I’ve always loved women, but was afraid of the “f-word–feminism.”

Feminism felt so formal, dissertational and frankly, White. I was further confused about how I would fare as a Black man in the Hip Hop tradition avidly fighting for the rights of the same women I watched parading around in bikinis during the midnight hour on BET’s Uncut.

The first time I saw Nelly’s video “Tip Drill,” I knew the men within my era had gone too far. The swipe of a credit card had revictimized an entire generation of Black girls and launched national retaliation from feminist groups. I was thrilled to see the women of Spelman College stand in protest against the shaming images within Nelly’s video.

Yet, there didn’t seem that there was room at the table for a young Black male writer who had participated in the bastardization of the Black woman, bumping the sounds of Too Short on my way to the club. As soon as he would ask “what’s my favorite word?” I was all over it. It took a little while to develop the full understanding that my passive actions were adding to the centuries of Black female oppression I had so avidly denounced during face-to-face meetings with my Black sisters.

I should’ve realized back in 1992 that my voice mattered as I heard Snoop Doggy Dogg proclaim “bit—s ain’t s— but hoes and tricks” on Dr. Dre’s seminal Hip Hop album, “The Chronic.”
There was uneasiness in my stomach, and it was difficult to look Black women in the eyes as I bumped to the song at school and bobbed my head to it during lunch break. I had purposely blinded myself to the reality that my support of the song meant that I was participating in the deprecation of Black womanhood–including dissing my own mother.

After that, I aligned myself in the tradition of the Black-male-feminist movement alongside my brothers Mark Anthony Neal and Byron Hurt. I am also fully aware of my responsibility as a Hip Hop scholar.

There is clearly a need for advocacy against the denigration, silencing and rape of women living in the Hip Hop Generation. When women are still being defined by artists as nothing more than their reproductive organs, there is a need.

When Ludacris can so easily pleasure urban radio with lines like “you know you don’t love them hoes,” there is a need. When young women are still reduced to the letter-size of their bra cup or their waist-to-hip ratio, there is a need.

When Hip Hop feminist Joan Morgan challenged Black men to step up to the plate in eradicating the usage of stereotypical identification, I was listening. It became clear that my young Black brothers desperately need to see other strong men actively combating the disenfranchisement of women and girls within the Hip Hop Generation. I internalized Neal’s words from his “New Black Man Manifesto,” challenging us to “make language available to young men in Hip Hop that will help them rethink their gender politics.”

In that regard, we young Black men still have the opportunity to articulate our frustrations without using language that compromises the dignity of our Black sisters. We can make hit songs without needing to “f— every girl in the world.” We have the opportunity to correct the transgressions of our past generations and leave a lasting impression that the Hip Hop Generation eventually learned how to fully revere our women. That questions like “how can you trust a ho?” will no longer be acceptable in our songs as long as we’re in close enough proximity to listen.

It is the responsibility of all of us, especially Black men, to reframe the mainstream identification of women as much more than their body parts. I have joined the community of Black male feminists ready for battle, and I am urging us all to make space at the table for the rest of our brothers.

James B. Golden, MPA, is a Los Angeles-based music journalist. He has edited the Hip Hop Think Tank academic journal and Kapu-Sens Literary Magazine. Golden was a music columnist at Say It Loud!, the San Fernando Valley’s Black newspaper. His articles have been featured at conferences across the country, including the National Hip Hop Political Convention.

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