q-tip-2012

Why Q-Tip is Right

Sometimes life imitates art. Sometimes art imitates life. And sometimes art is appropriated from its sociopolitical roots and used to white artists’ advantage. If you’ve read Eliza’s Gkritsi’s article “Why Q-Tip is Wrong,” you’ll know what I’m talking about.

But if you don’t, here’s the issue in a nutshell: Azealia Banks tweeted “its funny to see people Like Igloo Australia silent when these things happen… Black Culture is cool, but black issues sure aren’t huh?” to which Iggy responded, “Make it racial! make it political! Make it whatever but I guarantee it won’t make you likable & THATS why ur crying on the radio.”

While Gkritsi writes that the underlying issue is “Azalea’s lack of cultural sensitivity in her work and disregard for the history of hip-hop,” I’ve decided to play Q-Tip and point out that the real issue is not only Iggy’s disregard for the history of hip-hop but the fact that she does not give back to the black community while she in turn has cleaned up nicely with four Grammy nominations, 22 assorted awards, and a platinum single using a style of music that has traditionally been used to express black issues.

Furthermore, Iggy’s use of rap and hip-hop goes beyond mere “adaptation.” I think the key phrase here is “cultural appropriation”. You’ve probably heard of this: white people wearing bindis and head-dresses because they’re “cool” without considering what their cultural significance is. So while Gkritsi can claim that hip-hop “doesn’t belong” to the minorities that it came from, which is true, anyone claiming to be a hip-hop artist most definitely needs to appreciate that he or she is stepping into a culture that has sociopolitical roots. As Azealia says, white artists can’t take the “cool” parts of black culture while ignoring black issues. And unlike white rap artists like Macklemore who have condemned Ferguson, Iggy has chosen to say… nothing.

While Gkritsi might mock hip-hop, writing, “[Iggy] uses the style of hip-hop to convey existential theses with epistemological implications, such as “I’m so fancy, you already know.” Apparently, this is not what hip-hop was made for,” at least she’s right about one thing. Hip-hop isn’t made for arbitrary bragging.

What hip-hop is made for is carving out spaces for minorities in society, voicing their issues, and spreading the word in a powerful, catchy way. In the words of Q-Tip, hip-hop shows the world that black and latino minorities have “depth, fire, and brilliance.” It has become the voice of the voiceless, a paean to everybody who can “relate to the roots, the spirit, the history, the energy” and the oppression that artists have gone through. Look through the lyrics of artists like Kendrick, Nas, Estelle, Immortal Technique, Missy Elliot, Jay-Z, Lauryn Hill, Lowkey, etc and you’ll notice a pattern. Even Kanye’s got something good to say every once in a while.

Gkritsi also takes “Murda Bizness” by Iggy and T.I. and compares it to “NY State of Mind” by Nas, stating that the former is “a meaningless song that might as well have the alphabet as lyrics.” Uh uh, honey. Songs like “Fancy” and “Goddess” which boast about the artist’s wealth, power, and status, come about because of songs like Iggy’s “Work,” because the artist now has the right to brag about how far they’ve come. In the words of Drake, they’re talking about how they “started from the bottom now we here.”

So it’s odd that Iggy’s denying the politics of hip-hop considering her songs follow the pattern of discussing pain, obstacles, and then triumph. Q-Tip hits home when he tweets, “hiphop is fun it’s vile it’s dance it’s traditional it’s light hearted but 1 thing it can never detach itself from is being a SOCIO-Political movement. U may ask why … Well once you are born black your existence I believe is joined with socio-political epitaph and philos[ophy]….it never leaves our conversation… Ever. WeAther in our universities our dinner tables our studios or jail cells.”

And this is so true. Race is something that tattoos itself on people’s skin without their consent, something which causes them to be stereotyped and profiled and frisked arbitrarily. As a white artist, Iggy has the privilege of being able to exist in the world without having to worry about her skin color, although ironically this experience might educate her about having to feel alienated in a community because of her race.

You can find Q-Tip’s complete set of tweets here. 

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