Beyond Beats and Rhymes, by Bryon Hurt
28:20 sec Women respond to being called Bitch’s on the street at BET’s Spring Bling
29:43 sec “If George Bush called you a Nigga you would think he was talking about you.”
43:00 sec “You can’t go to a label with self destruction, you will self destruct.”
46:10 sec Jadakiss, “after seven hundred thousand records its all white people buying the records.“
First off, let me start off by saying that I love hip hop. Love it.
Every since I was 8 years old and my brother gave me my first dub of
LL Cool J’s “Radio.” Then, when I was 11, I stole his Too Short “Freaky Tales”
tape and listened to it in my room with the volume low and the door
closed because I didn’t want my momma to hear me play it.
That being said for the last few days I have been thinking about
Hip Hop, Black women and “Nappy Headed Ho’s.”
Five days ago Asher Roth Tweeted, while on Rutgers campus, that
he was hanging out with the some “Nappy Headed Ho’s”. He
subsequently deleted all the tweets and apologized
for making the comments.
Some of the user’s comments that followed stated that
“he was just playing”, other people said that they were
going to unfollow him on twitter.
I then thought, if Asher Roth’s Black fans stopped following him,
it would be irrelevant, because corporate rap doesn’t need
Black listeners anymore, in the same way the the United
States no longer needs Detroit.
Hip hop’s unspoken truth is that white teens play a large
role in deciding which music will be signed, promoted
and distributed by record companies and played on the radio.
In the book Hip Hop Wars, Tricia Rose lays out the
theoretical framework for analyzing the current state
of corporate rap music. She writes,
The trinity of of commercial hip hop a whole: The trinity
of commercial hip hop- the black gangsta, pimp, and ho-has been
promoted and accepted to the point where it now dominates
the genre’s storytelling view.
She goes on to to say that “what gets presented creates audience
desire as much as it reflects it.”
In many ways her book has given me a theoretical framework
to analyze Asher Roth, why rappers need ho’s, and the White
desire for Black death and I will refer to it throughout this essay.
Asher Roth has what may be called the luxury of being a white
rapper. As a white rapper he isn’t forced to confront the choice of having
to take on the the myth of the “Black Thug, Gangsta and The Pimp“
in order to sell records.
Perhaps, it isn’t a luxury, perhaps he is being treated like a
human being and the other rappers being treated like or at
least portrayed as subhuman. Yesterday, I was on Passion
of the Weiss reading Jonathan Bradley’s analysis of Roth’s
album and he basically concludes that the album fails because Roth
isn’t being true to himself. Bradley writes,
Roth?s debut isn?t a hip-hop chronicle of the life
and times of a middle class suburban kid. It isn?t
like I was expecting an Illmatic for the commuter
towns (though wouldn?t such a thing be incredible?)
but given Roth?s insistence that he hasn?t been
feeling a quarter century?s worth of hip-hop made
by black folks from the inner city, I hoped he could
offer a more compelling vision of his lifestyle than
1) Smoking weed; 2) Hitting on girls; and 3) Playing
video games. Because I?ve never noticed hip-hop
lacking for songs about smoking weed and hitting
Roth’s, timing, alliteration and flow is different from most cats.
His flow is nice and he is a decent emcee. Would I play it on
a regular basis, no? I like my story telling a bit
more dense. However, what is relevant is that being White gives
him the option of being able to rap about girls, weed and college, to
forgo being a thug, and perhaps most importantly,
to not be relegated to Hip Hop’s margins because of it.
Talking about the white consumption of Black Death is
downer of sorts but so is 800,000 African Americans in
prison. When a Black male artist decides not to represent the
Gangsta/Thug/Pimp trinity, he risks committing career
suicide, at the worse, or being severely marginalized at the least.
The Roots, Nas, Common, Kweli, Dead Pres, De La Soul, Doom,
Lupe Fiasco, Wale, Mos Def and Little Brother are relegated to
greater or lesser extent, to hip hops margins largely because,
by and large, of White teen male desire for Black death.
