Happy Mortal

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Race, Rape, and Rights: Sacred Cows in Hip Hop

DMX

Warning: this post contains lyrics describing violence and sexual assault.

“I’m comin in the house and I’m gunnin’ for your spouse
Tryin’ to send the bitch back to her maker
And if you got a daughter older then 15, I’ma rape her
Take her on the living room floor, right there in front of you
Then ask you seriously, whatchu wanna do?
Frustratin’, isn’t it? When they kill me, but I’ma kill you
Now watch me fuck just a lil’ while longer, please, will you?”

DMX, from “X is Coming,” on It’s Dark and Hell is Hot

Today in my friend’s Hip Hop culture class, discussion ignited over DMX’s lyrics. In the midst of a conversation portraying DMX’s corpus as part of the “sacred texts” of Hip Hop, my Caucasian female friend brought up the above lines and questioned whether a community should honor lyrics about the rape of a 15 year old as “Hip Hop Scripture.” One by one various class members brushed her concerns aside, repeating the mantra, “If you want to understand someone you need to know where they are coming from.”

When another classmate objected to a woman “having” try to understand a person in order to appreciate his oppressive mysogynistic lyrics, a male African American classmate countered, saying, “It gets messy when you talk about oppression because she is White and DMX is Black.”

As a white male, I am a complete outsider and insider in this discussion. I don’t know what it is like to be Black in the U.S. I also don’t know what it’s like to be a woman. I do know what it is like to be privileged. However, this discussion raises questions worth exploring. Should we require everyone to approach a text, like DMX’s, with understanding first? Here, I agree with my friend. No.

Requiring a woman to adopt an “understanding” attitude in order to approach a text saturated with male aggression is to perpetuate male aggression. For it forces her, as a first step, to submit by placing “him” first. In the case of a discourse about rape, this is violence against her. I would not require a Black individual to approach a racist text with understanding first. I am not trying to make any statement about whether mysogyny is more oppressive than racism, nor am I saying that a woman–or any person–cannot choose to approach violent texts with understanding. I am only saying that requiring it is wrong.

Lastly, I would never want shrines in Hip Hop, sacred cows that could not be criticized for fear of being called racist. I can’t even begin to fathom the pain and oppression that gave birth to DMX’s songs. But to treat a person as an ethical equal we must accord them the dignity of sometimes being wrong.

6 Comments

  1. What? Why did they want to talk about DMX being one of the “greats”? DMX isn’t even a good rapper. He was pretty commercially successful for a while, but his lyrics have always been terribly constructed, childlike, and just fucking stupid.

    And if somebody told me to back off knockin on DMX or anybody else because they are a minority, I would be fairly tempted to walk over and forcibly oppress them in the face. But then that would probably be a hate crime as well as battery.

  2. Race as an issue has touched me much more than most people would ever know. I look caucasian, but my blood lines say different. I’m half minority. And growing up with a name and father who were in the minority and labeled me as one led to some interesting experiences.

    I’m also female. And as a female, sexism has tinged every day of my life. Sometimes for the better, often times for the worse.

    And now rape. The subject no one likes to talk about. Having very dear people to me deal with rape (some in ways I can never explain) makes me angry.

    In looking at the lyrics I notice something. No mention of race. That gives me the freedom to look at it without those glasses AND leaves me to use the other two pair. (Which makes ME see it as a very bad verbal abuse of women. And one that I should not have to accept in any way.)

    It’s funny you say scripture of hip hop. I tend to remember some other book of scripture that treats rape and females rather unfairly. And it was also written by what is now a minority group.

    I have no idea where DMX is or was coming from. Perhaps he was telling a story from his own life experience. Or maybe he was telling us something he himself did or would like to do.

    I liked your last comment. “…to treat a person as an ethical equal we must accord them the dignity of sometimes being wrong.”

    That seems to fit all of us, minority or not, female or male, unabused or abused. But of course I could be wrong.

  3. I don’t know why they were saying DMX was a great. It sounded like they were putting him on par with Tupac.

  4. I like your point about he glasses, pebble. DMX is not the same as his lyrics. The text is not the man. Maybe we shouldn’t divorce these lyrics from the struggles that DMX went through, but by the same token we most certainly shouldn’t (can’t) divorce them from the context in which we hear them (our race, gender, past, etc).

  5. A well-articulated perspective on general hip hop culture, race, and the fight against misogyny.

  6. THE SONG “X IS COMING” IS A REVANGE SONG HE IS AN ARTIST HE HAVE THE RIGHT TO RAP WHAT EVER EXIST IN THIS WORLD IT DOESNT MEAN HE REALY WANT TO REP 15 year old girl YOU CANT ASK WIL SMITH WHY YOU DO CRIME MOVIE!!! “THEY ONLY SEE THE TROUBLE THEY DONT SEE THE STRUGLE”!!! THATS WHAT 2pac said