Last night I had the pleasure of attending a screening and panel discussion on Women in Hip Hop, a topic that has been controversial for years but in light of the recent utterings of Don Imus, has been propelled to the forefront yet again (why didn’t things reach a fevered pitch like this when the women of Spellman brought it to the forefront a few years ago?).
Sponsored by the New York chapter of NOW (National Organization of Women), the event began with the screening of Hip Hop: Beyond the Beats & Rhymes (lensed by filmmaker Byron Hurt), a documentary that examines representations of gender roles in hip-hop and rap music.The riveting documentary was followed by a panel discussion featuring Emcee Shante Paradigm, DJ Shakey, and former Source Magazine Editor-in-Chief (now Editor-in-Chief at BET.com) Kim Osorio. Moderated by NOW NYC president Sonia Ossorio, the panel discussed the trends of sex and violence in commercialized hip hop. The conversation was interesting to say the least. Topics covered include sexism, capitalism, violence, racism, gender roles, and the next generation.
One thing that I found disturbing throughout the discussion was the demonizing of hip hop by those who weren’t familiar with it. Before I get reamed here, let me say this…what you here on the radio and see in the videos is just a small segment of a huge movement. A lot of the hip hop that is out there is nothing like the gangsta rap and stuff that you hear on the radio. But because other genres of hip hop don’t sell as well, they aren’t as popular (it’s a similar argument that neo-soul fans have about why Angie Stone, Jill Scott and others don’t sell well in the States in comparison to the sex-me-up versions of R&B though they have huge followings). I also found it interesting that many members of the audience also felt that just not buying albums that glorify violence and mysogny would stop the spread of the ideals. Do they truly believe that just not buying the records is going to stop it? Do they not know that 70% of sales are from the white community. Is it just me or is there some disconnect here?
In order to stop the glorification of a violent culture (and I am not saying hip hop is a violent culture….I am speaking about American culture as a whole) we have to start at the root of the problem…the streets (be it suburbia or the ‘hood). Even if you ban these albums from your home, kids will get their hands on it. What you have to do is educate the kids as to why it’s wrong and enforce the separation between truth and fiction…am I wrong? I pose the question to you guys….what are you thoughts about women and violence in hip hop and how can we move forward?