The Wednesday Weigh-In: Beef, respect, and male crews edition

Nikki Minaj has been occupying headlines all week since she pulled out of the Hot 97 Summer Jam festival after a DJ went on stage and called her single “Starships” “bullshit” and “not real hip-hop” just hours before Minaj was set to hit the stage.

Soon after the comments, Minaj’s mentor and Young Money boss Lil Wayne posted on Twitter, “Young Money ain’t doing summer jam” and Nicki  took to Twitter to confirm.

Then, the next day Nicki went on Hot 97 with Funkmaster Flex to address the situation, participating in a heated conversation with the loud-mouthed DJ about respect, ego, and hip hop. The whole conversation was pretty good, and you can read the transcript here. Vulture chose their five favorite moments from that on-air beef, and some of them are pretty great. They are all from Nicki, and all very strong. But they didn’t select my favorite part of the conversation, when Nicki prevents Funkmaster Flex from interrupting her yet again to make a point:

“I got it, I got your feelings. Are you gonna let me talk? You’ve already made your opinion clear, and nobody’s opinions seem to be changing. I just want to apologize to my fans for what happened last night, and like I said on Twitter, I’m going to make it up to them with a free concert. And they said you know what Hot 97? When you want our team to come to your show, treat us with respect. And that’s all we’re asking. We’re not asking for any special treatment. Just respect. And I’m very proud of my team, and the way they stood behind me—and I’m very happy to show my female fans in that audience, and even my gay fans in that audience, when I’m coming to your home, respect me. It’s no longer comedy. Wayne doesn’t take me as a joke.” [Emphasis mine.]

I think this quote embodies what is at the center not only of this beef, but of much of the conversation around female rappers right now. Everyone loves to have an opinion on Nicki, myself included, but at the end of the day she is a talented woman kicking ass in a male-dominated and misogyny-laced industry, with strong backing and support from an elite, successful, all-male crew. This doesn’t have to make her a feminist, or a good artist – we could argue all those points for days. But it does make her  a pioneer and a rarity. And as I believe the above quote illustrates nicely, being in that position forces Nicki to demand respect in a way that her male colleagues might not always be forced to do. I think it’s been fascinating to watch this whole saga unfold because it marks one of the first times in recent memory that I’ve seen a prominent and culturally relevant all-male crew take a stand like this. That it should take place within the context of hip hop, a genre I love so much, is icing on the cake.

This week’s Wednesday Weigh-In, inspired by Nicki’s ordeal, relates to crews and respect. When was the last time a guy or a group of guys stood up for you and demanded respect on your behalf? Did you feel empowered, condescended to, or something else entirely?

 

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7 Comments

  1. Posted June 6, 2012 at 4:17 pm | Permalink

    I just started reading Feministing after watching the TedTalks by Courtney Martin- this shit is rad. Thank you all…

    In response to the Weigh In- I don’t even know where to begin…

    I have been both a musician and a singer for the majority of my life. The first time I got into the studio, unofficially, was around the age of 18. I started recording for my friends all male and white hip hop crew. We made some music, had some ups and downs- but then I was pursued by others. As I got further and further into a microcosmic version of the platinum lifestyle, I learned a lot about hip hop, activism, racism, sexism, and the novelty of women. I have written, recorded, toured, and rocked a vast amount of music in my 6 years of unofficial recording- and the shit coming down on nicki on the macro is no different on the micro.

    I was once told by a male studio manager- not even engineer, that I needed to write hooks more like Cassie; a model, and a mediocre singer, who has music written for her. No thank you.

    I have been asked to dress differently, write less freely, basically- don’t make waves, just be consumed by them.

    I have been told by male producers that I don’t even know how my sexual desire could be fulfilled by them- and my boyfriend at the time, a DJ and fellow producer and friend of theirs not stepping up and telling them to back the fuck off, but rather telling me that he didn’t want to fuck with the politics and didn’t want to get involved. I had to shelf the record because I refused to work with the producer ever again.

    I dated a punk musician that disrespected me on multiple levels(cheated on me, lied to me, insulted me to high heaven) and all was overlooked by a community that I though would support me- but because of his clout of having a label, booking shows, having a prominent band, I withdrew from a community in which I had been active far before I had met him. I eventually made a response to this by photographing and interviewing women in the punk and metal scene in my town. It is now a book called Living Ashes: Portraits of Women in Punk: Pittsburgh.

    I have shelved entire records because I felt disrespected by the people I have worked with because I would not continue working with them under the potential for discomfort from objectification.

    This shit is rampant- in every community, in every musical genre- fuck, even as a classically trained violinist, I dealt with composers, orchestral, and chamber players who couldn’t get past the fact that I played and wrote on their level.

    What I have learned from all of these experiences is that if you are not creating, negotiating, and restructuring on your terms, then it will always be co-opted by those who want something from you- no one ever wants something for you, unless something is in it for them…especially the “male crew”.

    I finally have a band that I work well with because they are secure in their musicianship. They are men, and they support me, they don’t “let me” make choices, we all bring decisions to the table and through various forms of communication and restructuring. We make choices together, based on experiences- independent and collective. We trust one another.

