Race & Art: Why someone said Iggy Azalea runs Hip-Hop

I came across the soundtrack of the Panther movie called Freedom and the opening scene stayed with me. Imagine, Eight dark skinned females facing Five dark skinned males. Six of them have afros of different sizes ranging from small to explosive. Three of them stand with children in their arms or on their hips while One of them says:

“We want full fledged membership of the black panther party. None of that okay sugar, as long as you play the background n’ gettin’ ma beer and rubbin my feet bulls***t either. You dig?”

Do.You.Dig?

I do. I really do.

 

Recently Forbes wrote an article and titled it  “Hip Hop Is Run By A White, Blonde, Australian Woman” The “White, blonde Australian Woman” in reference is called Iggy Azalea. I had a great laugh after sharing the article on facebook, and seeing my friend comment saying,”who is this Iggy Hibiscus?”

Iggy Azalea is popular for her songs “Fancy” and “Work”

Renaming her “Iggy Hibiscus” was hilarious. But even more hilarious, was the reality that Iggy Azalea might actually not be as popular as Forbes assumes. However, the point is that Forbes believes she “runs” Hip-Hop because she is “popular.” So rather than going into her expertise on the art of rap or her knowledge on its history, before comparing it to the skill of any other rap artist (female or male), I will focus on this idea of her “popularity.” As Clutch magazine highlights, the crux of the Forbes article was simply a message about Iggy Azalea’s outstanding and “unexpected” success story:

“Iggy Azalea is one of hip hop’s most exciting new artists, as well as one of the genre’s most unexpected success stories. Her rise to prominence is notable not only for what seems like its immediacy, but for how infrequently someone like her makes it to the top. If you’re not keeping up to date on your rap culture or much into top 40 radio, you should know that she is not your typical hip hop star.Just a few weeks ago, her album “The New Classic”became the highest charting debut album by a female rapper since Nicki Minaj back in 2010, starting at number three. The position is impressive considering she is a brand new name in this country, and she had only achieved her first top 40 hit a few weeks prior.

In addition to her album’s success, just this past charting week she also became the first woman in hip hop to have two simultaneous hits in the top five of the Billboard Hot 100. Her single “Fancy (ft. Charli XCX)” has quickly risen the ranks to number three, and she is featured on the new Ariana Grande cut “Problem”, which debuted at the same ranking last week and is presently sitting at number four. It is rare for any artist to achieve such a feat, let alone a female rapper.”

At this point in the article, I’m picturing Iggy Azalea carrying a Forbes trophy, while embracing  the new and exciting  Nigerian phrase “H’i Never esperred it. Honestly, it would even be more exciting if she produced a new “Hip-Hop” remix to the popular “H’i never esperred it Remix” track

Yah, I get it- Iggy Azalea is a great rap artist with mad rap  skills a great sounding flow in my opinion. But the real question here is if Iggy Azalea really “never esperred it”. In other words, does fame and success come so surprisingly and “unexpected” to a slim, blonde professional female model  (more specifically, the face of Levi Jeans) turned female rapper? Let’s also not forget she is not black.Is it uncommon to witness the mainstream media fall at the knees of a female singing about sex and pu$$y as an asset to male ego?

In her first hit song “Pu$$y,” the director’s camera and the artist’s performance produce scenes that emphasize how palatable Iggy Azalea is to the men (and dogs) around her.

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I have to admit, that screenshot was one of the saddest indicators of our obsession with trends and our blind pursuit for a flawed “excellence.”

To me that was a sexualization of a young child by teaching him to own his natural role as Master, Lord and/or P.I.M.P:All four minutes of the video create an Ode to his existence, showing gratitude through servitude. What many call “excellence” and “perfection” are focused on using already established institutions-built in a racist and sexist past- to reproduce values that are perfect for multiplying capital, but ,harmful to any progress towards equality or any efforts to improve human appreciation and eradicate inter-sectional inequality.

Yes, Iggy Azalea is popular because her product-her Pu$$y- is not presented differently. Therefore, it does not disrupt any patriarchal norms. She is not singing to other women about the benefits of having what she is offering, she is merely asking for a seat at the patriarchal table and offering herself as a perfect object by saying:

Hey, I want what you want, we’re on the same side here. Look at me, I’m just like you so I’m not threatening and disruptive. Therefore, I qualify to be as popular as you have been.

I also understand that there is a very blurry partition between the disruption of female sexuality and the objectification of the female body but Iggy Azalea’s video of “Pu$$y” is far away from disruptive. Infact, all Iggy Azalea has helped helps the patriarchy breathe loudly in my ear and spit heavily on my face about how much women “just like me” actually like it.

