I remember it very vividly, it was Christmas 1985 when I got my first hip hop/rap tape for Christmas. My parents bought me the 'Krush Groove' soundtrack, the 'Beat Street' soundtrack, and a radio/cassette player that you had to put the tape in upside down for the tape to play. Yep, I have been obsessed with hip hop for going on 30+ years now. I've seen a lot of groups/topics/fads come and go during my hip hop fandom. Starting (for me) in like the early/mid 90's hip hop started to really talk about women in ways that are terrible and horrible. But, to me, I didn't have a problem with it. I remember hearing about people and churches denouncing this type of message and rap and thinking to myself 'Why don't they lighten up? Its just music....jeez' Before long, you even had women themselves singing on the hook of some of these songs. Akinyele's most famous song (which I won't name here) comes to mind. But again....the beat is catchy, so while I heard the lyrics and knew that it was degrading to women....I would turn it up when it came on. In a weird way, I was almost detached from all of the degrading stuff for a few reasons. My mom and my sister are two of my favorite people in the world while I was growing up (and they still are) but they were strong black women and personalities that I felt the rappers weren't talking about. I would just think to myself 'Wow, these guys are really degrading to women in these song....good thing they're not describing or talking about anyone I know' Looking back, I should have felt 'some kind of way' about this back then also, but I was still young and without (in my mind) a voice. After a while, the music I was listening to got worse and worse when talking about women. For me, my hip hop heroes such as Biggie, Big Daddy Kane, and even Mobb Deep talked about girls and women as objects rather than actual living and breathing women. As I have eluded to in a few of my past posts, a lot of my early years were 'pre-internet' so a lot of things I heard about outside of an artist actual music was hearsay. I only heard about Biggie being abusive toward Lil Kim through one of my classmates at FSU that was from NYC. There were other 'rumors' about other rappers that I heard, but again, it didn't matter to me. Just as long as their as the beat and lyrics were dope, I didn't care if he/they had a song about a girl or a woman being passed around between their friends and them laughing about it afterwards. I somewhat didn't care about who did what with their women behind closed doors because again, as long as the rappers didn't get on a song and say something like 'I'm talking about Selma Cannady and Jacinta Adams specifically!' it didn't affect me. Believe me, I am a little embarrased that it didn't bother me then.
Things started to change slightly when I started dating Ayren. If she got into the car and I had a 'questionable' song on, she wouldn't say anything, but I would catch her glance down at the radio when something 'questionable' was mentioned. I would then think back to myself like 'Wow, that was a little dirty' or 'Damn, maybe I shouldn't play that around Ayren'. While I always listened to R&B also, she started to expose me to more and more R&B that I probably wouldn't have listened to on my own. And since I was so into Ayren, whenever I was alone and listening to the hardcore rap that talked about degrading women, I would think of what Ayren would say and how she would look so I slowly shied away from music that didn't have a problem even months before. Now, I'm not going to act holier than thou and tell you that I immediately threw away all of my hip hop stuff and never listened to it again. I'm just saying that the little voice in my head that was telling me that this type of music is degrading to women was getting louder.
Fast forward to the year 2011, Ayren and I are married and we now have a son, whom I love and feel a HUGE responsibility of being a role model to. So, a lot of the music that was degrading to women, also mentioned doing....um....some stuff that is against the law. Again, before, that kind of stuff didn't effect me and I was just turn it up and jam along with the beat. One day, I was listening to one of my favorite artists new albums and I came across a song were he described how he was going to plot and plan a way to find one of his rivals and in essence, murder him. The song was well done, and this particular artist is very good at storytelling so he painted the picture well for the listener. Everything about the song was good...except the subject matter. Me being a young man at 38 years old, guys my age are (hopefully) long gone off of the street and street life so I no longer imagine myself as a target for a rapper in a song like this. But you know who I pictured? Yep, my little guy Trey. I immediately was so disturbed that I turned the song off and to be honest, I haven't listened to the song since. You know its a throw away line for a rapper to mention something like 'I will clear out the block with my glock/make sure I get that dude was talking big on the block' or something to that effect. Not only is that murder, both of those young men are someone's son/brother/uncle/friend etc. Both of their families will now be effected and there is no coming back from death. I now cringe when I hear about any young man being killed at a young age. But a lot of the listeners of this were probably like me back in the day. 'Its just a song' or 'he's not really doing that kind of stuff' But when I assigned a face and a life to these songs. I just have less and less interest.
The year is now 2015, and Ayren and I not only have Mr. Trey with us, we now have a beautiful daughter name Eliet. Oh man, she has me WRAPPED around her little fingers and toes since she was born. Along with our first angel, Trey....Eliet is truly an angel to not only me, but my whole family. I love (and Trey) more than life itself. Now, I'm picturing one of those rappers talking about Eliet in one of those degrading songs and I get legit upset. I think to myself 'Man, if they would even try that with Eliet.....' What gets me also about some of these acts are that they have daughters that I'm sure they love as much as I love Eliet. I'm not going to be naive and think that my two will never get into trouble or they will do somethings that would make Ayren and I livid!
Well, of course, music isn't the only avenue where I have changed my ways. I used to laugh and make all of the jokes about women's sports and how no one enjoys watching them. I know....I told you, Ayren helped me out....A LOT! Back when I worked for the NBA, we would sometimes get emails about tickets being available for game X. If you didn't respond immediately, the tickets would be claimed. Plus the seats would be WAAAAYYY up there. However, that same email would be sent out to be able to go to a WNBA game, and no one would respond or care. The seats would be courtside! And I have to mention that taking your family to WNBA games are a good experience. And the WNBA players are very good role models for young girls that strive to play basketball when they get older. But the WNBA has struggled as a league because they don't have the support of basketball fans. 'I just don't like watching women ball' or 'They are not exciting enough' are some of the comments you hear about the league. I should know, because I have said both of these before. Now the narrative is different with Eliet. Why did I think that? Why can't girls/women shoot for doing things just as good or better than men? I have now found that I'm now a feminist dad and with all of the women in my life that I adore, I honestly should have been this WAY before my precious daughter was born.
Hey, I'm not all the way where I want to be, but I'm trying. Even going as far as giving up things that were second nature to me for 30+ years! Some people may disagree with me or want me to explain further and I want that! I would be glad to discuss! :)