Open Letter

to Hip Hop

April 22, 2013

Dear Hip Hop:

We gotta talk. You and I have been boys for a long time but this recent dustup over Rick Ross has me seriously reevaluating our relationship. The entire time that I was watching Ross’s critics demand a deserved apology on account of some atrocious lyrics about rape, I was wondering why you were so silent. The days when you were an esoteric fad championed by counter-cultural rebels are long gone. You have reach and voice throughout the world. You are mainstream. So, why was the internal critique of Ross so feeble? I can only recall a handful of statements delivered by artists, producers, distributors, etc. that were even remotely critical of Ross’s choice of lyrics. Also, why did one of your rising stars tweet a lyric about forcing a woman to perform oral sex soon after Reebok dropped Rick Ross (not rap but tweet. not before Ross’s misstep but after)? Why does the image of the tweet at the link above say that this foolishness was retweeted 1,500 times? Why can I go online and easily find hundreds of other lyrics to remind everyone that women are little more than sex toys to be dealt with when they malfunction?

Look. I’ve been defending you for as long as I have known you. I remember when my mother got a hold of me and my brother’s tapes as kids (Das EFX and Naughty by Nature if I remember correctly. Pretty tame stuff in retrospect) and threatened to throw them away after a quick listen. I threw together a garbage argument about how I would be ridiculed at school if we were separated

(though my mother probably knew that I wasn’t the coolest kid on the block and needed all of the help that I could get). When I later got to college and became a peer educator on sexual assault, a bunch of cats who didn’t know you accused me of being a hypocrite for hanging out with you. I told these dudes about your penchant to provide a voice for the disenfranchised. I told them about your arguable origins as tool of anti-violence. I told them that few genres provided anthems for fighting with your back against the wall like you do.

I have always had your back but this is getting ridiculous. The longer you insist on advancing artists that seem to be trying to outdo one another for the most misogynistic line of the year, the more my defenses of you just sound like excuses.

It occurs to me that there are hundreds of reviews of hip hop music but very few that actually look at your content. You’ve forced me to become such a critic. Over the next year, I will be looking at the releases of some of your top performers and judging them purely on what they have to say about men’s relationships with women. Not production quality. Not lyricism. Not even other social issues. Just the narratives they tell the world about women. If you cannot show some improvement, then I’m out. Any questions?

Question: How exactly will these albums be rated?

Answer: I’m using a scale of 1 to 5 where 1 = “this is an exceptional piece of woman-hating drivel even by hip hop’s standards” and 5 = “Wow, we should be using this to raise kids”. A 3 would be an album that doesn’t have anything particularly negative or positive to say about women on the whole. I would like you to score an aggregate score of 3 or better so notice that you don’t even have to be positive for me to fall back. You just have to not suck. Can you do that? Keep in mind that I’m only looking at what these albums have to say about men’s relationship with women and ignoring any other ways in which they might be contributing to the downfall of society.

Question: How will you choose which albums to rate?

Answer: I’m going to choose albums that I suspect will have influence and I suspect will have something to say about women one way or another. If that doesn’t sound fair, then maybe you should consider introducing some artists that I suspect will have something positive to say. However, I will try to identify albums in advance of their release.

Question: What’s going to prevent you from being your normal biased self?

Answer: I tell you what. I will find somebody to work as a co-reviewer on each of these reviews and I will average his/her score with mine.

Question: Are you just going to pick a bunch of co-reviewers that think like you?

Answer: Probably.

Question: And if I don’t average a score of 3 or better?

Answer: Let’s just say that all that music in my car that I hide and turn down when I pull up to traffic lights is going to get a whole lot more airplay. And if you really fail me, I just might take my 50 twitter followers with me.

Let’s get rolling. Next month, we have all kinds of good stuff coming out such as:

LL Cool J

Talib Kweli

French Montana

YMCMB

That’s a perfect way to start because I suspect that the two former releases will do relatively well and the two later releases will fail miserably. I intend to pick one from each group.

Gordon B (@GordonBraxton)

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