Common, The Roots, Dead Prez, Little Brother, and Talib Kweli do
not have platinum albums.
Tribe (Beats Rhymes and Life, Low End Theory and Midnight
Marauders) and De La Soul (Three Feet High and Rising), do.
Nas has five platinum albums (Nastradamus, Illmatic,
Stillmatic, God Son, Streets Disciple) one multiplatinum
album, (It Was Written).
In Byron Hurt’s film, Beyond Beats and Rhymes, Jadakiss
states very plainly (46:10 sec) that after selling 700,000
records “you are only selling records to white kids… the
white kids love the murder.”
Last year, I wrote about my love of Mobb Deep and my
final conclusion was that Mobb Deep fed something
dysfunctional inside of me. Listening to Mobb Deep
reminded me of where I came from, it reminded me that I
survived, that I went to school and escaped
the trenches of the crack epidemic that had deep East Oakland
on lock. It is also a reminder of the fact that so many of the people
that I came up with are either dead or in jail.
What exactly is 50 Cent, Jay-Z and Lil Wayne, feeding inside
of white suburban teens? A fear of Black men? A hatred
of Black people? Or is it just entertainment?
Yes, I understand that rappers do tell stories that would
normally be ignored. However, the Pimp, Gangsta, Ho trinity
has come to be synonymous with corporate rap and it needs
to be addressed head on. Professor Rose articulates this
point when she writes, “Understanding and explaining are
not the same as justifying and celebrating, and this is a crucial
distinction we must make if we stand a fighting chance in
this perpetual storm. She goes on to explain,
“Thug life is a product and given our history of racial
stereotypes young black men are the ideal sales force
for it. So if we are going to talk about investment and
opportunity we have to admit that there is a large
market for these images and attitudes, a market far
bigger than black people can be held responsible for.”
“Multimillion dollar corporations with near total control
over the airwaves and playlists which never release
objective and complete information about callers or
song requests, refuse to openly discuss how they
determine their playlists or explain the cozy and illegal
relationship between many record companies and radio
stations uncovered by various investigations over the
years. They want us to believe that we the listeners
determine what gets played….In the Early 1990’s
prior to the Telecommunications Act of 1996
programmers played popular songs an average
of 40 times per week, By the end of the decade
that number had jumped to 140 plays per week.
Yes, we live in a country that protects free speech
but, with freedom comes responsibility.
No, rappers do not raise the children, the parents
raise the children, however it is disingenuous for rappers to
claim that they are not role models. They have the cache,
buying power, influence, because they have created a
persona that young people want to look up to. If young people
did not look up to them, they wouldn’t imitated them, buy their
mix tapes, buy the products that they recommend.
Its ironic. Young people have tens of millions of dollars of
advertisement thrown at them, then they are told, “Well
don’t try and be like us, we aren’t role models.”
The marketing industry is a trillion dollar industry because
Thinking about the ways in which rappers influence
young Black people doesn’t let parents off the hook. Professor Rose
articulates both the responsibilities of the parents and artist when
Parents alone couldn’t possibly be responsible for all
the social influences and pressures that communities
must weather. Yes, parents must do their best, and they
surely bear primary responsibility for raising
their children. But to assume they have total
responsibility- to deny the impact of larger social forces
that profoundly limit some parents ability, including what
highly marketed celebrities say and do in our celebrity
driven culture- is to deny the powerful communal
responsibility we all have for one another.
Some may argue that to tell rappers to change
their rhymes constitutes censorship, but rappers
are already censored.