    To this day I have written, recorded, and performed in umbrella genres of hip hop, pop, folk, americana, blues, jazz, metal, classical, and indie rock. I realized that after working with so many people that were willing to take advantage on me because of my bright eyes, bushy tail, and “super fine ass” I needed to REQUIRE respect and interest in my work based on my resume and portfolio, work ethic, and understanding of music and showing people that this is in FACT the base level on which I operate, and that ultimately, I don’t need approval to create something. I already have a hold of it. Male crew support or not.

    http://www.thecoconuts.org

    And that’s my weigh in.

    -S

  2. Posted June 6, 2012 at 5:04 pm | Permalink

    I played on the boys soccer team in high school. One time I schooled another player from an opposing team by passing the ball between his legs. The dude was so mad that a girl had out competed him if you will that he ran after me, shoved me and pulled my hair! My team went flipping nuts! My boyfriend, who was also a player, ran onto the field, my goalie came out from the box and a pretty serious brawl ensued. My coach had to forfeit the game. In fact we had to take it as a loss on our record. The one thing that all my teammates and coach kept saying was that if I had been a guy the other player would not have reacted to me like that and they took offense to that. They said I had tried out for the team, earned my spot and that was that.

  3. Posted June 6, 2012 at 6:20 pm | Permalink

    One time I was on a camping trip with a bunch of people, and I got into a political debate with a man who did three tours in Iraq. I wasn’t aware of this fact before the debate started. We argued for a bit, and I ended up making a particularly brilliant point. The guy exploded and proceeded to interrupt everything I said for the next half hour with “You’re just a b-tch who doesn’t know anything. B-tch, b-tch…” etc. I was with a younger guy who is like a brother to me, and he had been drinking heavily. He sat there for a long time and listened to this veteran demean me and name-call. Finally, out of nowhere, he literally flew across the campfire at this man, fists flying. I don’t condone violence, especially not drunken violence towards a trained Marine, but I was a little bit touched. This boy was lucky, the Marine immediately dropped him to the ground and slowly asked him if he was sure about what he was doing. My friend is in no way a fighter or violent at all, but the fact that he sat there and listened to me be disrespected over and over and it drove him to fight for my honor was sweet…even if he could have gotten his butt kicked badly.

  4. Posted June 6, 2012 at 8:29 pm | Permalink

    First off, I live in South Korea, and the culture here is very Confucian-oriented, where people who are older than you, have more life experience than you, or are in position of authority, are to be respected and unchallenged. This is definitely changing, and creating conflicts in Korean society (kind of a generational schism).

    So anyway once upon a time, I was at the local expat bar waiting for a toilet to open up and this older guy walks buy and pinches my bum. It’s not really a big deal, I say something in poor broken Korean (along the lines of ‘hey, don’t do that. . . ‘ I’d only been here a month at this point).

    A younger guy who saw everything marches up, enraged, and asks me what the older guy did. I tell him, and he asks if I speak any Korean? ‘Cause that guy should answer for his behavior. When I say no the younger guy marches down the hall to where the older guy is and just starts laying into him about respect, honor, racism, etc etc etc and it was SO COOL to watch this younger guy challenging not only this older man, but also many of the less-nice tenants of Korean society – entitlement (based on hierarchy), xenophobia, and sexism – in such a direct way.

    Anyway, I was super thankful for that. I wasn’t really able to defend myself or address the guy because of the language barrier, and this hip dude helped me out.

  5. Posted June 6, 2012 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    Hmm…me and Eric are almost always either one defending the other, it’s 50/50 depending on whether a troublemaker has delusions they can take advantage of a mentally ill or physically disabled person more. But recently a crew of men?

    A former housemate had launched on a harassment/bullying campaign towards me regarding that I didn’t think it was smart to handle some housing issues our building was going through at the time the way she wanted. This carried over into online harassment as well. When I addressed this in a house meeting and she goaded me further, I was triggered into an episode. She believed she could do all this and manipulate all house members into taking her side, but was completely taken by surprise when everyone else, including all the men, said no, she was in the wrong to do what she did.

    It wasn’t that they were my “crew” or liked me better or anything, it’s just that they felt doing that was not ok.

  6. Posted June 7, 2012 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    I’ve had pretty good support from guys around me in certain kinds of geek spaces. My favorite game store is a great place to be a female gamer, but the larger community can be a real issue. After a guy followed me around asking me personal information all day after I beat him in a Magic tournament, I only go with male friends. I’ve had a number of incidents with guys following me or insulting me, and usually before it goes anywhere, one of my friends wanders by and steps in. I’ve always appreciated this, as it’s an exhausting process standing up to the sexism at large tournaments.

  7. Posted June 9, 2012 at 12:02 am | Permalink

    @ Trinity: I am disheartened to hear of your experiences at these gaming tournaments. While it is wonderful that you have friends who will stand up for you, it is disturbing that this predatory misogyny occurs at all. It seems that fighting sexism alone as a female is somehow an extremely difficult thing to do. Why? Perhaps because sexism leaves no room for respect on any level– the people we are dealing with disregard one of the most fundamental aspects of our humanity– our voice– and when you deal with people like this, logic and ethics or anything else become irrelevant. In this tough Catch22, we can sometimes only gain credibility if our male feminist friends help us out (for better or worse)– the larger effort for equality will depend greatly on having allies on the other side.

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