One of the truly stupidest things about New York’s hell-machine of transaction/ascension is the idea that, in certain circles, cultural capital can render one more or less datable, i.e. “He’s everything I’ve ever wanted, but he’s only second-tier editorial!” Or the idea that some dudes would not date a woman that wouldn’t garner them the collective thumbs-up from their man-friends–real-world locker-room ass-patting, like driving a Ferrari, or being told the Bose stereo is better than the Sony: buy that one; envy and admiration shall follow suit. We devalue even in our own eyes, whether we’re models thinking that’s all we’re worth, or not-models getting the “nein” because some dude’s A&R friends don’t cosign our fat thighs.
This correlates loosely with the Hip-Hop & Feminism panel I attended tonight [update: Imani Dawson’s story on the panel] two-and-a-half hours of unmitigated chaos–Remy Ma on the mic without a beat behind her was, tonight, truly a morbid experience–though I woulda coulda maybe thought she was cool and fun, were she not verbally destroying something I care about so deeply. Her tack: “No one is forced to be a girl in a video. There is no responsibility to be taken. He’s not talking about me, specifically, when he says ‘bitch’ and ‘ho,’ so” failing to see herself, or the possibility of herself, in other people. Stanley Crouch and Johnnie Walker backed out at the last (reasons given: “the flu” and “surgery,” respectively), so it consisted of Remy, Akiba Solomon (she-ra of Essence mag), Jean Grae, radio journalist Karen Hunter, and DJ Beverly Bond. Barely moderated by Thabiti Boone, a man who I admire for co-founding the Hip-Hop Political convention, but who, unfortunately, turned the discussion over to the audience after about five minutes, which resulted in aforementioned chaos. Despite certain panel problems, and Remy’s, erm, monopolization of the discourse, I dug out a few basics from the mess, some of which we already knew:
1. The portrayal of women in hip-hop is a symptom of a larger problem, which includes a complex web of late-stage capitalism, media consolidation, and 600 years of American racism. [Karen Hunter: “You cant solve a problem unless you know where it starts.”]
1b. Just because it is a symptom does not mean we are powerless, or that we are excused in our complicity.
2. Someone is seriously profiting off the thong-thonged and Nelly-with-a-leash videos, and it aint necessarily Superhead… nor is it necessarily Nelly. (see 1.)
3. We are, to paraphrase Krist Novoselic, a country in crisis.
4. Hip-hop feminism didn’t quite hit critical mass tonight (it hardly even got to the feminism part tonight), but a lot of ladies have a lot to say about it. This is a positive first (second, third, fourth) step.
5. The portrayal of men in hip-hop isn’t all cake and ice cream, either.
6. It is seriously fucked that the Grammys eliminated the “Best Female Rap Artist” this year. (Credit: Jean Grae)
7. It is also seriously fucked that Clear Channel has banned “I’m Black” by Styles P. (Credit: Akiba Solomon)
8. Can Jean Grae eat?
9. This nice lady recommends Dr. Eileen Southern’s The Music of Black Americans: A History for context.
10. Hip-hop feminism, like most social justice movements in 2005, could really use a good point person. (or is point-person/sole-leader an archaic notion–is organizing about “The Hive”? tell me, o wise politicos) I totes nominate Akiba, or Elizabeth Mendez-Berry (perhaps as co-conspirators).
‘Xcuse the cursory nature, but I’m saving the paragraphs for the print piece. Surely soon we’ll hear more from Jay and Hashim, both in attendance.

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61 Responses to DON’T DIET, RIOT

  1. Will says:

    you’re an aries??
    no wonder (opposites attract).
    sounds like an interesting panel.
    oh, and happy birthday.
    oh, and: i’m “focused” now.

  2. TM says:

    Oblique recommendation: “Crosstown Traffic” by Charles Shaar Murray. It’s flawed but it has a good basic riff–viewing afro-american music history through the prism of Hendrix. Women come up from time to time; he is fair, if not visionary, on the topic.
    More obliquity: I am finally reading an Audrey Lorde book. I love it.

  3. jojo says:

    from a male point of view I like what Kevin Powell says on the subject

  4. Adrian Anti says:

    Late-stage which? Anyway, you are incredible. Hip-hop should get together and loot Wall Street. Do you want a bullhorn? I’m thinking the feminists could really sock it to ’em. “A bloody suit is how we shoot.” Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! Fuck ’em! WORD.

  5. If that first paragraph is true then no wonder why I’ve been reluctant to be a true blue rock critic all these years. And why every time I come to NYC and leave Times Square, I feel like a troll.

  6. lynne says:

    i knew i forgot to attend this – thanks for the reporting

  7. metalface says:

    Nice rundown. I was there. The way you describe it just about exactly how it went down. I thought I was being ultra-critical, but there was no getting around it.
    You are correct in your assesment of the moderator. Throwing questions to the audience for the sake of some sort of populist revolt tactic was absurd. The method of taking questions after the panel discussion is over is a model that has worked for how long? Why abandon that? The discussion just descended into a jumble of Scrabble blocks. You just couldn’t catch all the tagents and side convos. I’ve already talked on Remy over at my site, so I’ll forego getting my pressure up, as my grandma used to say.

  8. Shuttabug says:

    It’s times like these that I lived in or knew someone I could stay with in NYC.
    Good thing I’m making plans for Chicago’s hip hop and feminism conference.
    Thanks for the great reporting.

  9. jck says:

    i dunno, i always don’t like heavily moderated discussions. so what if its messy….as long as no one person or group is dominating a discussion….the hoi polio (how you spell it) should be able to discuss the subjects which impact them
    i find that when people are restricted from speaking they get tense and there is a kind of enregy that builds and then leads to confusion. but times when the masses actually speak, after awhile people sometimes realize they’re being given a chance to have a voice and then they treat it with more respect
    not being there, i kind of respect the instinct to let it turn messy. what was lost by one meeting or conference being messy? is that the last time the discussion will be had?

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