Race and Music

What I Learned About Race Through Rap Feuds in 2015Azalea vs Azealia 750

Remember Azealia Banks? I had, admittedly, forgotten. She’d rubbed me in a similar manner as how Kanye West makes me react. Let me explain, while, I often disagree with Kanye’s tactics and like his whole presence, honestly, he has often spit pure truth on numerous occasions… like the VMAs. There is a huge struggle for minorities to be fully taken in as equals. The same way women, Black Lives Matter, and, the LGBT rights movements’ fight for equal representation and opportunity.

When Azealia Banks rolled up and blasted Iggy for not fully committing to her appropriated culture, Iggy was off the scene for a little bit but Azealia Banks was pushed in the media as the antagonist. She was portrayed as an angry black woman and a hater and when her album finally dropped, I didn’t even hear about it, I had to go and find it. It had to put in extra effort to be exposed to her music, meanwhile, people continue to talk about Iggy, she still has a media presence that doesn’t tag her name with the accusations Banks brought to attention, however, last time I heard about Azealia, it was about twitter and Eminem… the mention of her music was secondary and vague. Can we agree that that’s just, I mean, come on, that’s a little “sus.”

Sometimes, with movements like this, smaller communities of people are trying to force the heads of the larger communities to look back and notice how far behind we are, how unequal the quality of life seems to be for people. It’s very difficult, 2015 has been a series of excruciatingly frustrating denials of a problem generations of racially segregated societies have been facing. So yeah, sometimes we get loud. Sometimes the intensity doesn’t match the venue and so it’s overwhelming and off putting. However I offer a challenge, one I also give myself, not to let the discomfort in the volume of someone’s injustice make you turn the volume down on the issue. Instead, it should make you listen; it should prompt you to do what you can to end that pain.

Let me just say, I started listening to rap music when Nicki Minaj started rocking’ out with a fake British accent. I was like, okay, this girl does not care. She took into account all the tools she had picked up on her way and implemented them into her craft. She likes accents and voices; it helps her assume character, which helps her to tell the story of her song better. It was with Nicki that I understood that beautiful story telling nature of rap music. It’s complete freedom of expression. I wanted to be able to do that, but felt I couldn’t. Nicki was a female rapper changing the game, yes, but she still fit in. She was like a female perspective of the rap game.

Now, Iggy Azalea and Azealia Banks entered my life at around the same time, right when I was just starting to understand rap’s importance and appreciate where I fit into the hip-hop culture. It’s something I’m still learning about-and people should really take the time to understand it because it’s really beautiful. Hip-hop was born for a culture of people who were not being heard as equals. Not that much has changed as far as public perception, but the black community was being stifled, since their origin in America. Our talents were taken for granted while our music was stolen, and our contributions ignored. Hip-hop came along and it was loud, and expressive. It was angry and colorful… so colorful. What’s awesome about the hip-hop culture is that it’s all-inclusive. It’s political and social. It’s fashion and music and art. It’s history and a cry for a better tomorrow, a promise of not giving up the fight for equality and acknowledgement. The only requirement to be accepted in the hip-hop culture is accepting hip-hop’s validity.

As I was coming to these conclusions, I was listening to this girl (Iggy) who everybody thought had no business being in the rap business. Well, she made it her business. I always felt like if I tried to be a rapper, I would be laughed at because people would immediately recognize that I’m super lame. I couldn’t be aggressive (really doesn’t work) and my sexy face is not lit, it is very dim and makes people uncomfortable, including myself. But Iggy taught me that it doesn’t matter where you come from, or what you sound like, when you’re drawn to something roll with it until you find your footing. I truly appreciated that she was from Australia and this blonde white girl had found passion in rap music.

I think that appropriation is beautiful. It pretty much feels like society is telling people that they can’t look at a different culture, and if they do find it appealing well, just forget about it because they weren’t born into it. That’s bologna, not kosher. HOWEVER, I will say that because culture is so closely ingrained in certain communities, if you don’t understand the culture from which you’re sampling, you can’t just get up and pretend like you’re involved. If you’re going to be a part of the hip-hop culture and start influencing people to get there with you, you have to really be involved. Otherwise it’s plagiarism, you just copy and pasted someone’s passion and put your name on it. And now, the original owner of that swag has been overlooked.

Being in a position of cultural appropriation presents people with several options moving forward. It’s not just about learning about a culture, it’s about caring about that culture. For Iggy, rap is her career and it doesn’t seem like it’s much more than that, which is fine but for many others, rap is their entire struggle, their entire history and cries for change. Rap touches on the disappointments and hopes of a people that are constantly overlooked and prejudiced against in a society within which they have been fighting for acknowledgement beyond their skin color since they were forced from their native land. Hip-hop was born in battle. It’s a war cry and a victory song; it’s a freedom chant and a national anthem. It’s pride and acceptance and if you can’t grasp that, you have no business getting involved, and if you do get that, then you’ve already adopted that fight and we thank you. Privilege is not a bad thing if you utilize it in the name of progress. Your white privilege automatically makes your voice a little louder than ours and that is okay right now. Change isn’t immediate, but you can call it out so that maybe down the road, years from now, everyone’s voices will be the same volume.

 

The thing that is upsetting about Iggy isn’t even upsetting in a way that Iggy, herself, enrages me. It’s just reality. It’s hard to find representation of black women beyond the generalized stereotype that genuinely doesn’t go away, no matter how much of a boss she is: Fat ass, attitude, dope hair, and nothing but style and sex to contribute to society. Sex sells, even if what you’re selling is an entire group of people. The problem with Iggy being a rapper and using a southern accent to slip into her performance persona isn’t that she is white, however, it is because she’s not about the #BlackStruggle. She’s not advocating on behalf of black rights and progress towards our equal representation. There is no fight on behalf of white society that needs to shut down the airwaves to be heard. State law is white law; all protests are simply demands for the rights we, as a people, were denied in our artificial insemination as citizens of this country. I cannot speak on behalf of all black people, but to me, it’s like I’m still waiting for our official adoption papers to be signed, and until then, I’ll still feel like we’re the kids you took in to cop that check every month.

Music brings people, cultures and hearts together. It can easily be employed as a tool for cultural change. It’s up to this generation to start taking these strides by coming together and casting out the separation, but we can’t do that until we recognize it, until we all see it. You have to listen to some problems that aren’t your own. You have to look at some consequences of racism and intolerance that are hard to look at. Sometimes, even when you don’t like who’s talking, you just have to listen; listen to what everyone has to say, consider another perspective. Listen to people like Kanye, Azealia, Nicki, and Miley. That even goes for Donald Trump, but, and I beg of you, don’t get out of hand on that slippery slope to Hell.