Meek Mill poses for a portrait at the Roc Nation offices in New York City on September 22, 2021, to promote her upcoming album “Expensive Pain”. The Philadelphia rapper is planning a concert on October 23 at Madison Square Garden to celebrate the new album. (Photo by Andy Kropa / Invision / AP)
Dollar signs, cars, dice and black women in sexually suggestive positions. The cover of Meek MillThe latest project presents an artistic expression of stereotypical hip-hop culture – probably also a relatively accurate portrayal of Meek Mill’s reality. Art is subjective, and it is meant to lead thought and discussion. Of course, as people looked at the artwork for Meek Mill’s latest album Expensive pain, there were… many thoughts.
Do black women ever tire of being portrayed this way in hip-hop? Despite this long practice of objectification, the rapper 2 channels‘Fourth studio album proclaimed’ Pretty Girls Love Trap Music. ‘ Why?
Is the fact that this art was created by a black woman, Nina Chanel Abney, change something? Have black women internalized this objectification and are they rappers like Little Kim, Megan you stallion, and Cardi B examples of that? These recurring questions have resurfaced once again, providing polarizing answers. Even as I ask myself these questions, I find that my own thoughts are at odds with themselves.
While women, especially black women, are often hypersexualized and reduced to images that satisfy the male gaze throughout pop culture, there is a specific brand of objectification that lives on in hip-hop. Beyond your mundane sexualization, there’s an extra layer of degradation that can be identified in commonly used words like “bitch” and “hoe” that set hip-hop apart.
So when I looked at the colorful and captivating illustrations Abney created for Meek Mill’s latest album, I found myself faced with a common struggle I have with hip-hop culture. The stories, the art, the expression are all beautiful, but they reduce black women to their lowest level of humanity – as sex objects. And despite this, time and time again, black women have succeeded in taking control of our narrative and expressing ourselves as full humans rather than things.
Maybe that was Abney’s intention – to spark that internal dialogue and show us the dichotomy between black hip-hop creator and consumer. In an interview with ICA Boston, Abney said of his art: “I would probably describe my work as attractive in color. … Perhaps a deceptively simple survey of contemporary cultural issues.
So what is the problem? In hip-hop, the narrative of black women has often been co-opted by men. We don’t say who we are, we are told who we are. We consume and promote this content, but when we denounce it or encourage it to examine itself, we are told that we are too sensitive. Or the rebuttal against our arguments is that our points are invalid because black female artists object. But does this argument hold?
Can black women on the one hand stand in solidarity with artists like Megan Thee Stallion, Cardi B, Lil ‘Kim and so many other women who have made careers by displaying their open sexuality while criticizing Meek Mill for artistic expression? similar?
The question itself does not begin in hip-hop culture but is deeply rooted in the historical fetishization of the black body, which has been systematically brutalized, ogled and dehumanized. This stems from racist colonial myths and the misperceptions of African peoples. Sadly, hip-hop music does not live outside this destructive legacy and, at first glance, continues to reproduce these destructive patterns.
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