Thursday, November 14, 2013

Nelly, Hip Hop, and Charity

 I am a huge fan of HuffPost Live. They have interesting segments from interviews with various celebrities to debates on  rather college athletes should get paid.  This week HuffPost Live interviewed the Show Me State rapper, Nelly.  During Nelly's interview he was asked about the tip drill incident that happened circa 2004.  Nelly gave his honest thoughts on the incident. 

If you don't know about it, let me bring you up to speed. 

BET use to have this program called Uncut.  Uncut showed videos that could not be seen on the teen targeted 106 & Park.  Nelly had a video on there called "Tip Drill".  Now I have to admit that the song is very catchy and most definitely a club banger.  As far as the video is concerned, it was almost too X-rated for Uncut, leaning more towards softcore pornSomething else I should point out about this program is that it was mostly underground/unknown rappers.  It just seemed out of place to have such an established, mainstreamed artist like Nelly doing an uncut video.  Some time after the video had been out, Nelly planned a bone marrow drive event at Spelman College, an all girls institution.  Some woman at the event chose to protest the event because of the "Tip Drill" video.  Needless to say, Nelly wasn't too happy.

Nelly said in the interview that the bone marrow drive was not the time or place to do the protest or have a discussion about the infamous video.  Nelly was trying to find a bone marrow match for his sister and that should have been the priority.  Nelly further goes in about how others have given hip hop a bad rep and notes that every rapper he knows has a charitable nonprofit.  When asked if he would change anything about the Spelman incident, he boldly says that he would "kick somebody's a**."  Yep, that's right Nelly.  How dare people give hip hop a bad rep after you make a statement saying  that if you could redo the event you would whip somebody at an all girls' college.  Very honorable.

First let's get into the Spelman incident (I won't spend too much time on it because it is about 10 years old).  Nelly was asking the same women whose image he had tarnished to support him.  He wanted these woman to put their differences aside to possibly save his sister (who has now passed).  I, too, have lost a close family member because of cancer so I can understand his pain. The problem was Nelly's audacity.  He didn't realize the caliber of women he was approaching.  These woman did not aspire to be "tip drills" but lawyers and doctors.  These women (like most college women)  are being challenge to examine the world around them and make some sense of it. For them, it didn't make sense for an artist, who had a popular video with woman being hit on the behind, to have the audacity to approach them to aid him in his efforts.  You can't bite the hand you are going to later ask to feed you. 

He also says in the interview they [women of Spelman] are no longer protesting his song.  We as black women are always protesting for our image.  I agree that "Tip Drill" was not the first degrading video nor will it be the last.  However, hip hop artists need to understand that we are tired of our black bodies being seen as merely sex objects.  We are tired of seeing the played out concept of rappers throwing dollar bills at black strippers.  And we are tired of the only attire you see a woman wearing in a rap video is a fur bikini (that's not even practical).  I'm sorry that Nelly lost his sister, but it needs to be made clear that you can't ask for our support when you do not support us where it counts.  (It has been noted in the comment section of the interview by Spelman alums that were attending the school during that time that the bone marrow drive went on as planned but the women were disappointed that Nelly would not have a conversation with them about the video.)

The other bone I have to pick is the whole "I give back to my community so what's the problem?".  The problem is you can't crap on our image on a national level and then expect us to ignore it because you gave toys to poor kids during Christmas.  It just doesn't work that way.  Doing good deeds does not excuse you from taking social responsibility.  If I'm caught stealing on my job, I can't say "Well you know, I always bring doughnuts to the office for breakfast." No! I will be fired.  That how it works: you do not-so-good stuff and you suffer whatever consequences follows. 

I hate Nelly lost his sister, I really do.  Nelly might have thought it wasn't the time to discuss his risqué video but if not when he is on a campus full of black women then when?  Rappers might be donating millions of dollars to Boys and Girls Clubs but are they really doing that community justice  when the same girls they are "helping"  are seeing older images of themselves gyrating on the TV screen?

What are your thoughts? 

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