Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Queens of Consciousness & Sex-Radicalism in Hip-Hop: On Erykah Badu & the Notorious K.I.M

Academic journal article Journal of Pan African Studies

Queens of Consciousness & Sex-Radicalism in Hip-Hop: On Erykah Badu & the Notorious K.I.M

Article excerpt

The reputed "Father of African Cinema," Ousmane Sembene is perhaps ironically famous for what we can call his sexual consciousness, a consciousness of the politics of sex or gender and sexuality, in his radical productions of Black independent film. For example, Moolade (2004) is about resistance to female "circumcision" or "genital excision." Guelwaar (1992) treats the theme of prostitution in Dakar, portraying sex workers as survivors of oppression and the colonized elite as "beggars" or prostitutes to neo-colonial "aid." Xala or The Curse (1974) is a parody of the Black pseudo-bourgeoisie middleclass in which the father of "flag independence" is characterized as impotent in matters of both sex and political economy. Thus, Toni Cade Bambara once stated, mocking male chauvinism: "If a sister had written half the works of Ousmane Sembene, there'd be back-and-forth debates raging about reverse sexism: how come the heroics are always done by women?" (Bambara in Tate 36). Analogously, sisters have worked a critical "sexual consciousness" beyond the alleged "high art" of cinema in and for Black popular culture, particularly in the art and culture of Hip-Hop.

Lyrically lauded by the likes of Toni Morrison and bell hooks, Lil' Kim is most famous or infamous for this sort of consciousness, which is oxymoronic under status-quo schools of thought. The world of music constantly pits "sexuality" against "consciousness" in its commentary, especially when Black music is the subject at hand; internationally, it divides music with "positive," "progressive" or "political" content from "sex-driven" music which is, supposedly, "sensational," "scandalous" and "slack." This line of thinking goes well beyond contemporary critics and consumers. For over five hundred years, the Western world of ideas has itself opposed sexuality and consciousness, rigidly, laying the foundation for an entire culture to interpret "eroticism" as a threat to "intelligence," "bodies" as menaces to "minds" and "sensuality" as an enemy to "rationality" or rationalism. The European oppression of most of the world's peoples, African people most of all, it continues to use this bi-polar world-view to advance a racist empire that is every bit as much sexist, class-elitist and homophobic as it is racist or white-supremacist. Consequently, social and music criticism claiming to be "positive" "progressive" and "political" might want to separate itself from this Western tradition of thought, lest its "positive," "progressive" "politics" be no less identified with white racist imperialism, sexism, elitism and homophobia. A radical sexual politics is in order, and such a politics of consciousness is brilliantly showcased in and beyond The Notorious K.I.M., a paradigm-shifter and "lyrical force to be reckoned with" according to Hip-Hop Immortals: The Remix (Malone n.p.).

A Senegalese Hip-Hop enthusiast himself, Sembene has produced other films which resonate well with a practice of rap resounding elsewhere. Ceddo (1976) returns his spectators to "the matriarchal era" as Africans struggle against invasion and conquest by Islam: Princess Dior avenges her father's death by killing the Imam aiming to usurp the throne. Cool, calm and collected, she shoots him in the genitals. The title character of Faat Kine (2000) is a more modern, middle-aged woman who achieves economic independence and, hence, a freedom from a host of sexist sexual constraints. A single mother of means, she and her girlfriends enjoy sexuality to the max, even affectionately referring to each other as "salope," which can be translated as "bitch" (or "slut"), as they turn the tables on male privilege in general. These royal themes of sex, power, matriarchy promoted by "Ousmane-the-Axe" are totally in sync with Lil' Kim's "Big Momma/Queen Bitch" aesthetics of rhyme; and this provides a perfect introduction to a productive comparison of her and other "Hip-Hop Queens" in the African Diaspora, most notably Erykah Badu of "Hip-Hop Soul. …

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