By Kirsten West Savali
“The most disrespected person in America is the Black woman, the most unprotected person in America is the Black woman, the most neglected person in America is the Black woman.” – Malcolm X
When the laser sharp backlash finally grew too intense to ignore, Reebok severed ties with spokesperson Rick Ross for his failure to sincerely apologize for glorifying rape in the song “U.O.E.N.O.”
That’s the good news.
The bad news is that the fraternal twins of misogyny and violence are as necessary to corporate Hip-Hop’s survival as Black men are to the Prison Industrial Complex – and it didn’t take long for Chicago rapper Chief Keef to grab the baton from Ross to ensure that it lived to see another day.
Conveniently leaking the lyrics to his latest song, “You,” at the height of the Ross controversy – no doubt to prove that he’s “hard” and not intimidated by feminist wrath – Chief Keef, born Keith Cozart, spit the following bars:
My first instinct was to address the lyrics themselves – and the shattered community structure and subsequent lack of character from which they derived. But I swiftly came to the conclusion that deconstructing the words of a 17-year-old boy whose pathetic perception of manhood is so inextricably linked to his penis as to be a tired cliché would be an exercise in futility.
Because Chief Keef is nothing but corporate Hip-Hop’s latest poster boy, a generic figure interchangeable with many young Black men on the streets with mediocre talent, incessant bravado and dreams of stardom with no viable options in sight. He is a pawn about as pivotal to the eradication of entrenched rape culture in Hip-Hop as a minimum wage drive-thru worker at McDonald’s is to reducing pink slime in their cheeseburgers.
He is merely another Pinocchio – Look, Ma! I’m a real man! — manufactured and sold as an MC to a frustrated, young urban populace looking for a hood hero. So to be effective on any level, any dialogue or course of action must focus on Geppetto – in this case, Interscope Records. While I abhor censorship, there is nothing free about speech when rappers are bought and paid for and young Mr. Cozart is a caricature of Black masculinity repurposed by Interscope to line their own pockets.
He isn’t an artist, he’s a calculated risk.
Just as his cohort, Def Jam rapper Little Reese, was lightly chastised by Russell Simmons for beating a woman like she was one of Michael Vick’s dogs and still allowed to keep his recording contract, as long as Chief Keef makes money, Interscope couldn’t care less about how many women he raps about murdering and raping.
Even though certain conscious rappers may disagree, it is not authentic Hip-Hop culture – semantics be damned – when Black men are paid to prey on Black women. There is absolutely zero cultural value in replicating a global rape epidemic within the narrow confines of Hip-Hop vernacular. Corporate Hip-Hop has revealed itself to be a diamond-encrusted plantation where Black men are nothing but hedonistic slaves bound by whips and chains. It’s a place where rape culture is embraced, cultivated and financed, and women are drugged, told to “suck d*ck” or die. To paraphrase my words from an essay penned for TheGrio:
Violent words — hit, bang, beat, cut, smash – have been re-appropriated to refer to pleasurable, consensual sexual activity. It is not surprising, then, that sixty percent of Black girls have experienced sexual abuse before the age of eighteen. The Beat Bang Theory (double entendre intended) dictates that masculinity be defined by the authority — indeed, the right — to objectify, dehumanize, violate and destroy women, all while rocking a microphone.
Chief Keef and other young men like him are aggressive symptoms of a cultural cancer that has metastasized throughout our communities. And like any illness that is allowed to recklessly proliferate, the money is in the medicine, not the cure. This beat-laden pathology being pedaled as music is a complex pyramid scheme based on cultural theft and exploitation that can no longer be protected and preserved by those who profit from the facade.
It is nothing short of dangerous hypocrisy that Black Entertainment Television can have Rick Ross “Rip The Runway” rapping about “riding clean and fucking hoes,” turn around and introduce a Lil Wayne song on “106 & Park” with lyrics such as “killing them bitches I hope all dogs go to heaven,” then with a straight face swear on a stack of bibles that “Black Girls Rock.” And as long as rape culture generates revenue, sincere macro-level efforts to empower women will never exist.
The undeniable fact is that these pimps masquerading as corporations — and the Black-faces of patriarchy who love them — are proud stakeholders in the degradation and endangerment of women and they must be held accountable. This is not love. This is war for the security of our daughters and the souls of our sons. That must, in no uncertain terms, be the non-negotiable line in the sand.
Whose side are you on?