Hip Hop Is Having Its Own #MeToo Moment...But Our Change Might Come Slower

Kelis
By Veronica Wells

For years, I’ve wondered what went wrong with Nas and Kelis. There just seemed to be more to the story. After yesterday, when her interview with Hollywood Unlocked was released, I realized I felt that way because we’d never heard Kelis’ side of it. The singer-turned-chef dropped a bombshell yesterday when she detailed the mental and physical abuse she suffered at the hands of her ex-husband and father of her child, rapper Nas.

Before she went into detail, she said, “I have edited myself for nine years. And I woke up this morning like, ‘Not today.’

In one particularly damning clip, she said:
“Something reminded me of Rihanna. I remember so clearly when the pictures came out with that whole thing that happened with her and Chris Brown. The only way I can describe it was like double dutch. I felt like, ‘Do I jump in?’ ‘Do I say it?’ Because I had bruises all over my body at that time. Like, that day. I remember being in Atlanta, sitting at the kitchen being like [sighs heavily]. And I wasn’t ready to walk. I just wasn’t. And honestly, because I’m not weak…I’m really private. I don’t want people in my business. I felt like this is my partner, I chose this. And like I said, I’m not frail. I’m not scared. I’m not weak…Seeing her the way she looked and then looking at myself, I was embarrassed. I was appalled... So much of me was out of character in that marriage. Taking that is not my character. I didn’t say anything because I wanted things to work and because I was delusional and because I thought I could love past this, like we can get through this.”
For a split second, before I watched the interview, I was surprised by the allegations. This is Nasir Jones...one of the good ones. The writer of “I Can,” the conscious rapper. His demeanor seemed so cool and calm. But then again, I remember I thought the same thing about Fabolous before I saw him lunging at Emily B, brandishing some type of weapon as children, likely theirs, screamed in the background.
 
Watch the interview

When Kelis’ interview started going viral, there were plenty of people who took her words to heart. And then there were the naysayers. Men and women alike who felt like the former couple’s custody battle is what inspired her decision to share.

I also think the timing is interesting, but for an entirely different reason. I believe Kelis. I can’t imagine what she would have to gain from attacking one of Hip Hop’s most beloved voices. The timing is interesting because it’s right. I don’t know that it’s a coincidence that on the same day Kelis shared her story, Bill Cosby, the man who, in many ways, served as the impetus and catalyst for the #MeToo movement, was found guilty of sexual assault. The voices of women sharing their uncomfortable truths has shifted the culture, the climate, the atmosphere. And the time of exposure for men who abuse women, no matter how legendary, no matter how revered, has come.

Sadly, while that exposure has also come with reckoning in the Hollywood sphere, I think it will be a while before the men in Hip Hop experience that same type of ostracization. After all, Hollywood has been trying to mask its misogyny for decades, while Hip Hop and subsequently its followers have revelled in it. 

It would be easy to point to the prevalence of the word “b*tch” in the lyrics. And that’s certainly part of it. But I would argue there’s a more glaring piece: the private and public actions of men in Hip Hop.

There was the time The Game spat on his female fans.

Kevin Gates was sentenced to six months in jail after he kicked a woman.

Rapper Maxo Kream stood idly by as his security poured water on and ripped the wig off a woman in the audience.

There’s Dr. Dre’s history of abuse.

Biggie was notorious for his abuse of Lil Kim, I would argue both mental and physical.

Rihanna post Chris Brown altercation
The list could go on forever, really. But despite all of these incidents and our community’s knowledge of them, these facts have done very little, almost nothing, to change public perception of these men. As much evidence as we saw of Chris Brown and Rihanna’s altercation, there are still those who argue that Brown’s career and life were ruined, that he was treated unfairly because a few DJs stopped playing his music for a couple of months. 

Despite the steady stream of women coming to speak out against Russell Simmons, there are those who are stepping forward to proclaim his innocence.

Even with Fabolous, who hit Emily B so hard and so often that she had to have her teeth medically replaced, there are those who won’t take issue with the abuse because the two were spotted at Coachella together last weekend. As if her compliance somehow absolves him of moral responsibility and the rest of us of need for further concern.

I was speaking with a friend recently about men when I noted that for Black women, Black men represent a particularly problematic group because we’re the only ones they can oppress, personally and systematically. On the hierarchy, we’re the only ones who are “beneath” them.

I have no doubt that this societal structure is the reason why so many Hip Hop artists and fans alike are still unwilling to hold themselves and each other accountable for their actions against women. It’s their one last stronghold.

But as we’ve seen elsewhere, the voices will only continue to grow. It’s simply a matter of time before society can no longer ignore them.

Do you feel hip hop will ever change its misogynist ways?
Veronica Wells is the culture editor at MadameNoire.com. She is also the author of “Bettah Days” and the creator of the website NoSugarNoCreamMag. You can follow her on Facebook and on Instagram and Twitter @VDubShrug.

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