I USED TO LOVE H.E.R.: MORE REFLECTIONS ON HIP HOP...THANX, LATIFAH.
whatup, lubna!!! (had to get that out the way.)
after bitching about videos hoes and whatnot, i got all nostalgic and crap thinking about the glory days of hip hop. no, no, i'm not talking about the hey day of bad boy and puff diddy pop shiny suit man, p. diddy. nor am i speaking of the sugar hill gang and all the rest (i wasn't born yet). i'm talking about the days of yo' mtv raps, of bet's golden age--video soul, video vibrations, rap city w/ chris thomas, video lp with sherry carter and madeline woods. i'm talking about the age of ladies first.
i'm 24 (2/22--buy me presents), which means the late 80s and early 90s were my formative years, the moment when i first became strung out on tv. for a long time, fort wayne didn't have a black radio station--at least, i don't remember one--so i relied on cable tv and the shows dictated by my summertime teenage babysitters, to receive my lessons in black popular culture. i fell in love with hip hop when folks merely thought it was just a (j.j.) fad (and we're here to rock), and fortunately for me, when i was coming of age, women were rocking the stage. (did that rhyme?)
before the age of bling and (ahem) gangsta rap, hip hop was in a 'black nationalist' moment. public enemy, b(oogie) d(own) p(roductions), x-clan, etc. all taught me to blame the white man for the plight of black people other than myself, who didn't happen to have upwardly mobile parents who could live on streets like stowaway cove or cedar branch trail. more importantly, unlike my younger sister, whose feminine hip hop influences were lil kim, foxy brown, and trina, i saw women such as mc lyte, monie love, miss melodie, and queen latifah on television donning crowns instead of thongs. instead of, "i used to be scared of the dick/now i throw lips to the shit/handle it like a real bitch/heather hunter, janet jack-me...," i heard, "the ladies will kick it, the rhyme that is wicked/those that don't know how to be pros get evicted/a woman can bear you, break you, take you/now it's time to rhyme, can you relate to/a sister dope enough to make you holler and scream..."
it took a credit card getting swiped down a woman's ass to get me to realize how fortunate i am to have had such alternative images in hip hop, the music that purportedly defines my generation. granted, the politics of 'black nationalism' are controversial and debatable, and i'm not claiming that these women--or all hip hop groups at this time--espoused such a political stance. nor am i downplaying or ignoring the misogyny(homophobia, etc.) that has seemingly always colored hip hop. but i'm so appreciative for having been born during a moment when the queen ruled hip hop. because of that, no matter how many bringing down the house sequels she makes, i'll always have much love for dana owens. i'm so thankful for that moment in hip hop because it allowed a space for a group of women in hip hop to flourish in front of my eyes. not only were women present, but they had voices, and they weren't merely relegated to the ass-shaking background.
i have a nagging suspicion that none of this is true, and that i'm just getting older. pretty soon i'll sound even more like my mother, arguing how the french fries at mcdonald's and the popcorn at the movies used to taste so much better when i was coming up. perhaps i've merely constructed this golden age to link it with my embarrassment and disappointment with the current state of music i love. i have only ever been defiant for hip hop. (when i was in third grade, my dad confiscated a public enemy tape--yes, a cassette tape--i got from a school friend. i had to sneak to watch rap videos because my parents banned us (my bro and sis) from rap videos around the same time they told us we couldn't watch the simpsons, which i haven't seen since. i blame lil sis for the latter punishment, she should've never told dad to eat her shorts.)
that said, i suppose i should thank the age of bling. that's how i re-discovered how dope songs in the key of life was, the pain in what's going on, and the hypnotic nature of exodus. besides, if it weren't for the tragic state of hip hop, would i have anything to bitch about? nevertheless, i shall...proceed...and continue...to rock the mic.
that is all.
language alone protects us from the scariness of things with no names. language alone is meditation. ~toni morrison