Girls Rock Camp New Orleans (GRCNO) is a volunteer-run summer music camp for ‘individuals who self-identify as female and/or non-binary’ between the ages of 9 to 16. Each member learns to play an instrument, write a song and will star in a live musical performance at the culmination of the camp! This summer, GRCNO will take place at the Wardolf School of New Orleans from June 30 – July 4, with the musical showcase taking place on July 5.
Charlamagne says, “I just think it’s b******t when you get on Saturday Night Live and you have a sign behind you that says ‘Not For Sale’… You can’t denounce corporations when you’re in business with corporations! You’re in business with Nike, and you’re helping them sell sneakers. You’re in business with Def Jam… What exactly isn’t for sale Kanye?”
I normally disregard what Charlamagne has to say about… well, anything, but this is an interesting argument (that I disagree with) because it’s way more complicated than Charlamagne is making it out to be.
Yes, Kanye sells sneakers and records and he’s in the media even more now that he and his girlfriend Kim Kardashian has had a baby girl. But who is to say that Kanye cannot criticize the culture we live in without actively being a part of it? Charlamagne’s argument reminds me of people who are trapped in their circumstance… like people who buy from Walmart, knowing the evils that Walmart perpetuates, but cannot shop at alternative places because of cost, gas, lack of transportation or what have you. The system of capitalism (which I won’t get into right now in detail) is so intricate, that you cannot really partake in something that isn’t at least slightly problematic.
Of course, Kanye could refuse to sell sneakers and not make records and be a starving artist like he originally intended, but let’s be clear here- Kanye West, the brand, and Kanye Omari West, the person, are two completely different things. And the brand, not the person, is what is for sale.
I had the privilege of reading a fantastic article on FlavorWire by Tom Hawking about how Kanye West’s persona can be read as a caricature of what is expected of him as an infamous, rich, Black rapper. I happen to agree with the author: One could easily surmise from listening to Kanye’s lyrics in each of his albums that he has opinions on culture, religion, politics, racism, self-discovery and self-love. Examples include:
“So here go my single, dog, radio needs this / They think they can rap about anything except for Jesus / that means sex, guns, lies, videotapes / but if I rap about God, my record won’t get played, huh?” – Jesus Walks, The College Dropout
“They want her to live, and she’s trying / I’m arguing what kind of doctor can we fly in? / you know the best medicine goes to people that’s paid / if Magic Johnson had a cure for AIDS / and all the broke mother*****s passed away / you’re telling me if my grandma was in the NBA / right now she would be okay?” – Roses, Late Registration
“The system’s broken / the school’s closed, the prison’s open / we ain’t got nothing to lose / mother****** we rollin.” – Power, My Beautiful Dark Twisted Fantasy
A huge flaw in Charlamagne’s thinking is that he doesn’t think Kanye can be critical and yet enjoy materialistic things. Kanye himself says he doesn’t come from the projects, but he didn’t always have money the way he does now. What exactly is the problem with enjoying the money you’ve earned yourself? Or enjoying a career that you’ve worked hard and consistently for, while also criticizing the industry and the things other people will do for said money? How come any musician that raps about women, money, nice cars and materialistic things have “sold out” cannot also rap about politics, racism or self?
Not all rap music is going to be about coming from the projects and selling drugs, just the way not all rap music is not going to be about platinum chains and product endorsements. The problem comes in when you automatically categorize certain topics under “good music” and “bad music.” There is a pretentiousness in “conscious” hip-hop that argues that “gangsta” rap or rapping about partaking in materialism has “killed” hip-hop and every rapper is apparently supposed to be like Common or Talib Kweli. Not every rapper wants to stick to that formula, and people say they’ve “sold out”. People become very invested in person’s character, not realizing that people change and grow. Producer of Jay-Z’s “The Blueprint” Kanye West is not the same as “808s and Heartbreak” Kanye West, who is not the same as “Yeezus” Kanye West. Rapping about the same thing all the time would eventually get boring, and I personally would argue one of the best things about Kanye West is his adaptability. Kanye’s albums all sound different, yet you can tell each one is Kanye West. His style and influence is undeniable.
