Hip-Hop Viewed through the Prisms of Race and Gender

Article excerpt

As the nation's premier historically Black college for women, the Spelman community prides itself on addressing issues of race and gender through critical thinking and meaningful dialogue--asking questions and seeking answers to the nuances of history and popular culture that relate to and affect Black women. It is in this spirit that we encourage our students to open their eyes to the world, to strip away the veneer of superficiality by not taking everything at face value, to not only look, but to see ... to not only observe, but to act.

The scheduled visit to the Spelman campus by popular rap artist Nelly, therefore, evoked an intriguing dichotomy of actions and reactions throughout our campus community. Though largely in defiance of the stereotypical images of the Black women portrayed in rap music videos, our students have the utmost of respect for the intent of Nelly's charitable foundation, 4Sho4Kids, and sought to participate in its agenda to heighten awareness of the need for bone marrow donations within the Black community. Nelly was also invited to engage in a campus-wide discussion about the negativism perpetuated by the visual images of Black women in the rap music genre, and to explore the ways in which this practice appears to be antithetical to his otherwise noble efforts in service to the Black community.

For reasons known only to Nelly and his management team, the invitation from Spelman was declined. His unwillingness to participate in such a discussion was regrettable on at least two counts: it temporarily thwarted Spelman's effort to address this critical minority health issue, and precluded what promised to be a dynamic discourse about the questionable portrayals of Black women throughout the hip-hop culture.

Although Nelly's music video instigated the resurgence of on-campus attention to rap music imagery, the issues associated with Black popular culture are wide ranging, extending far beyond Nelly or a singular music video. …