Em-URGE-ing Voices

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October 26, 2016

drake canceled party

In this week’s celebrity news, rapper Drake mocked Kid Cudi’s depression in a poorly written and insensitive line in his latest song  Two Birds One Stone, after a Twitter rant by Kid Cudi a couple of weeks ago.

The lyrics reference Kid Cudi’s current stay in a rehab facility for help with his depression and suicidal urges:

You were the man on the moon, now you go through your phases/Life of the angry and famous/ Rap like I know I’m the greatest and give you the tropical flavors/ Still never been on hiatus/You stay xan and perked up so when reality set in you don’t gotta face it”

As someone who likes rap music but does not religiously listen to it, I could not help but roll my eyes.  Drake’s low blow was disgusting. He took a great moment of vulnerability shown by a black man and *Spongebob voice* SOILED IT. In the coming weeks there will most likely be several articles breaking down the ableism in Drake’s line, so I’m  not going to beat a dead horse. However, I am going to touch on a conversation that I feel that the black community seems to avoid.

Is anyone going to talk about how light-skinned men rely on colorism in order to lead call-out free lives?!

Is anyone going to address the fact that dark-skinned rappers continuously (and often rightfully so) maintain reputations for hating women, and being abusive, yet Drake and J. Cole consistently get a pass?!

Is anyone going to talk about the fact that Jesse Williams (my former future baby daddy) encouraged people to see Birth of a Nation after numerous black women expressed anger over Nate Parker’s sexual assault trial?!

Is anyone going to question the fact that Chris Brown is still on every song on the radio despite proving time and time again to be an abuser that hates black women?

Lastly, is anyone going to hold space for the fact that non-black women feel “safer” and less “problematic” for enjoying music by Drake and other light-skinned rappers because of their proximity to whiteness?

I know these are seemingly BIGLY accusations, and as someone known to be petty and dramatic, I don’t blame you for wondering if these accusations are a reach. However, like any well-prepared petty Black Femme, I have the receipts, honey.

In Hotline Bling, Drake exhibits abusive tendencies by sex-shaming his ex who is apparently enjoying her life after dumping his wack ass. From his features to his singles, he constantly promotes the good-girl/bad-girl dichotomy. Any woman who puts her life on hold for Drake’s foolishness is worthy of praise. Any woman who does not kiss the ground he walks on, is discarded and dragged. On The Game’s song Good Girls Go Bad Drake raps “Where’s all the women that still remember who they slept with?/ Where’s all the girls too busy studying to make the guest list?” This begs the question, does Drake remember who HE’s slept with? Also, what is up with this dude’s preoccupation with women attending college? He never graduated yet seems to hold college women up in some creepy untouchable category.Sound so smart like you graduated college/Like you went to Yale but you probably went to Howard.” Never mind the blatant classism, but do people who attend Howard University not sound “smart?”

ANYWAYS, let’s move on to exhibit B. Since showing up in Ferguson and “going platinum with no singles,” J. Cole has earned the reputation for being everyone’s favorite “woke bae.” I listened to a couple of J. Cole’s songs and, while I liked some of them, most seemed like a typical case of light-skinned boy mediocrity. But I had fallen into the pits of capitalism, and bought my ex tickets to his concert, so I decided to attend. I already knew about Cole’s women-hating song No Role Modelz before attending the concert. With lyrics like “N**** I don’t want no b**** from reality shows/out of touch with reality hoes,” J. Cole once again feeds into the good girl vs. bad girl narrative. J. Cole also ponders: “You think if I didn’t rap she would flirt back?” Probably not, sweetie. You look like every other guy that’s harassed a femme as they’re pumping gas at the convenience station. The best part though, is the chorus: “Don’t save her/She don’t want to be saved.” Yah, she probably doesn’t because she realizes she is a grown woman with autonomy over her own body and decisions and doesn’t need help from you, J. Cole since you’ve suddenly decided that you’re a lifestyle guru who can save women from the life of hoe-dom.

Cole performed No Role Modelz at his Atlanta show after a long-winded rant about how one particular woman was evil because she posted “slutty” Instagram posts with deep quotes underneath. Someone in the audience called him out and after an awkward moment, he continued women bashing. When I later tried to talk to my ex about the moment, they asked that I remain quiet so they could enjoy the night. I obliged. Until a Kanye West song came on the radio, and they continued to rant about how Kanye West hates black women. I started to wonder, were we at the same concert?! What was the difference about what J. Cole said when compared to Kanye’s rap?

The truth is, there is not much of a difference. They are both cis-het black men, and if 2016 has shown me anything, its that the cis-hets are going to cis-het. The difference is the body that they occupy. Kanye and his dark-skinned counterparts are thought of as inherently aggressive and scary, while Drake and J. Cole and the rest of the light-skinned clan they roll with are thought of as docile and sweet. When people are being overly sweet and sappy, they point to Drake because he is so in “in touch with his emotions,” while ignoring the fact that most of Drake’s emotions stem from a place of abuse and manipulation. When people want brilliant political analysis, they seek out J. Cole and the men that look like him, because they make them feel safe. They also provide a larger room for error with actors/activists like Jesse Williams versus people like John Boyega.

The hesitation to point out the systems that allow light-skinned black men to rise to the fore-front are not surprising. Conversations around colorism are difficult to have, especially when we are talking about people’s problematic entertainment faves. I am human, and I consume problematic media. However, I strive to constructively criticize the media I am consuming, and remind myself that this media perpetuates problems of a larger system. In this case, the system is misogynoir.

I am not denying Drake or J. Cole’s blackness, but I am pointing out the cold truth. Their proximity to whiteness allows them to occupy spaces that most women would not allow dark-skinned black men to enter. They are then allowed to create easily marketable bodies of work. This work proceeds to do the same thing other rappers do, along with the rest of society: degrade black women.

So, getting back to Kid Cudi. Because of colorism, Drake has maintained a reputation that has allowed people to think that this line is out of character. When in reality, Drake has maintained a track record that has pointed to the exact opposite. People’s shock and horror towards his actions could have been avoided if they had done something they seem to never want to do.

Trust black women.

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