A common theme in lyrical assassin Kendrick Lamar’s music is loyalty. But before he was tag-teaming with bad gal RiRi about it, he questioned it on the last track of his album, “To Pimp A Butterfly,” with his song “Mortal Man.” Uttered repeatedly on the refrain, K. Dot posed the question, “When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?” Leaving a lasting impression on me, this particular lyric lingered on. The music and entertainment industry can be fickle already. Some artists can be a hit today and a “Who?”tomorrow. But in terms of artists I like listening to, just how deep does my loyalty lie?
Everyone that knows me can tell you my first love has been hip-hop. It’s been my most fulfilling and consistent relationship for the past 25 years. (The one I have with my wax specialist is a close runner up though. Have you seen my eyebrows?) Much like any other relationship, the one I have with hip-hop has it’s complexities and get heavier on my heart than the basslines rattling through my speakers when I play it. Sometimes being a woman who loves rap is a weight that can be too much to bear. It’s hard being a female rap fan when some of music’s superstars have such a shaky past when it comes to women.
I used to shout out, “It’s only entertainment!”like Jay-Z on his song “Ignorant Shit”in terms of the ongoing misogyny debate in hip-hop. As a young woman who owned her sexuality and saw the terms “bitch” and “hoe” as non-gender specific nouns, I defended CERTAIN aspects when discussing the TipDrill videos and the bigger picture of songs similar to Big Pimpin. But could Ihave in fact been ignorant to the bullshit? I grew up on hip-hop but also in a household that explained healthy behaviors of men and women alike. I never thought hip-hop hated me, or even hated women, especially with the mavens in this music genre like Queen Latifah and Lil Kim. But it turns out today’s music would somewhat change my thinking.
Recently, I’ve realized some of rap’s idols would become my rivals as a young woman with respect. It hurts to scroll down my social media timeline and see headlines from media platforms like Complex reading, “XXXtentcion is not going anywhere,” while listeners are still willing to give his music a chance despite his disturbing domestic violence past. Things like this are like a direct SLAP to MY FACE as a female rap fan. Why are we willing to give a platform to young men like this? If he doesn’t see women worthy, why the fuck would I see him as worthy of my time, attention, and streams?
But to slam XXXistensial Crisis, when I still roll in peace to Kodak Black makes me a hypocrite, no? I feel guilty listening to the beloved Project Baby when Kodak Black’s rap sheet of sexual misconduct is longer than his list of rap hits. After all, I’ve turned the other cheek with Chris Brown after his assault case against former girlfriend Rihanna. We’ve seen the photos first hand while me, several other music fans, and even Rihanna found a way to forgive him for it.
More recently, rapper Fabolous turned himself into police over domestic abuse charges in an incident involving his long term girlfriend and mother of his children, Emily B. Reports read he knocked her teeth out and made threats to her, her father, and her brother. After seeing this unfold, I was disgusted along with disoriented. He turned himself in last week, but police somehow let him go and he performed along with Jadakiss this week here in New York in front of a crowd of fans screaming and cheering him on. Now I’m left like da-da-da-da…da-da-da-da-da DAMN.
In terms of loyalty, does this mean I leave behind most of my music library? In my catalog are countless beats by Dr. Dre, Big Pun still gets plenty of plays, and the list goes on. I admit there were a few songs that made me uncomfortable as a listener from some of Tyler the Creator’s early music related to raping and torturing women, toYG’s shitty ass “She Wish She Was” song elaborating on the double standard of women not being able to be as sexually free as men, and evenRick Ross’ rapey like raps in “U.O.E.N.O.,“ but I haven’t completely written any of these men off. As a woman who is also woke am I contradicting everything I stand for willingly sweeping things under the rug simply in the name of rap music? Much like Kendrick Lamar rapped about in his song mentioned, these entertainers are nothing more than a mortal man themselves.
“How many leaders you said you needed then left ’em for dead?
Is it Moses? Is it Huey Newton? Or Detroit Red?
Is it Martin Luther, JFK, shoot or you assassin
Is it Jackie? Is it Jesse? Oh I know, it’s Michael Jackson! OH!
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?
That nigga gave us “Billie Jean”, you say he touched those kids?
When shit hit the fan, is you still a fan?” – Kendrick Lamar, “Mortal Man”
We shouldn’t put them on a pedestal yes, BUT they should also be held accountable, correct? Or maybe I should separate the man from the music instead? But because these men are talented and have touched lives of millions with their music I’m supposed to ignore the ones they’ve inappropriately touched with their hands?
It’s complicated this thing between me and hip-hop, but I’m not leaving. At times it gets tricky, yes, but I’m here as a fan to take a stand with my voice and with my choice, starting with the power of the consumer. I’m leaving the Ian Connors and the Famous Dexs of the world behind and moving on to give my money and attention to those I feel deserve it. A recent Nielsen study examined how black women have the greatest influence in buying power and as a black woman, I have the power to shape an industry that has often shamed me. Another common theme in Kendrick Lamar’s music is the power of pussy, along with many other artists. History can tell you the same thing, a mortal man falls victim to the power of pussy time and time again. Maybe it’s time female fans had the same impact when it comes to hip-hop.
Any advice for a rap advocate like myself? Let me know your thoughts in a comment below.