Q. How do you think your portrayal through lyrics, visual, quotes of the black woman formed pop culture’s understanding of black women? And do you think it is within the function of contemporary black male rappers to uplift their female counterparts in the face of adversity?
Alani Nelson, 21, Maryland
I definitely think generally, rap is misogynistic and it’s just a part of - not saying it’s justifying the culture - I definitely think I’ve said ‘Bitch, get out the car’ in some of my lyrics and stuff like that. And is there a responsibility? I feel like rap, for the 20 years that I’ve studied it, it’s only, as a whole, responsible to trend. So the only way that specifically what she’s talking about would be hurt more if it was more in style. Rap is a communication of trend. It’s a communication of the way people are in real life. It’s a communication of what someone just said to their girlfriend on the phone or an argument they just had or something positive that just happened. What I notice is, there was a time when we had afro-centric rap and everybody was like how Common is. It was like ‘my queen, this, that.’ You haven’t even heard the word ‘queen’ so long in that context. What I’ve noticed is when I come home from a meeting with some head of a studio and I just get completely dissed and I show them a bunch of creative things - like on Despicable Me where he was trying to show his mum he could make a rocket and she was like, 'Whatever, that’s weak.' That’s how it is going to meet with people in Hollywood and showing them your ideas. They just shit on you, like ‘We don’t need that, it’s weak.’ And I’ll come home and I’ll find myself being more irritated and maybe being more rude with my wife. So let’s take that to the idea of a black male in America not getting a job or getting fucked with at his job or getting fucked with by the cops or being looked down upon by this lady at Starbucks and he goes home to his girl and… Just to think about my frustration and if I was rude to my wife because of that, we are like super well off to the point where this guy is like, ‘I can’t take my kids school shopping if I knock my manager the fuck out if he says this to me one more time.’ They cannot drink the Ye juice at all. They cannot turn up at all. It’s like you scream at the person closest to you. This song that Chief Keef put out that I sang the chorus on - I was singing I scream at you cause I can’t scream at nobody else - and then take that and you go to a studio and that frustration and disrespect is now coming out towards the woman next to you or the women around. Like we can’t wife you, you’re just a thot, we can’t do this, blah, blah, blah. And the guys around are just like, ‘You’d better not say that to them or I’ma shoot you.’ It’s from lack of opportunity. It’s from being inside of traffic - that thing I told you earlier - that lack of ability to see a way out and you just start being frustrated inside of that space… and then you go into the studio and that’s what it’s gonna sound like. ‘I’ma shoot you, fuck you, bitch’ because that ‘fuck you, bitch’ came from America. That ‘fuck you, bitch’ came from our lack of opportunities. That ‘nigga, I’ma shoot you’ came from racism which is an amazing tool. It’s like if you could put racism in the battery of your phone, it would never stop working. It works on itself. It’s residual and shit. Residual racism is to be in a racist situation where you’re working at this fucking job downtown blah blah blah, they’re treating you like shit, and you go home and you’re just mad at everybody. It’s like black people don’t even like black people at a certain point. Racism is the hate that keeps on hating. And I said this thing, I was sitting with Steve McQueen when we showed our piece that we did on ‘All Day’ and it we put it in the LACMA. Let me say that again just to purely be a dick because I said that knowing it was a stunt and very intellectual. So me and Steve McQueen… I think it’s a very impressive thing to say shit like that right after saying nigga, nigga, fuck, fuck, wee, wee, wee. I said, 'I just embrace racism.' He just looked at me like, 'What the fuck do you mean, you embrace racism?' I was like no, it’s here. This thing is like we’re in a jail cell. Are we gonna keep fighting this? How do we just embrace what’s in front of us as opposed to always pinpointing that it’s the reason you’re being held back? But I realised in order to truly be one of the greatest artists and one of the most remembered artists - I’ma get off the social subject and switch it more into the art and fashion context again - is that same assistance that I begged for and got frustrated for… The fact that I’m starting to do it without some of that assistance is what makes it truly historical and what demands the respect. And that’s the reason why even in the beginning, there’s like an intellectual olive branch of 'Your show had more meaning than just being an oversized sweatshirt.' I refused that intellectual… Get that fucking branch out of my face. I ain’t gonna take it. I ain’t gonna take the meaning that you proposed upon me. This is what I meant and if it’s not good enough for you, then fuck you. My Aunt, one time, she let me see Robocop and my Dad was really strict and I came home and was about to tell him and she grabbed me and said, ‘You’re really a glutton for punishment, aren’t you?’ Almost like a masochist or some shit, right. And like in a way, I am. I kinda like pain, I like the challenge, I like making things harder for myself because if you can beat the game on the hardest mode possible, you’ll be the best of all time. So that means if I become a good designer as a black straight American entertainer, rich dude, all the type of shit that says you shouldn’t be able to have any creative thoughts, then it’s like the ultimate fucking win. Then you’re like Eminem or Tiger Woods or Barack Obama, just someone who just completely broke all boundaries... And it’s exciting. This interview is exciting because it’s such a battle of perception and a battle of the intellects and a battle of culture and a battle of class, a battle of taste. It’s like y’all motherfuckers know I’m gonna win this battle. It’s so fun though. It’s so fun. Because the whole trick I always say is I’m an artist and an artist can basically take on any shape, form and an artist can paint anything. So when I’m like opening up the Yeezus mountain on tour and stuff with the Margiela mask… you know, some nights in the middle of one of my rants, I’m just like I’m sorry, the gig is up. I was actually never really a rapper, I was always an artist and that’s the reason why I’m just killing this shit so hard right now. So when you talk to the lighting guys, it might not come out as good but don’t feel bad because I’ve been trained since age 5 and went to college for this shit. It’s always like that secret thing, you know. It’s about sharing information. Jews are a culture that share information. That does not happen in the black community. For your family, your son, maybe. Day one, this is how this community works. This is how we grow together. And that racism, slave mentality, nigga mentality, show off mentality, I’ma fuck your bitch mentality, all that is like what makes a culture that has all the highest physical attributes going for it the weakest due to simply - like that speech DiCaprio gave on Django - simply removing the esteem and that is why I refuse to fucking back down. You have to know that you are somebody. You have to know that it’s possible whether you’re creative, whether you’re a black person in America, whether you’re a black person in London, you know, you have to know it’s possible. You have to see me keep winning against all odds. I will win until I die. I won’t lose. I can’t lose because then it’s like they win; ‘they’ meaning the mentality, the old guard of thought because we’re just a thought. A hundred years from now, we’re all just memories.