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The Fifty Shades of Slim Shady – Rap Rehab

    When women are less than gracious and good humored about their own oppression, men often feel uncomfortable.       Allan G. Johnson

    It appears that a woman getting punched in the face is the new thing MCs need to brag about. This week Eminem someone who honestly needs no introduction made the decision to rap about punching singer/songwriter Lana Del Rey in the face. Not only did he declare his violent intentions to Lana he inexplicably referenced a woman who was actually physically assaulted by her then boyfriend/fiancé in an elevator. I really hate giving this track any promo but as a fan of Hip Hop I am getting really tired of veteran MCs acting out when they really should know better. A diss track or verse is all well and good but when you out here claiming you would hit a woman just for some attention then clearly you were asking to be checked. I truly respect Eminem’s legacy but my admiration for his work does not temper a critical look at this week’s antics. Last week the whole nation held its breath as we all watched a woman abducted right off the street. Thank goodness that woman survived and is home safe but the sad truth that could have been me, anyone woman reading this article and even Eminem’s own daughter. Violence against women is NOT something to boast about. This summer thousands of people on social media and several entertainers were all advocates of the #bringbackourgirls campaign. An eleven year old little girl was kidnapped and held in room for 18 years and forced to give birth to two of her attacker’s children. And one cannot forget what happened to a 23 year old student in New Delhi, India who later died from the severity of her injuries after she was brutally assaulted by a group of 6 men. These are some of the worst cases of violence against women but these vicious incidents are neither rare nor exaggerated. Heinous violence against women and young girls is a global tragedy.

    HipHop Is A Vehicle – Talib Kweli

    Eminem wanted some attention in the worst way, literally, because this is an MC at his worst, relying on controversy instead of his skills to garner looks and buzz. We as female fans of rap music have tolerated and even accepted the 2nd class citizen status of women in HipHop and in the industry for a long time but at some point even the most tolerant woman is going to have to put her foot down. The sad part is that this isn’t the first time a rap artist has taken a left when he should have gone right. Remember the Rick Ross date rape scandal? I am sure he does, let’s hope that will be reflected in his lyrics but in HipHop there is no guarantee that the mistakes of the past will have any effect on decisions in the future. Back in 1999 with The Slim Shady release Marshall Mathers (aka: Eminem) came after Christina Aguilera and then it was Kim Kardashian and others in 2009. To say that just because he has done it before means that it’s okay for him to do it again is a mistake. Maybe like a lot of men he feels woman are easy targets and he believes he can use violent lyrics towards women because he got away with it before. We are not where we were 15 years ago and to be honest neither is Eminem. He is over 40 and is raising two children. Also women have had increasing control over media platforms and social blogs and I promise you no matter what decade it is no one not even Lana Del Rey or Janay Rice wants to be punched in the face.

    Plot Twist: These “Hoes” Are Loyal

    Women have always been a part of Hip Hop either as an object of desire, as respected MCs and most importantly as fans and supporters. I like a lot of women are drawn to rap music because of its confrontational position to mainstream society. Even though there is much to disagree with in terms of the images/lyrics and attitudes in HipHop, women appreciate the possibility of empowerment contained in just one verse.

    When Queen Latifah spits, “Who you calling bitch?” she wasn’t only asking for herself and when Eve says, “What kind of love would black your eye?” in her song Love is Blind both MCs were speaking for more than just themselves. They were shining a light on the bigger problem of gender inequality and sexism. According to social critic Aisha Durham we must “recognize [HipHop] culture as a pivotal site for political potential to challenge, resist, and mobilize collectives to dismantle systems of exploitation.” It’s not rap music’s job to create revolutionary change in the world. But music and the artists that create it have an enormous influence to spread messages of dissent and independence which is why musicians are so often pressed into promoting ideas and concepts that benefit the powers that be.

    HipHop is an expressive culture and consequently it allows a level of participation that is nearly impossible in mainstream women’s organizations or feminist academia. Professor Reiland Rabaka defines HipHop feminism is much more than feminism because it tends to focus on more than just feminist issues”.  HipHop feminism is interested in social justice, racism, economic tyranny and sexism. The tension between the sexploitation and the empowerment of women in HipHop is the most honest visual representation of the feminist struggle in popular media.

    It’s honest because even in the vile and disgusting ugliness of Eminem’s lyric there is an openness to his misogyny and celebration of violence against women that allows for an actual discussion to take place. There aren’t a lot of places to hide in rap music, you either show up or you don’t because you will be called out on it. In popular mainstream society the media is quick to shut down all conversations they deem unsuitable for their corporate sponsors. The coverage of the protests in Fergusson is a glaring example of their lack of journalistic integrity. By contrast in HipHop there is always an opportunity for debate. A prime example of that is the indie film directed by Byron Hurt HipHop: Beyond Beat and Rhymes. The film produced by a lifelong lover of HipHop who happens to be a man….yes a man who questions the sexism and rampant stereotypes so prevalent in today’s rap music and HipHop culture.

    And to the stans and fanboys who will ask who do I think I am to criticize Eminem, I am nothing special just a woman.

    Allegra Geller is a pop culture enthusiast, a lover of books and an over qualified hipster. She is currently writing her 2nd screenplay and living the fantasy of a radical critic. For more observations from the edge follow her on twitter @bakingurnoodle

    Sources:

    Michelle Marie Charles-Explicit and Deleted (spoiler alert: this is hilarious!)

    Joan Morgan- When Chicken Heads Come Home To Roost

    Reiland Rabaka- HipHop’s Inheritance