Let me stop while I’m ahead… What are your thoughts on Charlamagne’s comments?
Beyoncé has something to say to the people out there waxing poetic on Black celebrity-hood and respectability politics.
Rebecca A. Gowns: Most of all, I love the small “But of course!” line thrown in there, delivered by a bitchy passive-aggressive white girl. “I’m a grown woman! I can do whatever I want!” Beyonce belts, and in the background, there’s that tiny valley girl voice: “But of course!” That’s gotta be intentional; this song is just as much a response to her (white feminist) critics as “Bow Down” was. What makes it extra delicious is that this is the only spiteful part of the song — “But of course!” — and it’s coming from some weird non-Beyonce character (a single character, with not a single echo, chorus effect, or call and response acknowledging her). Beyonce made the hater a part of her song. This is a trophy song, a song to celebrate her and all her achievements, and it’s topped with the head of her enemy.
Gowns pretty much summarizes how I feel in this quote above about the song. Read the lyrics here.
Is anyone else really sick of people ragging on Beyonce, or is it just me?
I’m not saying you have to like her music, or like her as a person, but let’s take a look at her accomplishments:
- As a teenager/young woman she was the lead singer of Destiny’s Child, one of the best selling all-female groups of all time.
- Her debut album, Dangerously In Love, earned her five Grammy awards.
- She has been featured in movies such as Dreamgirls, Carmen: A Hip-Hopera, Obsession, The Fighting Temptations, Pink Panther, and more.
- In 2001 she was the first African-American female to win the Pop Songwriter of the Year Award (and the second female writer overall).
- Her debut single, “Crazy In Love,” made Rolling Stone’s 500 Greatest Songs of All Time list and was also named VH1’s Greatest Song of the 2000’s.
- Since 2012, she’s had a horse fly named after her because it has gold hairs on it’s abdomen, and was considered by the research scientist responsible for the discovery the ‘diva’ of horse flies.
- Also in 2012, Rutgers University in New Jersey introduced a class called “Politicizing Beyonce,” in which students study her image, music, and influence, and decide for themselves whether it is empowering or simply complying with Western gender roles.
- She has so many awards I’m going to just give you a link and you can read them yourself.
- She founded a designer clothing line with her mother, House of Dereon, in 2005.
- She’s appeared in commercials and advertisements for products including but not limited to: Pepsi, L’Oreal, Emporio Armani, and, starting next month, H&M.
- After Hurricane Katrina in 2005, she and fellow singer-songwriter Kelly Rowland founded the Survivor Foundation to provide temporary housing for victims in her hometown.
- She’s gone on four concert tours, not including this years ‘The Mrs. Carter World Tour.’
There’s plenty more where that came from, but even if there wasn’t I would say that Beyonce Giselle Knowles-Carter is a very accomplished, multi-talented, influential and admirable person.
This is one of the reasons why I get particularly annoyed when I happen to come across things like this letter that Rakhi Kumar has written to Michelle Obama about Beyonce not being a good role model for her daughters, Sasha and Malia Obama.
Rakhi Kumar’s complaint starts with her objection to one of Beyonce’s outfits at the Mrs. Carter World Tour, which apparently consists of a sheer bodysuit with the nipples showing. Because I haven’t been to the show, and because there are people commenting saying that her nipples were not showing, I won’t comment on that. But I will say that it’s a bit ironic that Kumar was so bothered by the costume and the ‘misogynistic implications’ that it represented, because the fact that Beyonce’s performance was belittled to what she was wearing can be read as misogynistic as well.
Also, a sidenote: Why do people have such a problem with nipples? Last time I checked, all humans, regardless of gender, had nipples? What about them makes them overtly sexual? They are used FOR FEEDING CHILDREN. As soon as nipples are revealed, they are instantly assumed to be there for a man’s gratification, and if they are revealed for breastfeeding, it’s ‘indecent’. Feeding infants naturally is indecent now?
