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With the highly contested mid-term elections concluded and the historic firsts regarding the election of women to key posts such as our first Muslim women in Congress, Rashida Tlaib and Ilhan Omar, the first Somali-American member who came to America over 20 years ago as a refugee, and our first Native American women in Congress, Sharice Davids (also the first openly LGBT Kansan to hold a congressional seat) and Deb Haaland, it’s also time to give our women the overdue recognition they deserve when it comes to Hip-Hop.

Complaints about how women are discussed in Hip-Hop as a whole are nothing new and of course, since I believe that silence is complicity, below please find a note to the editor discussing one woman’s thoughts on the State of the Union of Hip Hop as it relates to the treatment of women:

My name is Leeia Henderson and I have worked in the music industry for six years and as a former artist, I have witnessed the positivity that conscious-driven music can create and its impact on individuals, communities, and in opening up meaningful dialogue across the country. Unfortunately, the new era of hip-hop has mainly gone in the direction of superficiality, materialism, misogyny, and foolishness. I am disturbed by these images.

I currently hold the titles VP of A&R and Director of Label Development for SLAMjamz Records and The Art Recordings, which are both founded and owned by hip-hop legend Chuck D.

We are committed to meaningful and conscious-driven hip-hop music, so as you can imagine, finding quality talent has been a challenge in light of the negative trends in our industry. Talented up-and-coming artists often think that they too must follow these trends to be successful, and it’s just not something I intend to be a part of.

I should state up front that my vision and stance against negative images and messages in hip-hop are clear, firm and uncompromising. I will not tolerate any use of the N-word, the debasement of women, artists that have gang affiliations, the flashing of money or promotional drug use. All of these images are destructive and have no place in the world, let alone in the music industry where artists’ content is becoming more accessible to younger children who do not yet have the judgment and cognitive skills to differentiate foolishness from substance. My message is simply this: Our culture needs to stop the self-destructive behavior. Let’s make hip-hop more responsible and truly impactful in a positive way as it once was. Our children deserve it.

We followed up with Henderson to get her views on a few additional issues:

As you see the state of Hip-Hop and the results of a new wave of rap culture what do you see as the major underlying issues and contributors to the degradation of the culture as a whole?

Hip-hop culture is still amongst us, the masses would rather pay attention to what the labels are pushing to the radio. I don’t know if such a thing as “rap culture” exists. Rap is just the business part of the music industry and an element of the hip-hop culture. Rap is a genre and hip-hop is what you live. Probably a good start to your first question is can listeners distinguish the two apart? Because hip-hop and rap are not interchangeable and should not be used as if they are.  I could spend all day speaking on this question but let’s get to the root of it all and it’s ignorance. That has always been our problem in this culture but not everyone in past generations has been this adrift. Our educated and well-balanced MCs propelled the culture to where it is now, and the newer generations have and are failing us all. The lack of thought-provoking lyrics is a concern as well because it only breeds more ignorance. There is no more pride and being stupid is now “cool.”

Hip-Hop has since it’s inception been misogynistic and spoken of women as conquests in some format or another, what, in your perspective, makes today’s iterations so much worse? Is it the more flagrant use of denigrating terminology alone or is it the fact that even from women, these terms have become common in their everyday conversations?

Throughout history, women have always been treated like chattel so I shouldn’t expect anything different in a male dominant industry, especially in entertainment. I should, in fact, expect to hear responsible artists denounce any derogatory forms of disrespect directed towards women and their peers accountable for it but, unfortunately, now it’s trendy to not be original so what we are dealing with in the industry is a bunch of followers who are either too shameful to have morals or too ignorant. We shouldn’t talk about black unity or peace if women are continued to be disrespected.

We who have witnessed the growth of Hip-Hop from a local and regional culture to a global phenomenon may all which for a return to the “golden era” however seem to be fighting the chains and images of psychological slavery, promulgated by an industry the feeds and reaps massive rewards from today’s offerings. How do you propose we effect change in a world that systemically rejects history for the now

Psychological slavery has been relevant to us since Africans were enslaved. It’s 2018 and I still see light skin vs. dark skin debates between younger black adults who may view it as fun and games but have no idea the evil history or plot behind the motive. Your question is exceeding well outside of the entertainment business and into how we view ourselves. Self-hate is an ugly and multi-billion-dollar business that is booming. Education! Is the only way to change all of this, encourage our youth to think for themselves and start their own businesses, in order to effect any change it starts within the community. We didn’t make it this far to be stomped by ignorance but when you have labels and rappers putting out mumble jumble, disrespectful songs knowing our youth will hear it doesn’t help.

I see said the blind man…

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