Marc Lamont Hill‘s HuffPost Live conversations, known among other things for their analytical critiques on issues that matter to the Hip-Hop community and urban culture at large, are often fiery give and takes with thought leaders of the day. And yesterday’s conversation with Ebony Magazine’s News & Life Editor Jamilah Lemieux, Washington Post columnist Rahiel Tesfamariam, activist and 2008 Green Party vice-presidential candidate Rosa Clemente, and Hip-Hop icon Talib Kweli, did not disappoint.
Jumping right into it with Lil Wayne‘s wildly controversial — and obviously sizzurp/purp/lean induced — lyrics that arguably desecrated the legacy of slain teen, Emmett Till, Hill segued into the Rick Ross controversy that will not go away 1.) Because it shouldn’t; and 2.) Because he offered one of the most ridiculously stupid responses known to (wo)mankind as an excuse.
You see, women are precious to the Hip-Hop community and the streets (You hear that “video hoes,” “bitches” and “tip drills”? You’re precious). And Ross would never use the word rape in a song and all the obviously overwrought women folk simply “misunderstood” him.
The ideas shared by the panel were engaging, no surprise there, but things took an interesting turn when Clemente said that she didn’t consider Rick Ross to be a part of Hip-Hop culture.
And Kweli blacked out.
More than at any other point in the conversation, Kweli loudly spoke over Clemente, ignored Hill’s attempts to rein in the run away monologue in defense of Ross’ place in Hip-Hop culture and went completely in mansplaining to Clemente why we need to treat Ross with “love” and not dismissiveness. According to Kweli, we should recognize his contributions to Hip-Hop and that if we begin a conversation with condescension then the battle is already lost.
I agree with Kweli on that point. One of the most memorable pieces of advice I’ve received that I strive to use in my everyday life is: “People might forget what you said, but they never forget how you made them feel.”
But here’s the thing:
Rick Ross is a joke. The only reason he gets any kind of love is because the powers that be decided to make him and his grunts the hot, new minstrel show. If he weren’t getting spins he would have no friends. He stole a man’s name to get rich on his street cred. He pays homage to notorious dope dealers like they’re upstanding pillars of the community. Most importantly, he raps about drugging women to have sex with them when he isn’t squeezing his hefty a*s into a car or shirt that no one wants to see him in.
To quote Lemieux: F*ck Rick Ross.
Yes, it may be strategic to approach him as Jesus would do — all meek, mild and understanding; but I’m not Christian, so I don’t get the appeal. Though Kweli — who is one of my favorite artists of all time in any genre; “Just To Get By” got me through some things — has publicly and loudly denounced Ross, his false equivalency when boldly suggesting that Clemente was just as much a part of the rape culture dynamic as Ross is highly problematic. To be honest, as was Hill’s tentative suggestion that women should be as outraged over Beyoncé screeching “bitch” like she’s at a Houston Bar-be-Que doing the Southside circa 1998 as we are over Rick Ross sputtering about date rape.
Should we also treat racist cops with “love” when they murder our sons?
Should we treat educators with “love” when they cheat our children?
Should we treat imperialistic governments with “love” when they murder and maim in the name of patriotism?
Should we treat politicians with “love” when they wage war on people living in poverty while protecting corporate interests?
Then why should we approach Rick Ross with love when he has shown nothing but utter contempt and disdain for women since he waddled into the game?
There is clearly a “Blue Line” in Hip-Hop; I get it. But it is not up to the women who feel disrespected to validate his right to exist in the music industry before addressing misogynistic lyrics that have the potential to greatly influence young men. Yes, he is a huge factor in Hip-Hop culture, whether we like it or not, but he is not now, nor will he — in his current state — be deserving of women’s “love.”
And to suggest that the method by which women approach the issue of misogyny in Hip-Hop is a cause of its continuation, sounds a little bit too much like victim-blaming for me to feel comfortable with.
Follow Kirsten West Savali on Twitter at @KWestSavali.