When Mos Def said on, The Rape Over, “Tall Israeli’s is running this rap
shit ” the song was removed from the second pressing of the
album. Mos Def rapped,
All white men is runnin this rap shit
Corporate force’s runnin this rap shit
The tall Israeli is runnin this rap shit
We poke out the asses for a chance to cash in
Cocaine, is runnin this rap shit
‘Dro, ‘yac and E-pills is runnin this rap shit
Rose also quotes Lisa Fager Bedaiko from Industry Ears
on the ways in which rappers have been censored. She writes
Freedom of speech has been spun by industry
conglomerates to mean the b-word, the n-word,
ho while censoring and eliminating hip hop music
discusses Hurricane Katrina, the Iraq War, Jena 6,
the dangers of gun violence and drugs, and songs
that contain “George Bush” and “Free Mumia.” In
2005, MTV and Radio Stations around the country self
regulated themselves to remove the words “white man
“from “All Fall Down.” The lyric demonstrated the far
reach of capitalism by exclaiming: /Drug dealers buy
, crackheads buy crack/ And a white man get
paid off all of that/. When asked why they decided to
dub “white man” from the lyric the response from MTV
“we didn’t want to offend anyone.”
I also remember listening to a Kanye’s “Gold Digger, and noticing
that it was censored, at the end of the verse. On Gold Digger, Kanye raps,
He got that ambition baby look in his eyes
This week he moppin floorz next week it’s the fries
So, stick by his side
I know his dude’s ballin but yea thats nice
And they gone keep callin and tryin
But you stay right girl
But when you get on he leave yo a** for a white girl
Rap doesn’t need to be censored. It already has been.
How Hip Hop Affects How Black/All Men Treat Black Women
I was walking on 125 and Lexington Sunday, the first 90 degree
day of the year. I came out of the train station, I remarked to myself,
out loud, that it was really hot. A Spanish man who was posted up,
on the train entrance banister looking down on me remarked,
“Yeah mommy, its hot, how you doing?” I said nothing. He then
said. You can’t speak? He became aggravated. I said nothing.
You smell like fish. I said nothing. You too good? You smell
like fish. Louder as I walked away. It was 1:33pm.
I then took out my pad, and decided that I was going to
record the time and place of all unwarranted harassing
comments for the next few blocks.
Next, I had gotten to 125th and 5th. A young Black man,
about 18, was walking behind me mumbling, “I want to
put my dick in your butt.” I kid you not. Yes. He said,
“I want to put my dick in your butt.”
Frankly, I thought he was singing a rap song, and kept
walking to the corner.
He then said it a couple other times, a little louder. There
was no one else around, so he was talking to me. It took
me two seconds to asses the risk, because you never
know if you will be assaulted when you question they
way someone treats you in public. I then turned and said,
“Why would you say something like that?” His response?
“Because I like you.” And he waived for me to come towards him, then
he paused and kept walking away. It was then that I knew he was sick.
This happened at 1:44pm.
Many folks would like to believe that the music doesn’t influence
the way Black men interact with us. Can we prove that? Do we
need to prove it in order to accept it as being true? That being
said, if seeing can Black president can make someone want to be a
better person, then doesn’t it extend logically that listening to
Lil Wayne would make someone want to thug harder?
Then there is the music and how we deny that rappers are talking to
us. Often times, Black women will try and say that the rapper is
not “talking to me” similar to the woman in Beyond Beats and
Rhymes [28:34 sec]. Professor Rose addresses why in rap
songs, the rappers are talking to all Black women. She writes,
The line between women who “deserves” to be called
these names and those who do not does not exist.
Winding up one side or another of this imaginary
divide is at the discretion of the males and sometimes
the females around you; its not a choice you get to
make. Remember the “classy” women at BET’s Spring
Bling whom J-hood confidently identified as “bitches”?
“This separation of black women into the good ones
(the ones we are not insulting) and the bad ones (the
ones we have the authority to label and insult) is a primary
means by which sexism and other forms of discrimination work.
(Remember “good blacks and bad blacks”? “Good
Immigrants and Bad Immigrants”? Model Minorities
and the problem ones. The idea is to establish negative
group terms for the dominated or discriminated group
an then find the good members, the ones who are
wind up serving as the exceptions. This proves the rule,
thus perpetuating the group discrimination for everyone.”
