Masculinity in Hiphop

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The recent controversy over Nelly's music video " Tip-Drill" has highlighted what we've all known for some time: Hip-hop has a gender problem. And for most of hip-hop's 30-something years, folks have been compelled to point out the sexism, misogyny and homophobia that finds a forum in the lyrics of the young black and brown men who have primarily influenced the genre, and the lack of a womanist perspective that could directly counter those lyrics. In this regard, the recent decision of the Spelman College Student Government Association and others at the Atlanta University Center to try to hold Nelly accountable was part of a larger tradition, one honed by journalists like Joan Morgan, Raquel Cepeda, Karen Good and Elizabeth Mendez-Berry and scholars such as Tricia Rose, Cheryl Keyes and Gwendolyn Pough, whose new book Check It While I Wreck: Black Womanhood, Hip-Hop Culture and the Public Sphere drops in June. But in recognizing this larger tradition, we should also acknowledge that we may be asking hip-hop to do something that it's fundamentally incapable of. Let me be clear -- I'm on the front lines of any effort to get the men in hip-hop to rethink their pornographic uses of women's bodies and performance of lyrics that more often than not express, at best, a deep ambivalence about and fear of women (perfectly captured 14 years ago with the Bell Biv Devoe quip "never trust a big butt and a smile") and, at worst, outright hatred. But as we make demands of these artists, it's important that we understand the demands of the peculiar space they occupy within pop culture. Without doubt, the performance of black masculinity continues to be hip-hop's dominant creative force. Yet over the last decade or so sales figures have consistently shown that young white men are the primary consumers of the various performances of black masculinity and the pornographic images

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