This essay seeks to explore the sociopolitical objectives of hip-hop feminism, to address the generational ruptures that those very objectives reveal, and to explore the practical and theoretical qualities that second- and third-wave generations of black feminists have in common. Ultimately, the goal of this essay is to clearly understand the sociopolitical platform of hip-hop feminists and how that platform both impacts and figures into the history and future of black American feminist thought.
Examinations of the relationship of queer sexuality and the hip-hop generation have recently emerged in academia. However, little or no work has been done that explores hip-hop's bisexual, independent poster child, Me'Shell Ndegeocello. Since her debut in 1993, Ndegeocello's relationship to hip-hop has been both a reflection of and influence upon understandings of race, gender, and sexuality for a generation of queer feminists of color. In this paper, I examine how her emergence and popularity mark an important political and ideological moment for queer Black women in the post-civil rights era. Grounded in the works of Patricia Hill Collins, bell hooks, Audre Lorde, and Jewelle Gomez, I examine how media representations of Ndegeocello coupled with her lyrics and music demonstrate the complexities and contradictions of "hip-hop feminism." In particular, the 1990s represent a movement away from the Reagan/Bush era that characterized not only the teenage years of hip-hop culture, but important cultural and economic advances of the Black community. At the same time, this decade marks the shift to the more "liberal" Clinton administration, where the advances of previous generations began to decline. In this context I ask in what ways does Me'Shell Ndegeocello represent a generation of young queer women who were raised after (and sometimes on) early Black feminist critique? Further, how is her work emblematic of Black feminist understandings of gender and sexuality at the same time that she complicates this same discourse?
"Black Muslim women and hip-hop? . . . real Muslims don't listen to hip-hop." For many it is almost unfathomable that black Muslim women would have any involvement with hip-hop music. While several scholars have explored the connections between hip-hop and Islam, hip-hop scholarship usually neglects in-depth conversations about black Muslim women. Using the examples of Erykah Badu, Eve, and myself, this paper explores the ways in which black Muslim women of the hip-hop generation use our music to negotiate faith and culture. Creating improvisation zones that highlight the flexibility of religion as it moves through cultures and spaces of resistance, black Muslim women successfully reconcile hotep and hip-hop.
"'Roll It Gal': Alison Hinds, Female Empowerment, and Calypso" examines the ways in which Caribbean women's bodies, namely those of black women, have been overly sexualized in calypsos. More importantly, this article examines how Hinds (re)claims calypso and its dance forms to empower women cross-culturally. She subverts traditional representations of womanhood in her songs and performances, thereby expanding existing definitions of womanhood. Hinds addresses women's ambivalent relationships with the performance and celebration of Caribbean culture through dance as she recovers/reinvents the female body. Hinds's ability to demand respect for her "wining" skills is also discussed. She validates the "wuk up" as an art form intrinsic to Caribbean culture, and openly challenges colonial ideologies that conceptualize "wukking up" as inappropriate or disrespectful. Simultaneously, in her claim of being "de ruffest gal winer" that no man/woman can test, Hinds's own dance performance becomes a subversive text and not merely dance as aesthetic pleasure.
This essay argues that female rappers Las Krudas are, with their music, engaging in trangressive spatial practice. Las Krudas are especially helping to disrupt the classificatory eye's orientalist gaze—which visually and aurally disciplines space through the distribution of bodies and voices—through their public performances. In the tourist zones the classificatory eye looks upon a sanitized space, producing, in concert with the ear, ordered visual and aural landscapes evocative of the "authentic" Cuba. I suggest that sound can make visible spatial practice. Las Krudas perform music and theater—aimed at disrupting the definition of who is authentically Cuban—in the heart of the tourist zone.
Widening the "circle of the we," the space Las Krudas' music elaborates is seemingly heterotopic in that it may not be represented physically, yet it presupposes a "system of opening and closing that both isolates . . . and makes [it] impenetrable" (Foucault 1986, 26), making the heterotopia a space that erects its own fluid and autonomous boundaries. Las Krudas' music also expands diasporic space, transgresses geographic borders, and links sound to place: La Habana. In La Habana, Las Krudas borrow from shared diasporic resources (hip-hop culture/rap music, African drum rhythms and chants) when fashioning a musical aesthetic that allows for the articulation of the "local" as well as the "global."
Finally, I move beyond Foucault's spatial model of disciplinary power by citing de Certeau's walking in the city as analogous to the agential speech act. I suggest that the creation of sound/aural landscape/music is a particularly powerful productive tool for speaking back to and ultimately destabilizing disciplinary power.
