A Good Reminder

dessaDessa wrote an insightful, smart op-ed piece in the Strib a few days ago, and though I’ve long known that she’s wise beyond her years, I have to admit I was chastened and a little humbled to read what she wrote.

Dessa takes on misogyny in rap – she challenges the pervasive attitude that disrespect to women is part of the genre and that if you don’t like it, you aren’t hip hop. She’s measured and reasonable, by her own admittance no girl scout in the profanity department, and she knows of what she speaks. She’s a rapper.

Reading, I realized that I have been way too cavalier about some of the music I let into my house and my excuses are vast.

1. My kids can’t really hear the lyrics and if they do, they don’t understand. This is ceasing to be the case, at a breathtaking clip. I know this.

2. The songs are “tall tales” – hyperbolic work that’s not meant to be taken seriously. Some of this stuff is so over the top, so gross, it’s funny. I’m not a prude (about words), I swear like a trucker, I appreciate a clever turn of phrase, a naughty line. Is this any different than some of the stuff Martin Amis writes? Charles BukowskiBret Eason Ellis? Norman Mailer? (This list really could be never-ending.) Just because you write it, does it mean you mean it? What of fiction in music? Well, arguably, if your audience is young and impressionable, it doesn’t matter if you really mean it. And in hip hop, it’s not really presented as fiction. Or is it?

3. The women being objectified aren’t real women – they’re somehow made-up women, hip-hop mannequins. So vastly different is their experience from mine, I was missing our basic glaring commonality: that we’re women. And more importantly, that my daughters will some day be women. And debasing any woman, debases all women.

4. The beats are just so good. That’s how they get me. Every. Time.

So am I going to stop listening to hip hop? No. Will I make my kids stop listening? No. Will I be more thoughtful about it? Yes. Will I point them in the direction of better, truer, hip hop – songs with stories and heart? I have and I will continue to do so. That’s easy, with neighbors like Doomtree and Rhymesayers.

Thanks Dessa, for the reminder. Nothing like learning from your minors.

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