But I digress. My point is, automatically rendering any woman’s body parts overtly sexual… sexualizes women. And apparently, women aren’t supposed to be sexy in order to be good role models. Or at least that is the case according to Rakhi Kumar.
At one point in the letter, Kumar says:
Beyonce, performing in sheer body suits, nipples displayed, mouth open, high heels and sheer tights, shaking her butt on stage, can no longer be held by world leaders as an icon of female success.
Because for as long as she is, we are feeding a demonic myth that women must make themselves sexually available to enjoy ultimate success.
This is a debate that comes up a lot in discussions about rape culture. There is an idea that women who wear revealing clothing are ‘asking to be raped’ or ‘asking for sex.’ Because apparently women don’t dress for themselves- they dress to attract or repulse men. So by wearing clothing that is revealing, Beyonce is making herself ‘sexually available.’ I wish it was obvious to people why that is an extremely flawed philosophy, but apparently not. So just to make it clear: women are people. People should have the right to wear what they want and not be judged for it. As far as I’m concerned, a woman should be able to walk down the street naked and not have someone touch her without her permission. If a man can walk down the street shirtless and we can just assume he’s hot, and a woman can’t because that’s indecent exposure and she’s inviting rape, that says more about our assumptions and who we are than it does about the man and woman in question.
Kumar also says later on in the letter:
And it’s time that young girls were sent a different message. A more refined, intelligent message. A message that engaged them at the level of their intellect and potential because implicit in our message to them should be the acknowledgement that they are naturally brilliant and that we believe that they are capable of everything -without ever having to undress to achieve their success.
I’m sorry, since when is someone’s intellect based on their appearance? Because Beyonce isn’t wearing enough clothing for your standards, she isn’t smart or strong or capable? Beyonce won every single award she has because you could see her nipples through her bodysuit?
Kumar even points out that Beyonce is the one who chooses to do it! You don’t have to agree with Beyonce’s choice, you don’t have to like it. But to tell the First Lady of the United States that she is not choosing the right role models for her children because you don’t like Beyonce’s clothing is absurd. The fact that Kumar refuses to acknowledge Beyonce’s talent as an artist and musician because of a sheer bodysuit is playing right into the idea that a woman can be defined by what she wears. And the fact that Kumar feels the need to criticize an aspect of Michelle Obama’s child-rearing reminds me of Jaclyn Friedman’s piece last year on GOOD, telling Beyonce and Jay-Z how to raise Blue Ivy Carter.
In a broader scope, I tend to feel icky when people feel the need to tell influential, successful Black people how to raise their children. I also don’t like the idea of Beyonce being judged by her outfits, because I feel like Black women are simultaneously oversexualized and desexualized, and that there is another anti-Black political message in judging what Black women wear and what effect that has on their body and their sexuality. But that’s another post for another day.
I conclude this by saying: Leave Beyonce alone! Let her live her life and celebrate her accomplishments the way she wants to, please stop overcriticizing every little thing she does. No one is a perfect human being- that includes celebrities, and that includes her. Before Kumar judges someone else for not being a good role model, she should make sure she is one too- and so far, I’m not feeling the messages she has for young women.
But for real, for me, I feel like with the red lipstick thing it all depends on the pair of complexion. I’m just being for real. You have to be fair skinned to get away with that… what do dark skin girls have that you know fair skinned girls cant do… Purple lipstick? Naw, that looks stupid on all girls!
Yes, I know this is just someone’s opinion, and it probably shouldn’t bother me as much as it does. I mean, I don’t know about you, but I am certainly not depending on A$AP Rocky for fashion advice.
I think it has more to do with the fact that I know from personal experience that dark-skinned Black women are constantly told that things don’t look good on them, that they are ugly, or that they are not as desired as much as light-skinned or White women. And rap & hip-hop is a reflection of society, so of course this is reflected in song lyrics and interviews. Here are some examples:
“That’s why I like chilling with women who like women
Light-skinned Asians, Jamaicans, and white women
Indians, Italians, Haitians and Puerto Ricans,
They be itchin’ for they chance and waiting on me to freak ’em.”
