Jalylah Burrell Presents…Plus 1

rokafella.jpgI’m a feminist. I listen to hip-hop. I am not a hip-hop feminist. I don’t know what a hip-hop feminist is, but I gather the term is used to talk about women who are part of the so-called hip-hop generations, meaning women who grew up around the time hip-hop grew up and became a dominant musical form and/or women who listen to hip-hop but cringe every time they hear bitch/ho or the Ying Yang Twins. I also gather that it refers generally to young women of color.

I could be mistaken, but the word originated on the book jacket of Joan Morgan’s, When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down. It’s been a good while since I read the book but the Bronx bred journalist and cultural critic explores how female hip-hop fans feel torn between self-respect and “Salt Shaker” (I’m paraphrasing.) While she touched a nerve then and still does now I never understood why so many women embraced this term. To me it was just a concise catch phrase intended to spark interest and sales not a transformative socio-political movement. A book subheading does not a movement make.

A few years ago I headed out to Chicago to participate in the what was billed as the first Feminism and Hip-Hop conference. It was a well organized conference with an impressive roster of panelists (including then Spelman College student activist Moya Bailey, video model Melyssa Ford, the aforementioned Joan Morgan, Byron Hurt, Kim Osorio, Tricia Rose and even Jesse Terrero who, by emphasizing his work with artists like Jill Scott, went over extraordinarly well with predominantly female activist crowd.). My talk was titled “Grammatics that are masculine,” (taken from Common) and I explored the various ways hip-hop media reinforces a male dominated hip-hop industry. Let’s take one small illustrative example from XXL. The prominent “Eye Candy” section makes it read like a men’s magazine (e.g. Maxim). What if XXL or any hip hop magazine more resembled Essence than Maxim? How would it be as a man to read a magazine about hip hop culture that was packaged with a different gender of reader in mind? How would it be as a woman? If you were a ten-year-old boy obsessed with rhyming, would it make you more or less inclined? What if you were a ten-year-old girl?

But I’m not primarily concerned with criticizing hip-hop, nor was the conference. As I see it, the most feminist action is engaging in the culture as an active participant or consumer. One example is legendary b-girl Rokafella who rocked out at the Feminism and Hip-Hop Conference closing by ceding the linoleum to up-and-coming b-girls, spurring them on, and challenging them to be better. And that was no ruse, she’s been offering free breaking lessons at various locations in NYC for a good while. Toni Blackman is another example in that she teaches young women how to rhyme and provides developing female rappers a space to cipher. For women who don’t see themselves behind the microphone or on stage, you can still speak with your attention span and your purse. When confronted with Webbie-type ignorance, don’t just retreat to Amel Larrieux’s discography—search out and support other voices in hip hop.

  • DCFIST

    first?

  • DCFIST

    wish there was more thinking like this…

    thanks for mentioning Toni. Freestyle Union!

  • zacreole

    I really hope that they (xxl) keeps you on a regularly scheduled basis. It is very refreshing to have an intelligent, mature voice on here to read. PEOPLE-Hip-hop is not just for or about juvenile minded miscreants, thugs, hoes, wannabees, criminals & delinquents. Ms. Burrell, please keep doin your thing.

    Zach
    http://www.myspace.com/zacreole

  • daesonesb

    Changing hip hop to an equal opportunity platform would be like moving a fucking glacier.

  • welfare baby

    fourth bitches

  • REAL TALK NY

    GOOD POST,BUT I THINK YOU ARE FIGHTING A BATTLE THAT CAN NOT BE WON.
    I KNOW YOU ARE AWARE WHAT KIND OF MUSIC IS BEING PUT OUT FOR LISTENING PLEASURES (CARS,DRUGS,JEWERLY OF COURSE, AND LAST BUT NOT LEAST FELATIO).

    YOU MAKE GOOD POINTS, BUT THINGS HAVE CHANGED FOR THE WORST. A COUPLE OF MONTHS AGO… A FRIEND OF MINE’S WHO IS A TEACHER WAS TELLING ME THE SHIT THAT HAPPENS IN HER GRAMMAR SCHOOL SHE TEACHHES AT.. CATCHING LITTLE GIRLS PERFORMING SEXUAL FAVORS TO YOUNG BOYS.( I GUESS MILK DOES A BODY GOOD…LMAO) JUST PLAYING BUT YOU SEE WHAT I AM SAYING.

    AT THIS RATE BY THE AGE OF 30-35 WOMEN WILL BE FACING A LIFETIME CASE OF Laryngitis.

    PARDON THE JOKES… IM LOOKING FORWARD TO THE RESPONSE.

  • SONNY CHEEBA

    fuck a bitch!

  • Mikey Ess AKA SukedowN

    The term Hip-Hop feminist is about as contradictory as Pornography Feminist.

    Lil Kim is the only commercially successful female rapper who has minimized males to the same extent as the average commercially successful male rapper minimizes females.

    Lil Kim’s reversal formula may never again be seen. The only way for a female to be successful in this game is to lower her standards or create some new gimmick.

  • thoreauly77

    feminism and hiphop do co-exist. but there is a problem inherart and that is the misogyny in lyrics. personaly, i am disgusted by it and i choose not to listen to it. some of my favorite artists include ghostface (who can be truly foul), mf doom (can be foul as well), and aesop rock (rarely if ever has displayed misogyny in his lyrics). this is a fraction of what i listen to, but i find it difficult to support some of these artists as a consumer because the purchase of their music in many ways justifies their behavior. what is the answer? i dont know exactly. i dont think it as simple as boycotting so much as it is essential to include feminist discourse in hiphop as a means to attempt a balance/dialogue amongst the consumers and artists (and hopefully the industry will take note).

    good post.

  • http://www.myspace/corinnemq Corinne

    I like you on this, stick around. That picture is for real the shit, I like. =D

  • http://fckedup.blogspot.com MB

    This blog was amazing!

    Do you think a hip hop mag like XXL would have the balls (per the masculine grammatics) to do a regular feminism and hip hop column?

  • Stingy

    wait till you tell em about Mark Anthony Neal’s “Black Male Feminist” theory. then they’ll really flip.

  • erin

    Wonderful post sis!

  • http://xxl Vic Dollar

    I like what you say! Keep doin what you do. This hip-hop is about word play not fore play!!! REAL TALK

  • Bang

    the hoez are the ones making it hardest for women to change up their image and standing for the better. clean up house and teach the shorties …. or expect it to keep up. That’s it

  • Bang

    oh, and respect. good points but it’s just the start. Peace

  • missbridge

    Hey Spelmanite-
    Loved the entry. Its very refreshing to have this type of perspective at XXLMAG.com. Hopefully, they keep you on to offer commentary with artists and such.

  • pat

    Let’s take one small illustrative example from XXL. The prominent “Eye Candy” section makes it read like a men’s magazine (e.g. Maxim). What if XXL or any hip hop magazine more resembled Essence than Maxim? How would it be as a man to read a magazine about hip hop culture that was packaged with a different gender of reader in mind? How would it be as a woman?
    ^^^^^
    like reading Vibe magazine

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