Iggy rick and Lil wayne

Screenshots from left to right: Usher’s “Lemme See”, Iggy Azalea’s “Pu$$y” and Lil Wayne’s “Love me’

Unfortunately, Azalea who produced the song is not in the subject of her words or her video because that boy’s gaze is ever present, ever judging and ever rating. I mean, Shawty always has to be a ten right? and of course, bae can never catch me slippin!

So when Forbes says,

Her rise to prominence is notable not only for what seems like its immediacy, but for how infrequently someone like her makes it to the top

I wonder what makes “someone like her” so “infrequent” and “unexpected”. Is it because the beautiful progress of racial diversity within music. If this diversity is such a huge leap out of racism, why is it mostly when white artists join genres that consist of predominantly black artists that this diversity is embraced and celebrated. Perhaps, it is  like a breath of fresh air from what was formerly blaclaustrophobia (made up word to describe one’s paranoia around too many black people). GTY_miley_cyrus_twerking_vma_awards_thg_130827_16x9_608

This should not really be surprising after the Oxford dictionary endorsed twerk as an official word soon after Miley’s VMA performance. The last time I got this angry was when ABC came up with a scientific explanation for twerking after Miley Cyrus’ VMA performance. Of course, there must be a scientific explanation for the vibrations of the but cheeks and the muscular hip jerks that produce what it called a “twerk.” However, this definition is unnecessary when passing by a usual black female body, simply being a “hoe;” no explanations are needed for the “hoe” does not have the ability to analyse her movements nor the agency to own her intentions. Her body is not hers to understand, it is yours to critic if unpleasing and possess if pleasing. Therefore, with black bodies, there comes an unspoken treaty of servitude that puts their every butt vibration ( A.K.A. twerk) in an unreasonable, and merely desperate attempt at attracting the white male gaze.

This is why, when books are written to help women “Lean In” or articles asking for females to close the confidence gap, I do not know how to react to the one sided reiteration of female empowerment without educating the male perpetrators . I admit that females need to lean in and be more confident, but we must not reproduce what Ivan Illich calls “Modernized Poverty;”

Modernized poverty combines the lack of power over circumstances with a loss of personal potency.

In the song “Freedom”, Queen Latifah sings:

“I aint no old hag. I represent in the kitchen, in the bedroom but also in the board room so give me more room”

In a bid to reject this internalization of impotence, Queen Latifah recognizes her present roles, projects into her interested goals and reveals her current limitations.

At this point, I could delve into Macklemore’s case concerning Kendrick Lamar, but I’ll do better and give you art that is not designed to be popular but to be disruptive and revolutionary. I’ll give  you Freedom.

Now, this is the kind of song that I never experred to be “popular” and judging by the fact that I only came across this song today, I believe it fulfilled my expectations.  So thank you Forbes, but no thank you for your measures of success, I’ll stick with my #EmoART because it’s the better one for my rights.

 

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EmoART on Washington Post: Redefining success for a girl like me.

Earlier this year, I listened to a panel on “Women Leadership in Africa.” The first speaker opened up the floor by boasting about all her board memberships, then said;

“I’m a mother, I’m a wife and I am a business woman and I’m winning on all three fronts.

You have no choice but to do so…”

We had to win on all fronts so people would not think we were unable to fulfill our other duties. But little did the lady know that some of us were not interested in all three fronts. Yes, I could work on all fronts…

 

…But is it okay if I don’t want to?

Back when I was younger, no one told me I had a choice to choose who I was going to be. I mean my parents said I could choose whatever career I wanted, but their list of expectations for my womanhood proved contradictory.  So, I spoke to the Washington Post about how it feels growing up while trying to be everything that’s socially pleasing. As Olivia Iloetenma said,

“Nobody cares what the girl child wants. This is a society in which women are valued only in positions when they can be controlled.”

After a great 40 minute interview with Valerie Strauss of the Washington Post, she wrote a story on my opinions of the difficulties of being a Nigerian girl and being educated. I do not doubt that some people may disagree. Indeed, I too disagree with some of the generalizations in the piece. Unfortunately, some thoughts get lost while bridging the words of the speaker and the interpretation of the writer. Yet, Ms Strauss was not far off from closing that divide because I do think the Nigerian culture I have experienced from homes, schools and generally everywhere is based on expectations I deem sexist.

