Dear Mr. Creekmur (& Similarly Distressed HipHop Daddies),
I want to start by saying thank you for taking the time to put your thoughts about the Nicki Minaj poster down on paper. I know this may have been a difficult subject to discuss out in the open so I appreciate the risk you took by “going there.” As a parent it is clear that your words were at least partially motivated by an instinct that most parent share: to protect our children at all costs. Despite where I’m about to go with this post, I can appreciate that.
As I mentioned during the #LettersYouForgotToWrite exchange on twitter, your letter resonated with me both personally and as a mother. My husband and I love hip hop and we are old/young enough to remember when hip hop’s messaging about womanhood and manhood wasn’t anything like it is today.
I think you probably remember those days too—how could you not? You are, after all, the CEO of allhiphop.com.
Many of us remember the moment when we first heard a Black woman (because we know it wasn’t a song aimed at non-Black women) called a bitch in Black music. For friends in my peer group, it was when NWA released A Bitch Iz a Bitch. Until that point my connection to hiphop as a Black girl was fostered by my love for artists like Queen Latifah, MC Light, etc. The release of that song—and our brotha’s willingness to embrace it—changed a lot for me.
You know, it’s an interesting thing to be demoted from a presumptive Queen to a presumptive bitch. There’s a shift that takes place when your discussing someone you regard as royal – and someone you see as a hoe (let alone a hoe who can’t be loyal…but…that’s another post).
One’s expectations and willingness to engage and build with a Queen is markedly different than it is with a bitch. You can build relationships, family and healthy communities with Queens. You can raise kids and impart wisdom that the next generation needs to flourish with a woman you see as royalty; one you see as your equal.
But bitches? Nah. Bitches…you just breed…like
It’s Bigger Than Nicki’s Booty…
(See what I just did there?) There are many of us out there who are as frustrated as you sounded in your letter with the way that Black women like Nicki Minaj, are depicted and marketed to young children—both to our daughters AND to our sons—under the guise of “hip hop culture.” Many of us are at our wit’s end with what to do about the fact that our girls and boys are presented with images that feature a problematic hip hop definition of womanhood and manhood. An image that is at best complicated and at worst has a direct impact on many of the cultural ills that plague our community today.
These images define manhood as the boy who can stock the most guns, kill the most niggas, sex the most women/hoes/bitches, etc. They define womanhood as the girls/bitches/hoes who have the fattest booty, can drop that booty the hottest, who stay the most down…for brothas who are taught to sex the most girls…and on and on…
Of course you are familiar these images because they (and the messages they embody) are some of the very same images your company manufactures, produces, distributes and profits from…
You sit at the helm of one of the key institutions that regulates and dictates what is “acceptable” in hiphop culture today. Quite frankly, many of us place a lot of blame on the people who occupy your position. People who spend all day every day thinking of slicker, sleeker, faster and better ways to convince our kids that the corporate version of hip hop is what they should aspire to.
So, despite my desire as a parent to hi-five your letter, as a Black woman—who was once a Black girl trying desperately to navigate and survive the impact of those images—I found myself laughing out loud at the sheer hypocrisy that dripped from the words you wrote.
Before you took time to write Ms. Minaj and critique her album cover, I wonder if you checked how many page views your web site earned from promoting the same g-string clad picture you critiqued? How many advertising dollars did your company take in off of your exploitation of Nicki’s body before you decided to publicly denounce her for choosing to profit off of her own body for herself?
I also found it interesting that you chose to not post your message on the pages of AllHipHop.com —a website you run—where it would be read by those directly impacted by your message. I mean, it would take real courage to do that—to not only own the fact that your profit margins are directly related to encouraging women to pose the way Ms. Minaj did, undressed the way she was, but to also challenge your company, your readership and yourself to grow the way you wished Ms. Minaj had.
But you didn’t do that. You wrote your article on a Black mommy magazine (
insert side eye here). One where the readership (myself included) was far more likely to welcome your message with open arms. That was safe. And as parents sometimes we have to play it safe. Especially when it comes to protecting our kids. But we also owe it to our kids to not lie to them—either with the words we say, the words we omit or the where we choose to speak them.
Hypnosis Marketing Though…
I wonder if before you wrote your letter to blast Nikki for being a bad influence on your daughter, did you talk with your baby about why her picture was inappropriate? Did you apologize to your daughter for helping to foster that very same image of womanhood that you pumped around the world (for all of our kids to consume)—but that you don’t want your own child to aspire to?
