The Age of The Hoochie Mama Is Over

It’s time for hip hop to grow up…

By: Dr. Boyce Watkins

In 2004, when the women at Spelman College told the rapper Nelly to take a hike for sliding a credit card through a woman’s backside. The women told Nelly to take his music elsewhere, and his concert was cancelled. I thought that after this incident, women across America would slide their own credit card in the other direction, away from the record stores and websites used to purchase music from artists who make it their mission in life to disrespect black women. I have to admit that I was wrong.

What has always amazed me is the fact that we have trained young people to endure and embrace consistent disrespect from rappers like Slim Thug, who recently stated that white women are a far better choice for relationships, and Lil Wayne, who has done everything in his power to show just how little regard he has for African American females. Wayne even has a song called Alphabet B*tches, which isn’t exactly like the ABCs you learned in preschool. For some reason, we all keep dancing to the beat and showing up for concerts, reminding the artist that freedom of speech is in full effect, no matter how harmful that speech may be.

As a man, I watch the interaction between the hip hop industry and African American women with curiosity. I wonder how low an artist needs to go before black women say, “Woe, that’s too much!” What I hope people understand is that many men treat women the way they are allowed to treat them. Even as little boys, we test the limits of our mothers until the day when mama puts the smack down and says that she’s had enough. The same is true for both interpersonal relationships and the way artists address women who support them. If women never say “enough!” then the artist believes that he can push the envelope a little bit more.

As the father of three daughters, I argue that perhaps black women should demand a little more respect from their musicians and their men. I remember speaking to a relatively intelligent black female professor about Lil Wayne’s performance at the BET Awards in which he had little girls dancing on stage while he sang, “I wish I could f*ck every girl in the world.”

Drake – B.E.T. Awards 2009

This highly educated black woman looked me in the eye and said that it doesn’t bother her one bit, and that his audacity is actually cute. So, if Lil Wayne disrespects black women as much as he can, and finds that some women are actually more  attracted to him because of it, does he have any incentive to change his behavior? In fact, it might be the polite and respectful schmucks like me who simply have it all wrong. They do say that nice guys finish last, and I am certainly nicer to the women I date than Lil Wayne.  But when it’s all said and done, the women will chase Weezy and his lyrics before they chase a polite little guy like me. Is there something subconscious happening here?

But perhaps all is not lost. Call me naïve, but I am under the presumption that there are black women out there who don’t approve of what’s happening in the hip hop music industry. I believe there are women who cringe when they hear lyrics that are disrespectful and find themselves weary of seeing yet another half naked black woman shaking her ass while Snoop Dogg talks about how “he don’t love dem hoes.” Well, if that’s the case, then I think there are some things black women, and the rest of us, can do about it.

This is not just a recommended strategy for black women themselves. Rather, it’s a strategy for anyone, anywhere, who loves a black woman in any context. In fact, black women should demand that those who love them be equally diligent in holding artists accountable for their behavior. So, for the sake of our mothers, sisters, daughters and wives, here are some things we should do to make hip hop special again:

First, stop buying hip hop that degrades women. If you cut off the purse strings of an artist, he will surely change his stripes. Notice that most artists already understand that if you don’t make songs that women like, you aren’t going to sell anything. Well, if women are organized and challenge artists the way the Spelman women challenged Nelly, they might find artists paying attention to them.

Second, consider supporting solid female artists who aren’t selling sex. For some reason, the hyper-masculinity of hip hop has excluded female artists almost completely. The only exceptions are rappers like Nicki Minaj, who has to seductively lick a lollipop to get on TV. Her predecessor, the struggling Lil Kim, is another artist who sold far more sex than any human being could ever reasonably deliver. I long for the day that female artists can succeed on lyrical ability alone, without wondering if the size of her butt matters more than the size of her talent. We should support these artists when we see them.

Third, let’s hold the labels accountable. The downward spiral of hip hop occurred when Ice Cube and NWA told us 20-years ago that “A b*tch is a b*tch.” Since that time, record labels have demanded more gangsta rap, which fills their bank accounts by supporting the sacred belief that women are nothing more than dirty little sex objects. If women are dancing to the music as the artist makes it, then he assumes that they must be OK with whatever he’s doing on stage. If it’s not OK, then letters, emails, phone calls and protests on the front porch of the puppet masters of the industry just might do the trick. No one hears your voice unless you decide to use it.

Fourth, join a coalition. Individual disdain for what hip hop has become is powerless. But collective disdain can breed a movement.  There are organizations such as the Black Women’s Roundtable that have been relatively effective when it comes to standing up for issues that matter to black women. Additionally, strong leadership like that which was shown by the women at Spelman College can go a long way toward making our world a little bit better. I’d love to see the young idle minds on college campuses step up to the plate and make some noise on this important issue.

The decade is coming to a close, and it’s time that the last 20 years of hip hop be brought to a close as well. With the age of the Internet and social networking, people have never been more empowered to shape the world as they see fit. Black people must stand together and hit the struggling entertainment industry where it hurts and demand that all of our people be respected.

The age of the hoochie mama is over.