Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Is Hip-Hop Feminism Alive in 2011?

By: Akoto Ofori-Atta

Joan Morgan coined the phrase back in 1999, but what does hip-hop feminism look like today? Is it Queen Latifah? Nicki Minaj? Or the 10-year-old girl calling out Lil Wayne?

In 1992 Dr. Dre released his single "Bitches Ain't Sh--," complete with a chorus that emphatically reduces women to nothing but "hoes and tricks."

In 1996 Akinyele famously sang "Put It In Your Mouth," a song that flooded radio airwaves and clubs across the country.

Fast-forward to 2003, and Nelly releases a video for his single "Tip Drill," in which he famously slides a credit card between the cheeks of a video vixen's bottom. And then there was, of course, the Don Imus incident, when he justified his "nappy-headed ho" comment by arguing that black men regularly call their women out of their names in hip-hop songs.

There is no shortage of these cringe-inducing moments that have made women question their relationship to hip-hop. But these moments don't go completely uncontested. From Queen Latifah's "U.N.I.T.Y." ("Who you callin' a bitch?") to a 10-year-old's heartfelt plea to Lil Wayne urging him to speak highly of women, hip-hop feminism has almost always been just as audible as the crass catcalls. While one might be hard-pressed to find a song of the "Put It In Your Mouth" variety in heavy rotation today, hip-hop feminists still have a job to do in railing against a male-dominated culture.

Hip-hop feminists are like other feminists in that they advocate for gender equality. Where they part ways from other feminist groups is that they operate in and identify as part of hip-hop culture, as expressed in their choices in music, dance, art and politics.

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