Did you apologize to your daughter and her friends for profiting off of and actively participating in the exploitation of the women they are going to grow up to be? Did you discuss with her that one of the primary reasons she, her friends and millions of girls around the world are at risk of being so negatively influenced by pictures like that is because of the highly effective advertising campaigns that you and companies like yours push? Did you let her know that the videos and hurtful images that make you enough money to send her to a good school work like 3 minute commercials that advertise and promote a lifestyle for the masses that you don’t want for your own baby?
Did you tell your daughter that your letter to Minaj was essentially blaming Frankenstein for being the very monster that you control?
When Daddies are Dishonest with Their Daughters
Because if you didn’t have that conversation, then you risk simply become one of the many male, hypocritical voices your daughter will learn to ignore as she ages out of innocence and into the pre-mature pseudo womanhood most young Black girls experience.
You risk becoming the personification of the men she will have to dodge daily as she learns to navigate the politics of street harassment (shout out to #YouOKSis). You risk becoming one of the many male voices that will comment on, appraise and critique a woman’s body for either looking like or not looking like the bodies they see splashed on the pages of websites like yours.
You risk becoming as semi-fraudulent in her eyes as the dads who walk with their daughters and don’t have the decency to turn off their socialized
lust instinct desire to 1) stop walking, 2) turn around and 3) stare longingly at the booty of every woman they pass…right in front of their daughters…
If you are as intellectually dishonest with her as you were intellectually masturbative with that letter to Nicki Minaj, then you risk losing part of your daughter as she matures through the kind of womanhood that is subjected to the whims of the boys-now-turning-into-men who spent their formative years learning in part from companies like yours just how they should feel about
hoes young innocent girls like your daughter.
Because when you are making money off of exploiting women’s bodies—much like the body your daughter will soon occupy—you are also teaching young boys how to do and expect the same.
Now I’m sure some unaware person out there is going to comment on this post and say something like “Hey! It’s not AllHipHop’s fault Black girls are treated disrespectfully! It’s not hip hop’s fault that boys and girls absorb those messages! Blame their PARENTS!”
While I agree that parenting is a key factor in how well (or how poorly) our kids turn out, that “blame the parents” argument doesn’t work here.
Why? Because it really does take a village.
And the media, especially media grounded in Black culture, is part of that village (whether we like it or not). Companies like yours are able to strategically undermine what the rest of the village is trying to build. Hopeful, optimistic, helicopter hovering, ride or die for their kids kind of parents are increasingly outmatched by companies like yours and the marketing teams you employ.
Your team, like any marketing team worth its pay, is surely comprised of people who are experts in their craft. They know how to package a message, link it to a beat and have the rhythm stuck in our kids’ heads before we as parents even know the new song is out. So don’t blame parents (who, like you, are doing the best we can) for not being able to keep up with a top notch team of marketers who spend their entire careers thinking of ways to get your messages past us and right into our kids’ heads.
Where Do We Go From Here?
I’m reminded of Nas’ song Daughters where he says:
They grow fast, one day she’s your little princess
Next day she talking boy business, what is this
They say the coolest playas and foulest heart breakers in the world. God gets us back, he makes us have precious little girls…
I don’t think God is punishing men in this position by blessing them with girl children…but if having a girl child that you feel personally responsible for is a wakeup call that could shake many from troubling behavior…then I’m here for it.
So this is where we are. This is the vicious cycle that we can either continue to perpetuate in the name of “artistic” (read “media conglomerate crafted”) freedom, or that we can stop in its tracks.
But I thank you for giving us food for thought and I leave you with the same question I posed during #LettersYouForgotToWrite:
Funny how men in hip hop get righteous when their daughters hit puberty. Scared the next video might star your baby?
My prayer is that you, others in positions like yours and the distressed daddy hip hop heads out there can use this as a moment of growth. One where we can all reevaluate the impact of the images and messages we perpetuate as “culture.”
So if you are a daddy & you love, support or benefit from hip hop, please do us ALL a favor and consider the impact of its current messaging on our kids BEFORE your daughter fills out the butt and hips you forgot she was going to have. Hopefully we can do this before the next generation of boys and girls hit puberty. We would all be better off…
What do y’all think? This is not a black or white issue and there are a lot of layers here. I’m interested in your thoughts so sound off in the comments.
Looking for more thoughts from an Afro State of Mind? Check out my book Afro State of Mind: Memories of a Nappy Headed Black Girl now available on Amazon.com in paper back or e-book! And if you want to stay connected follow me on Twitter, “like” Afro State of Mind on Facebook or catch up on my latest youtube videos!