"Meri Awaaz Suno: Women, Vocality, and Nation in Hindi Cinema" analyzes the theme song of the Bollywood blockbuster Lagaan (2001) to understand how playback singers' voices become sites for the construction of national identity. Lata Mangeshkar monopolized female playback singing for over four decades, and is known as the ideal voice of Indian femininity. The Lagaan theme song juxtaposes a saccharine, ultra-feminine Mangeshkaresque voice with two female choruses—one sensual and aggressive, the other light and airy. These varied female voices embody a range of sexual, national, and racial meanings, evoking an India that seems inclusive and progressive. Yet within Lagaan's utopian nation, and certainly within the film industry and broader social milieu, women with "ethnic" and sexually provocative voices are often deemed dangerous and are disallowed from speaking (or singing) for the nation. The social norms embedded in Lagaan's female singing voices thus reveal the limits that Hindi film music imposes on the voice of the nation, and vice versa.
This essay explores the critical work of Beyoncé's second solo recording, and places it in conversation with yet another under-theorized yet equally dissonant R&B performance by her "hip-hop soul queen" contemporary Mary J. Blige. In relation to both Beyoncé's and Blige's work, I examine the politics of black women's pop music culture in relation to the Gulf Coast catastrophe and the extreme marginalization of black women in American sociopolitical culture. I suggest that we look closely at the musical performances of Beyoncé as well as Blige, as each artist's work creates a particular kind of black feminist surrogation, that is, an embodied performance that recycles palpable forms of black female sociopolitical grief and loss as well as spirited dissent and dissonance. Their combined efforts mark a new era of protest singing that sonically resists, revises, and reinvents the politics of black female hypervisibility in the American cultural imaginary.
Images of women surrounding male rap stars in music videos are as common as the jewel-encrusted subject matter of today's rap lyrics. Females are seen in packs hovering around male rap stars, playing the part of enthusiastic cheerleader or die-hard groupie. Rap music videos sell not only hip-hop culture, but also the very image of its women. They serve as eye candy designed to satisfy an assumed male video audience, affirming critiques of the culture as hyper-masculine and misogynist. "Still" is a series of photographs from contemporary rap music videos. These artworks invite a second look at the hip-hop video vixen, displaying an interest in moments unintended by music video narratives. Some stills reveal agency rather than victimization, while others provide reminders of the narrow representations of women in hip-hop.
This paper describes results from a qualitative study of the music video production industry and the creative process in rap music video production and artist marketing. Participant responses are presented in three areas: the music video production process, recent trends in rap music videos, and the music video set as a site of gender exploitation. Findings suggest a concern over artistic freedom of expression and the mechanical production of the "booty video" formula that saturates music video programming and is a template for rap videos. Participants agreed that there is something lackluster about rap music played on radio and aired on music video programming. Additionally, gendered hierarchies on video sets create divisions among women working in various positions, and discourage women from supporting one another, which, from a black feminist perspective, does not accommodate an ethic of care and personal responsibility.
In the late fall of 2004, following the media spectacle created by Spelman College's protest of the misogyny and sexism in the music and videos of rapper Nelly, Essence, a popular black women's magazine, began a campaign to raise awareness. Arguing that a more public discussion by black women of the issue of misogyny in rap's portrayal of black women is long overdue, the magazine published a year-long series of articles as part of its "Take Back the Music" campaign. More interesting than the series of articles produced by the magazine is the overwhelming response generated on its internet-based scribble boards, which offered their readers the opportunity to participate in a communal dialogue. Arguing that the scribble boards became a black women's temporary "safe space," this essay interrogates the manner in which black women construct subject positions around the performance of race, class, and gender as a means to resist dominant representations of black women, while simultaneously engaging in disciplinary practices that constrain black femininity.
Hip-hop pornography propels the conventions of the nearly soft-core hip-hop video to the extreme, the explicit, the hard-core. The convergence of the outlaw cultures of hip-hop and pornography offers a compelling narrative about how black sexual subjects define authority, legitimacy, legibility, and power. Hip-hop porn provides black women and men an arena for labor and accumulation as well as self-presentation, mediation, and mobility. As a space for work, survival, consumption, and identity-formation, the genre proffers an opportunity to explore the gendering of black (post)modern desires, as well as the potential to think through historical echoes of the current controversies and debates around exactly what constitutes "appropriate" black sexuality. Even as it offers a venue for acts of self-representation, pleasure, and exchange, hip-hop porn's brand of eroticism raises important questions about contemporary black gender and sexual politics. Within the space of hip-hop porn, these gender and sexual politics are produced within a sexual economy of illicit eroticism. The "illicit erotic" challenges ideas that fix the hypersexuality of the black body as always already repugnant, by using fetishized hypersexuality to strategically work with and through modern capitalism. This essay is primarily concerned with exploring how black sexual subjects engage illicit erotic economies as sites to self-fashion themselves according to the values and practices of "radical consumerism," "play-labor," and self- or counter-fetishization.
Musician and feminist Meredith LeVande noticed a dramatic shift in the appearance of female pop stars in the late 1990s. This essay shows how the connection between media ownership deregulation and the mega-media companies that profit from adult entertainment have pushed pornographic imagery into the mainstream. Nowhere is this situation more evident than with women in popular music whose images have become increasingly hyper-sexualized. Through various narratives circling women in music, this essay explores how the 1996 Telecommunications Act has made pornographic images omnipresent.