Fritolay-Pepsi co and their ilk.
Some people would call me a backpacker.

Am I offended? Nah.

It is a statment that is intended to declare my musical taste as irrelevent, old, stupid, not hip, out of touch.

Besides, I know that everyone has their core music.

Your core is your ipod play lists that get rocked every morning when you are in the shower.

Or On Friday nights while you get ready for a date. THAT. Kind of music.

If Das Ef X, Gangstarr or Doom is on your list.

You, are probably a bpk’r.


Or.

If Boot Camp Click, Souls or De La dominates your list then,

You are probably a bpk’r.

But you know what? There is beauty in it.

I KNOW how Coltrane was clowned. How Miles was clowned. How the hard bop cats were clowned. All for getting experimental with Jazz and pushing the boundaries. I guess it comes down to,

being eccentric and special

Or.

Being liked and “normal”.

Does this means that I can’t appreciate Rich Boy, Jim Jones (innocent) or The Pack.

Hell to tha naw.

It just means that they are not in my core.

Please believe.

I bumps ’em. That “tho some D’s remix w/ Dre” is some mighty fine rap music.

Jim Joneses ad libs be as dope as his rhymes.

The Pack’s minimalistic beats and East Oakland girl hooks, make for nice kickin’ it music.

Below Joey waxes nostalgic on being a young buck and all that it entailed for him.

Back then, I watched SportsCenter (when it was still emerging as a cultural force and long before it became unwatchable) multiple times per day, caught “Pop That Coochie” on The Box in the morning with my dad seemingly all the time, offered daily NBA recaps to start off what would have been homeroom had my school been a traditional place, started at the point on the basketball team, had a girlfriend, stayed up as late as I wanted, ate whatever I wanted, did well in school, didn’t catch any grief for my quirks, and internalized the shit out of just about everything pop culture.

I have some amazing friends whose musical tastes overlap with mine and often run the gamut from,

Softster, “You heard that knew Akon?”

to

Minnesota, “The reason why N*ggas love Pac is because he is SO real. I don’t respect Jay. Thi*s nigga don’t even WRITE for Christ Sakes”.

to

S.bot, “I hate tha Freedom Party. If I hear engine, engine number nine one more time Im gonna scream”, “Just give me my boom bap”.

to

Wil.e. “Ghost is dumb ignorant. I can’t belive you like him as much as I do”.

to

Gotty “Yo, We Got it for Cheap 3 IS NOT out yet. Stop textin’ me!”

Ironically, this week, I just started listening to hot 97 again. I have to know what the young bucks are peepin’.

Ironically, on blogs, I read about people talking about new songs, before they even make it to the radio, so in that way, radio is obsolete to me.

However, hearing “This is Why I’m Hot” ten times between showering, checking my mail drinking coffee and getting out the house in the morning certainly cements the hook in my head for the rest of the day. Ummm. The power of repitition.

Joey gets to the heart of our repetitious playing of ’89-’92.

But the point is that hip-hop regularly provides us with an audible demonstration of the nostalgia-driven search that just about all people undertake as they seek comfort. And really, is grasping at that one old single that you put out ten years ago all that different from summoning a smile by throwing on the theme song from Fat Albert?

Joey says that hip hop accomplishes it. I would argue that ART and MUSIC in general does it.

Why else would people love Michael the way they do

or

The Beatles

or

The Dead

or

Biggie, Jay, Nas & Pac?

At the end of the day. Backpacker is a term of enderment, a term of love if you will.

I claims mine.

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Hi Blog Fam.

Muah!

Hope you like this post.

Or for that matter hate it.

Lets tawk.

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