Whoa, swag. Ashley Judd has made some pretty inflammatory statements about hip-hop, saying that hip-hop is the "soundtrack to misogyny" and insinuating that the genre's "abusive lyrics" perpetuate "rape culture." She's since backed away from her statement. Even so, once you get past the initial "You're not from around here" knee-jerk reaction, it hurts to admit it, but she's right. At least partly so.
When I first heard about her statements, my first thought was, Oh, fuck! Now I have to step out on a limb and agree with Ashley Judd, of all people! She reportedly snubbed the Roots on Fallon recently and eviscerated the behaviors of artists like Diddy, Snoop and others, further placing her in the category of one who's not with us, but directly against us. And by us, I mean hip-hop culture.
The truth is, though, hip-hop is not only the bridge between rebellion and conformist notions, but it's also a socially accepted form of expression. Which, whether we want to admit it or not, has etches in its foundation that support misogynistic principles.
I've written all about misogyny in hip-hop before, and after speaking with so many women in the community, the premise is the same: Women have to fight harder, and sometimes cleaner, than our male counterparts.
No one disputes this.
What seems to raise the ire of so many "good guys" in rap about Judd's statement is the concept of "rape culture." While implying that any particular social construct, especially one as universal as music, perpetuates a culture of rape can be dangerous, we'd be remiss if we didn't examine the spaces in which this holds true.
One example is the ever-popular Jerimih song featuring our boy 50 Cent. Curtis Jackson rocks the hook on this Auto-Tune-drenched hot mess that's circulating all over radio these days. The chorus features this lyric: "If it don't fit, I'm gonna make it/Girl, you can take it."
While those lyrics aren't overtly referring to rape, the underlying sentiment seems rather clear, which feeds into the notion of patriarchal validation. It's annoying that we ignore this type of language as not only damaging to the sexual relationships between all individuals, but to women in particular.
Ashley Judd is not the first person to stand out against the degradation of women in hip-hop. Oprah tackled the issue, as well. The argument against folks like Judd and the almighty O taking shots at hip-hop stems from the fact that neither of these ladies are steeped in the life.
While this is true and the "hip-hop saved my life" stories are largely greater than those of the "hip-hop ruined my life" variety, there is no denying that we've got a ways to go in the progression toward lyrical responsibility and equality.
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Should she have snubbed ?uest Love and the world-famous Roots crew? Absolutely not. Because what Judd would know if she were indeed immersed in our world is that those are the good guys. When the argument is made that Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All are not the good guys, we have to see that side of it, too.
Bottom line: If this is our tradition and we're building a civilization of artistic expression with microphones, DJs, graffiti writers and b-boys and b-girls, we are responsible for the words, thoughts and behaviors used to describe our culture.
Treach from Naughty by Nature once said, "If you not from the ghetto then don't come to the fuckin ghetto." We can apply that same premise to hip-hop. As we defend the territory we love so much, we must also confront the same internal threats that can take down what took years to build.
What would Rakim do?