My teachers did not actually make me choose humanities; it was simply much easier for me to be just that because I knew I could be comfortable. Often, people would say that history was “chicken change” when compared to a subject like chemistry. On some days, I would argue; on the rest, I would not. Regardless of my mood swings, I truly believed chemistry was much harder and I knew never to touch it. I actually visualized history as the wife of chemistry- the man who wore the helium pants. For that reason, I thought the girls who were great at it were extraordinary and I also thought the girls who did horribly were out of their league…as women. Unfortunately, no one really told me it had nothing to do with that. And what’s worse is that I had enough information to think my hypothesis was the only correct one.

You should know I loved history-nobody forced me to love it. But, no one told me chemistry could make me a better artist and physics, a better musician. So, It was not just the teachers: The life I had lived, and the people that had defined what my role should be expected me to settle for comfortable. So, I did. I did it because I was scared to feed my long list of failures including lack of pretty and lack of “sexy.”

Today, I’d rather learn to be a great person than hope to be a good student. I want to spend my life reading Foucault then dancing after. I want to learn chemistry to create new tampons; I also want to learn the physics of wave movement to analyze Fela’s “Afrobeat!” Also, on this wonderful day, I remember how I took a biology class in my freshman year at Amherst College to learn about mating fish because I did not care if I would fail. I made that decision only because I had learned my failure came from an unrealistic comparison with the ideal female with a certain body and certain interests.

I think it’s time we stopped dreaming of someone who does not exist. More importantly, we have to stop working so hard to make our girls embody our flawed “perfection.” It was not a path created for their good. We are not a pair of shoes that anyone is supposed to wear out. When I pressed the “PLAY” button for my life to begin, I had to admit that my usefulness does not start with what I am supposed to do; I had to define it by what I WANT to do.

Isn’t it time we stopped comparing real life princesses to graphic images of a Bella or Ariel?

To the real-world princesses who work hard and love strong, you don’t need to win on all fronts, you deserve to be happy! The pain of being empty is not worth the rounds of applause you get from a company you despise or a husband you know you don’t love. This means you must take charge of all your fronts: Nobody can tell you which fronts or how many define your happiness. EmoART wants you to be happy with yourself. Kendrick Lamar said; “What’s love got to do with it when you don’t love yourself.” If you’re unhappy, you have nothing to share and the world needs the full capacity of your big heart. During my interview I said:

“This may be a generalization but people everywhere rate women on things that have no significance to their lives and then make these physical attributes their whole essence,” she said. “We’ve put a price on these girls’ heads. Boko Haram knows what the price is…. Everyone is saying girls should get an education but there is a difference between a girl in school and a boy in school. Girls will wake up and not want to go to class because last night someone called her ugly or laughed at her for being flat-chested. It’s all these crazy things that break down your morale. So when you are in a class with a male you are not learning the same things. You are checking your body every second…”

Read more here! I hope you enjoy!

P.S I would love to share the music I listen to while I write.Today, my soundtrack for this piece was Brandy’s “Scared of Beautiful”

The Movement for Choice

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“No human development goal can be achieved as

long as women and girls continue to suffer from

violence or live in fear of it.”

-Dr. Babatunde Osotimehin

Executive Director, UNFPA, November 2012

EmoART is a non-profit organization created to stimulate self-development in teenage girls across Africa using the arts as a medium of expression and introduction in order to empower them to represent female ability and disprove the false idea that inferiority is inherently or naturally female.

ART is the language

      “As art teachers we do not indoctrinate. But when we study the art of many lands and peoples, we expose our students to the expression of a wide range of human values and concerns. We sensitize students to the fact that values shape all human efforts, and that visual images can affect their personal value choices. All of them should be given the opportunity to see how art can express the highest aspirations of the human spirit. From that foundation we believe they will be in a better position to choose what is right and good”

-National Art Education Association

1580From 2011-2013, the EmoART program organized weekly sessions with 12 girls in Zandspruit primary School (in Johannesburg, South Africa)  to utilize the psychological and physical benefits of artistic performance.

 

Our mission is: 

 TO create generations of independent African females who will use the power of choice to make well-informed decisions because they have the right attitude, values, knowledge and skills. 

BY  delivering the EmoART curriculum to 15 & 16 year old local teenagers who will redesign and implement the curriculum to address the specific priorities of their immediate community.

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In 2014, EmoART decided that African women’s rights are African human rights: Men in Africa are victims in various ways that we must acknowledge simultaneously.

Therefore, the responsibility to solve gender conflict must be shared.

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In 2014, EmoART changed its mission to engage and empower African girls and boys living below $2 daily to create new and measurable leadership & entrepreneurial efforts that relieve their immediate communities. Therefore, creating a progressive continent sustained by the equal and equally valued efforts of African men and women.