Love Rap

In the latest issue of “my blues ain’t like yours,” a recent article on Vice magazine’s Noisy site, entitled “Why Are You So Intimidated By Girls Liking Rap Music” chronicled the plight of women who love rap music only to have their love of the genre “questioned” by concerned males.

Initially, when I saw the title I assumed it was yet another article about the plight of female rappers and their quest to earn the same respect, accolades, dollars, fame and credibility as their male peers. I was expecting some heated exchange about Iggy Azalea or Azaelia Banks or Angel Haze and the legion of indie rap queens trying to get put on against the overall dismissiveness some rap consumers – male and female – have towards a female MC. Mostly because the bar is so impossibly high. Couldn’t pull a “Mis-Education of Lauryn Hill” out of your ass on the first shot?

Floppity-flop-flop-flop they’ll say, even if you sell out arenas. To make it in the current rap game as a lady person you have to be a genius and look like you could be your own video vixen.

But instead I got a whole other problem I (initially) could not relate to:

From Vice:

(A)s with any Boys’ Club, being a female rap diehard means being repeatedly affronted as to whether your interest can possibly be serious and, if so, what are the ulterior motives behind your interest (namely, it seems, to get boys to think you’re cool). The amount of times I’ve been challenged by men who can’t wrap their feeble minds around the fact that, yes, I actually listen to Gunplay and can probably school their ass on #DeepGunplayMixtapeCuts continues to amaze me. Worse than incredulity, though, is the patronizing pat on the back for somehow overcoming my tragic vaginal handicap that prevents women from hearing music in the same way that men do—”Aw, you like Flocka, that’s so cute!” or, “Wow, you’re so different from other girls!” Really? How often do you speak to girls?

After reading the article twice to make sure I understood what was happening here, I realized that I was not reading an article about black people, gender and rap music, but white people, what some white men think of black men and rap music, and then trying to be all “No Girlz Allowed” in their Honey Comb Hideout of United A$AP Rocky Stans of America.

I wasn’t alone in my initial confusion based on these two comments on the story by others – who appear to be other black people:

I’ve actually had the opposite reaction. As a black girl, no one’s had a hard time believing I’m a hip hop head. It’s when I start talking about the other types of music that I get shock or disbelief.

And …

Not to be a dick, but is this for real? Or is this a vanity article? I thought we squashed the idea that women shouldn’t be listening to rap music in the f***ing 90s (Late 80s)? Maybe this is a regional thing. I don’t run into this sentiment on the West Coast. Maybe the rest of you motherf****s just need to catch up.

The misunderstanding reminded me of the time I referred to a gaggle of very sweet, elderly black women as “ladies”  in a newspaper article and one of my editors, a white woman, argued with me that using the term “lady” was sexist and offensive. Being 23 and inexperienced at the time, I had no idea of what to say as a counter to her argument other than it just sounded “wrong” for it to be bad to call a black woman a lady.

An older male editor got her to back down by pointing out I was raised by Southerners and it’s “probably not as offensive there.”

Now, much older, I get why my editor was so heated, but she also did not get that many black women are routinely treated like pack mules or degenerates or non-existent. Call me a lady now, even knowing what that “means” in terms of gender politics, and the most I’ll do is giggle.

My subjugation ain’t like yours.

But the most fascinating part of the article, was the notion of some nerdy white guys defending the so-called sanctity of white “trap” music fandom from white female cooties, telling said cooties they were not “legit” and didn’t understand what they were listening to or were possible Lil Wayne groupies or that they were only doing this to get into their white guy pants.

I wondered if these same white guys trying to protect the “purity” of 2Chainz’s “I love Dem Strippers” questioned it if they came across a black girl who was really into rap and knew her stuff? Which side would win? Race says the black woman – by virtue of blackness – has more ownership in Hip-Hop than a white person does, but GENDER says she does not, since rap is so overwhelmingly male.

What would happen? What could happen? It’s the virtual Schrodinger’s Cat of rap quandaries.

Except, it’s not. I can easily tell you the answer because I’ve lived it. I’ve had several white guy friends who were into rap more than I was and they never, ever once questioned whether I knew what I was talking about when we talked about rap music. Because, in America, black women aren’t women. They’re black.

The only people who tend to care how rap lyrics will affect black women are concerned black men and women who think the glorification of sex, drugs, and violence in “commercial” Hip Hop is glamorizing dysfunction.

The author of the Vice piece had a great point that was relevant and even necessary … if you’re going through that kind of sexism. But Black American gender politics are so different from those at play in the white mainstream that it’s in moments like these where even though I completely understand, I can’t really relate.

My problem isn’t people not respecting my love of certain rap music – it’s about my level of comfort with the images associated with it and my fears about what internalizing those images will do to younger black boys and girls. Part of being an outsider in a subculture is you don’t carry the burden of wondering what ingesting the more painful and uncomfortable images in that subculture means about you.

Because when someone says “bitch” or “ho”  they aren’t talking about you. They’re talking about someone who looks like me.

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