After a careful analysis of the selection of readings provided for this assignment, I decided Chapter 8 of Tricia Rose’s The Hip Hop Wars was a perfect example to utilize in order to portray how hip hop, particularly Gangsta rap; communicates the lived experience of people living in Urban America. Titled There Are Bitches and Hoes Rose begins explaining commercial hip hop by alluding to one of its signature icons: the pimp. Namely, …an important facet of urban street cultures and illicit economies, and once relegate to folklore, underground vernacular culture, and the margins of mainstream society, pimps have become popularized and mainstreamed. (Rose, p.167)
Rose goes on to emphasize the influence of black pimp culture on hip hop by providing examples of rappers who regularly perpetuate pimp culture in their music. Furthermore, Rose situates Many rappers began drawing from pimp culture, style, sland and attitude as part of their identities. Moreover, pimp culture in hip hop has proven to be a part of beyond just the music, it has been commercialized in such a way that rappers can sell pimp based products (Rose, p. 168). For instance, Rose refers to Nelly’s energy drink; Pimp Juice, as well as one of my personal favorite MTV shows growing up: Xzibits’ Pimp My Ride. Originating from the 1980s hip hop structure that set the stage for the dehumanization and sexist ideals behind the infamous pimp-playa-bitch-ho” sequence, it is no surprise that pimping is embedded in hip hop and needs it in order to maintain its relevance in mainstream culture.
In an attempt to prompt some sympathy for pimps, there are cuddly, fuzzy-hat image of pimps in some mainstream outlets and celebrated films (Rose, p. 168) Again, this includes one of my personal favorite movie franchises of all time, Friday, in which there are pimps present in all three movies, respectively. Moreover, Friday After Next’ Money Mike is a pimp strategically portrayed in such a way that can compel viewers to perhaps sympathize and/or advocate pimps and their ideologies; with Mike’s colorful clothing and eccentric hyperbolic mannerisms for instance. This misleading portrayal wholly ignores the legitimate exploitation of Black women by pimps and instead of acknowledging how problematic pimp culture is at its entirety as current self aware consumers; we still continue to disregard and/or normalize the evident glorification of the exploitation of Black women.
Furthermore, Rose highlights these conceptions by referencing the infamous Snoop Dogg lyric Bitches ain’t shit but hoes and tricks, which accurately epitomizes the attitude male rappers have towards women. Case in point, Women are bitches, and bitches are whores and prostitutes (Rose, p. 168) Additionally, a lot of modern day music that belongs to and/or stems from the Hip Hop genre unfortunately sustains this ideology and remains just as problematic and attests to the Pimpin mentality that started so long ago. For instance, in G-Eazy’s But A Dream (released in 2017) G Eazy references Big Pimpin. Once more, this further affirms the notion that without ?Pimpin’, hip hop cannot be sustained.
I’ve always known gangsta rap to be vulgar and demeaning which is ironically what made me gravitate towards it when I first started listening to hip hop. One would assume my peers and I wouldn’t be interested in something that debases us at the capacity that it does. However, I can honestly say there was nothing more exhilarating than listening to a record that I surely was not supposed to be listening to at 13 years old. I wasn’t even sure what the word pimp meant, as I shouldn’t have. But 50 Cent’s P.I.M.P was definitely my ring tone at some point. Essentially all I knew and cared about was the song sounding good. Likewise, whether it was Jay Z’s Big Pimpin with lyrics like
You know Ithug em, f*ck em, love em, leave em
Cause I don’t f*ckin need em
Take em out the hood, keep em lookin good
But I don’t f*ckin feed em
Or Mac Dre’ ?Feelin Myself’
I didn’t really pay attention to the underlying messages the lyricism contains. As I previously had mentioned, many of the products pimp hip hop resulted in were things I favored myself, a young woman of color. In spite of the fact that over the years I’ve grown enough to completely be able to comprehend the meaning and detrimental impact behind songs like Suga Free’s Bitches Ain’t Shit or I’d Rather Give You My Bitch. However, I have yet to stop listening to this music. Whether I want to reminisce by jamming to some Pimp C, (est. 1987) or just listen to some newer problematic songs by Playboi Carti (est. 2009).
Nevertheless, I always find a way to justify my actions which Rose also tackles in the reading. Likewise, Many women and girls say that since they are not “bitches and hoes,” these rappers are “not talking about me” because I don’t “behave that way” Rose asserts. Nonetheless, I have definitely justified listening to hip hop because I had truly believed that those words really did not apply to me, however Rose describes this type of response as a “…kind of distorted self-defense…a valiant but tragic effort to pretend that such labeling is not hurtful to all women no matter how one acts”. (Rose, 177) and I agree, I compartmentalize. I love empowering music by Hip Hop artists and groups such as Black Star and/or Lauryn Hill. Nonetheless, there is a vast swath of music that I also find myself constantly fond of. I maintain this love for pimp hip hop by actively disengaging with its lyrics and their ramifications on my community. I don’t skip the E40 song if it comes on shuffle. I’ll casually do my homework while listening to Project Pat’s Gorilla Pimp. I dance to Hypnotize Camp Posse as I’m getting ready to attend a party that is most probably going to play Juvenile once or twice. And while all of this is rather embarrassing and cringe-worthy to admit, I know I’m not alone. I believe it is a rarity to find music or movies or art that thoroughly and accurately embodies our beliefs, values, and aesthetic preferences respectively, so fans like myself are forced to set aside their principles, in order to feel as if they can enjoy pop culture fleetingly.
With that, in spite of pimp hip hop’s popularity it is important to note however, that pimp hip hop, although prevalent, does not represent all of hip hop to me. Hip Hop has birthed so many other subgenres, so I will say that I don’t think it is just to paint the entirety of a brilliant genre of music as the chief symbol of pimp culture. In conclusion, I honestly don’t think I will be able to completely eliminate problematic songs from my playlist, especially old ones I grew up listening to, however, I will truly try and make an effort to diminish listening to newer artists that continuously perpetuate the insolent behavior and mentality of the pimp.
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