– T.I., “Let’s Get Away”
“Chocolate is her skin-tone,
Make a n***a say, “f**k a red bone!”
-Lil’ Kee feat. Javon Black, “My Baby”
“Used to be black girls was the baddest s**t, you know what I mean? Spanish, J-Lo be poppin’ … white women are poppin’ right now, man. They f*****g poppin’. Imma just be real.”
-Wacka Flocka Flame, in an interview with SOHH.com.
There is plenty more where that came from. Check out this documentary (I haven’t watched it yet, but will hopefully this weekend), Complexion Obsession, about the abundance of light-skinned women in rap videos and as the objects of desire in rap lyrics.
Now, A$AP didn’t straight up say he preferred light-skinned women, so I’m not pinning that on him. But telling dark-skinned women that they can’t get away with something that light-skinned women can’t get away with? Assuming that dark-skinned women care what A$AP Rocky or any other man think about their lipstick? Assuming that dark-skinned women (or any women at all, really) make all of their fashion decisions based on men? I’m not here for that. And I definitely believe there is a connection between A$AP’s advice and hip-hop’s preference for light-skinned women.
And I’m not the only one! Click here, here, and here to see Azealia Banks’ feelings on the matter. By the way, Banks released a signature lipstick with M.A.C. last September called ‘Yung Rapunxel.” She’s infamous for purple lipstick in particular.
Also, he’s just straight up wrong. When it comes to red lipstick, you just have to find the right shade. Check out this blog post on how to pick the right lipstick shade.
Colorism is complicated though. How much of this obsession with light-skinned Women is rooted in self-hatred?
There will be more on the colorism in hip-hop later on the blog, so stay tuned!
WHO: There’s a new female rapper/singer in the game and she’s spitting her way into the hearts of today’s hip-hop fiends. Azealia Banks, a newbie from Harlem, is the new up-and-comer in the music industry. With the exception of her Youtube tracks “Seventeen” and “Gimme A Chance” under the moniker Miss Bank$, she dropped her first official single, “212” last year featuring a beat from Lazy Jay. After that came “Liquorice,” a catchy tune with a spanking-fresh music video where Banks boasts about attracting White boys despite having dark skin. Banks sings on the hook:” Can I catch your eye sir / Can I be what you like? Yeah… / I can be the right girl / Tell me if you like your / lady in my, my color / can I be your type? Yeah…”
Banks’ debut album, Broke With Expensive Taste, is due in September on Interscope/Polydor Records. Although many people refer to her as a rapper, she prefers the term “lyricist.” She wrote on her blog:
“I never was…. and as soon as I started paying attention to b******t urban media, I started getting myself in trouble. From now on I’m a vocalist, and will not be associating myself with the “rap game”… or whatever the f**k that means…”
WHY: The quote above may be referring to her highly-publicized confrontations with White female rapper Iggy Azalea. XXL reports that in April, Banks tweeted, “How can you endorse a white woman who called herself a ‘runaway slave master’? Sorry guys. But I’m pro black girl. I’m not anti white girl, but I’m also not here for any1 outside of my culture trying to trivialize very serious aspects of it.”
Unfortunately for Banks, race is always going to play a part in her career. A Google search of Azealia Banks and Iggy Azalea will bring up plenty of interviews with Iggy about her beef with Banks, and her word is backed up even more by her rap mentor T.I., who signed her to Grand Hustle Records in early March of this year. But Banks doesn’t shy away from the controversy. Racialicious’ write up of Azealia Banks as the Crush of the Week points out, “Sexual braggadicio? Check? And hold on…did she just check Diplo and his I’m-not-an-cultural-appropriator-because-I-date-the-women-of-color-I-take-credit-for a** (and any other white person who thinks they get a Racism Pass because they sex it up with folks outside their race)? Totes check.”
WHEN: Banks’ album is due in September, but if you can’t wait that long, stay tuned for her mixtape Fantasea, to be released on July 4, and check out her 1991 EP, released May 29.