Rose goes on to make the amazing assertion that rappers need
“ho’s.” This analysis blew my mind and was acutally the passage in
the book the confirmed that I needed to write this essay. She explains,
Rappers are not under assault by black women whose
behavior they do not like. The gangsta rapper image
needs “bitches and ho’s,” and so they continually
invent them. Women so labeled add lots of status and
value to gangsta and pimp images. If you can’t have lots
of women servicing you, then how can you be a real
player, a real pimp? So the process of locating, labeling,
partying with, and then discarding Black women is part of
the performance that enhanced gangsta-and pimp
status and thus their income. If, as Jay-Z raps in “99 problems,”
“I got 99 problems but a bitch ain’t one,” then why bother
telling us about her inability to give him problems- unless
controlling bitches is part of his power…. If there so good at
identifying women they insist should be called bitches and
hos then it shouldn’t be too hard to stay away from them.
And if they are able and want to stay away from them, then
there is no reason to rap about them constantly.
Think about it this way. What would rap videos look like without
Black women? Then you see my point.
At the end of the day, corporate rap music affects how Black men treat
us, and if it doesn’t hurt, it most certainly doesn’t help.
They Just Some Nappy Headed Ho’s
In March of 2007, I wrote a post titled, “My Duke/Imus Moment“.
The post is about sitting in an evidence class in law school
when my professor decided to use the Duke rape case as a
teachable moment on the inadmissibility of evidence in
rape cases. I wrote,
One of my colleagues says,
“Well can we offer into evidence the fact
that she dressed like a prostitute [I paraphrase
but this is the gist of his statement”.
There were good hearted chuckles in the class as well as
several female class mates looking around. Like. What? Did
he just say that for real.
Personally. I felt my HEART raise up in my throat and I KNEW
that I had to say something.
I raised my hand. She didn’t call on me and 30 seconds later
the moment passed. She asked, “Did I see a hand raised in
the back?” Did I wanna be the Black girl, talking about the
Black girl topic? NO. But, my hands were sweaty so I said,
“Yes” and proceed to talk. I stated,
“In response to my colleague David’s
statement [class laughter] regarding the
admissibility of the fact that the dancer
wore “prostitute like” clothing.
David’s response. “Oh I was just kidding.”
I didn’t think to say it, but it was the Imus defense in class.
He said it. He meant it, he would have had some integrity and
stood by his statement.
I responded saying,
I know, however, some things need to
One has to be very careful when making a
statement regarding a womans clothing in
relationship to rape, because it can lead to
the very dangerous inference that how a
woman dresses invites her to be raped.
Imus tried to play it off and say, he was just kidding.
My classmate tried to play it off and say he was just kidding.
Asher Roth tried to play off saying on Twitter, saying that he didn’t
mean to offend anyone when he said he was “hanging out
with some nappy headed ho’s.”
Corporate rap sanctions the Bitch/Pimp/Ho’ trinity.
The corporations hide behind the rappers, the rappers tell
the fans to “turn off the radio” and yesterday,
a young man on the street told me he wanted to stick
his “dick in my butt.”
No rap music did not invent sexism and if rap music was
eliminated sexism would still exist. However we can no
longer hide behind the “just turn the radio off.”
We are all connected whether we want to admit
it or not. I would imagine that the current state
of the global economy would be a reminder of this.
I close with these words from Tricia Rose,
The people most injured by the fraught, hostile and
destructive state of this conversation are those who most need
a healthy, honest, vibrant (not sterile and repressed)
cultural space: young, poor and working-class African American
Boys and girls, men and women,- the generation that comprises
the future of the black community. They have the biggest
stake in the conversation, and they get the shortest end of
the stick in it.
You like how I snuck in the White consumption of
Are Rappers addicted to “Ho’s”?
I got 99 problems but a blog ain’t one?
Bracing myself for the hate mail. Awesome!
*Correction: The post about Asher Roth, on the blog, Passion
of the Weiss, was written by Jonathan Bradley not Jeff Weiss.