What We Talk About When We Talk About Sexism In Hip Hop

03/01/2012 1:56 PM |

Too $hort got some real advice.
  • Too $hort got some “real advice.”

It’s been almost a week since this controversy made a contained explosion in a corner of the music world, but the fallout over rapper Too $hort’s “Fatherly Advice” video, in which he explained how to essentially sexually assault young girls, had a rare outcome. The rapper was actually held responsible for his actions in a largely unprecedented way.

It all started when leading hip hop news magazine XXL posted the video segment with Too $hort last month, in which the rapper gave advice to teenage boys on how to “turn little girls out.” It’s pretty graphic, and pretty vomit-inducing. Proceed to read what he said with caution.

“When you get to late middle school, early high school and you start feeling a certain way about the girls… I’m gonna tell you a couple tricks. This is what you do, man. A lot of the boys are going to be running around trying to get kisses from the girls, we’re going way past that. I’m taking you to the hole.” [madamenoire.com]

That’s not even the worst part. From there, Too $hort explains how to work into a girl’s underwear after pushing her up against a wall. Consent? Unmentioned. It’s pretty amazing how any publication could think this was a good idea, especially when almost one in five women report being sexually assaulted in their lifetimes.

After some outrage, the video was taken down, and Too $hort’s handlers made him issue an apology. For a lot of people, and black female bloggers especially, the apology appeared trite and shrugged off.

“When I got on camera I was in Too $hort mode and had a lapse of judgement. (…) If you’re a young man or a kid who looks up to me, don’t get caught up in the pimp, player, gangster hip-hop personas. Just be yourself.” [XXLmag.com]

Yeah, “just be yourself” didn’t really seem to cut it for anyone else either. But then, last week, Too $hort met his match, or better, rather. The rapper sat down for an interview with dream hampton (lower-case deliberate, see bell hooks), the esteemed writer on music, culture and politics, as well as a humanitarian and filmmaker. Hampton finally held Too $hort accountable for his actions by way of explaining their impact, and published the long interview in Ebony Magazine.

dream: (…) Your first statement blamed it on social media, you said: ‘Before social media this wouldn’t be out there like this.’ That was defensive and flawed logic, as if the point was about you being caught. No, the point is that what you did was wrong. And it really isn’t about you, it’s bigger than you, which is why we started the Twitter hashtag #ItsBiggerThanTooShort.

Too $hort: (…) I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it. I am looking at this and I am looking at all the stuff that they put out, completely from the entertainment industry, from the movies I watched when I was a kid. A rape scene in a movie was pretty normal. They don’t really do it that much anymore, (but) back then a guy would take it and the girl would enjoy it. They put those images out there over and over again and it’s like so much society is ok with the images of aggressive male and female sexuality. I’m just reading this and I’m reading that, and I’m like I am so much a part of that whole “man” thing.

The interview goes on to discuss in depth how rappers like Too $hort might even affect change, despite calls to “ignore” concerns or “keep pimping.” And dream hampton finishes the conversation with a call to end the pattern of aggression and abuse. It’s one of the most powerful interviews I’ve ever seen, simply and absolutely a must-read.

With some distance, the effect of an interview like this is even more compelling. What if, instead of the usual way of doing things (where one group of people gets routinely angry about these issues, and another group of people stays routinely complacent), this kind of conflict resolution was repeated? What if Chris Brown actually had to sit down with dream hampton, or a figure of equivalent intelligence and humanity, and be schooled in basic consideration? What if Tyler the Creator had to explain the artistic value of his homophobic and rape-y lyrics? Seems like an awfully better way to go about it moving forward. Happy Women’s History Month everybody, and thank goodness for dream hampton.

You can follow Sydney Brownstone on Twitter @sydbrownstone