Wednesday, November 12, 2008
I'LL STILL PLAY SNOOP
Last week The Brag published a review of rap child-prodigy Rye Rye which has been on my mind since the day I read it. Before I get into it I need to explain that the review does involve me personally, but I genuinely don’t mean to be self involved here – it’s just that it bought up a really interesting topic. Basically, the author posed this question regarding the support act, Hoops:
"Do the Hoops girls not see any irony in playing largely misogynistic rap jams while dancing on stage? If they do, well it's feminism at its finest...but I wonder." *
Well, I am in Hoops. But this didn’t offend me. In fact I thought the review was overwhelming supportive and the question was intelligent and quite frankly refreshing. The thing that I found interesting here was that the legitimacy of my right to play rap music was questioned because I’m a woman and rap music is woman hating.
In recent years, the right of representation in music - or in other words the right to really, legitimately be able to play particular styles of music - has been heavily culturally dependent. When M.I.A's "Bucky Done Gun" was released Diplo's production was criticized for its appropriation of traditional Brazilian Baile funk samples and style. And yet when Bonde de Role tracks featured very similar samples and the Baile funk style their right to producing and playing this genre went unquestioned because the whole band was Brazilian. This isn't to say that Bonde de Role should have been criticized but rather, why should anyone's ability to play any style of music be questioned because their cultural claim isn't 'authentic'?
I think in some ways the 'cultural right' debate has mellowed out a bit since the days when Arular was released, way back in 2005. "The Very Best" - a collaboration between the French and Swedish duo Radioclit and East African Esau Mwamwaya, went global last month without any criticism of cultural appropriation as far as I am aware, but then again perhaps it is the term "collaboration" that has made this more digestible.
I guess what really stood out for me here was the fact that I've always observed debates over cultural claims to playing particular styles of music, but for the first time I saw this shift to an emphasis on gender. In my opinion, music is more than lyrics and more than sounds. It's an experience. It's not just about the way it makes your body feel when you dance to it, its about the way it makes your body dance to the feelings the music instills in you. It's for that reason that I have no problem playing rap tracks, even if some of them might be a little misogynistic.
For the record I find female rappers like Trina and Khia ten times more crass and they objectify men just as badly as their male counterparts. Yo Majesty are probably worse than both of them and some of their lines, for example "suck on my HIV clit" objectify women's bodies just as badly as, if not worse than, your everyday Snoop track. But guys are never questioned for playing Trina and Yo Magesty has an overwhelming fan base from the lesbian community. If I had never experienced anything outside my culture or gender you probably wouldn't want to know me. So why you gotta hate on a shawty?
* FYI I am the holder of a BA in Gender Studies so I am more than aware of the irony AND a majority of the rap we play is Southern or West Coast (and more specifically Bay Area) which favours lyrics relating to local drug culture over misogynism.