Music to Your Ears
By Jessica Cassyle Carr
On Hos and Hip-hop—Last week in response to Oprah's two-part Hip-hop Town Hall (which was in response to Don Imus being a dipshit), poet and hip-hop artist Saul Williams wrote an open letter to Oprah. Oprah's programs dealt with misogyny, racism, marginalization and censorship and hosted guests such as Def Jam cofounder Russell Simmons, rapper Common, poet and author Maya Angelou, a record executive, an entertainment lawyer, people involved with the NAACP and a group of female students from Spelman College (who, in 2004, protested a Nelly performance for his treatment of women in his videos). While the program was positive, it wasn't in-depth. Saul Williams’ letter, on the other hand, was.
"In all cases, confidence is the ruling card. Because of the competitive stance that all emcees are prone to take, they, like soldiers begin to believe that they can show no sign of vulnerability. Thus, the most popular emcees of our age are often those that claim to be heartless or show no feelings or signs of emotion. The poet, on the other hand, is the one who realizes that their vulnerability is their power ... Many choose gangsterism and business over the emotional terrain through which true artistry will lead."
To sum it up, Williams notes that after the attacks of 9/11 our president said the U.S. would show no signs of vulnerability. So, he says, vulnerability is labeled as weakness by the media and the government as well, but moreover, vulnerability is feminine. Williams asserts that the defects of hip-hop can’t be addressed without looking at the roots of what plagues today's society and world. Censorship, he says, is not a solution.
"We are a nation at war. What we fail to see is that we are fighting ourselves. There is no true hatred of women in hip-hop. At the root of our nature we inherently worship the feminine ... but when the idea of the feminine is taken out of the idea of what is divine or sacred then that worship becomes objectification. When our governed morality asserts that a woman is either a virgin or a whore, then our understanding of sexuality becomes warped."
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