Dealing with stigmatizations of one’s race seems to be a difficult task. In my humble opinion, it seems a rather daunting task for musical artists to address racial discrimination they may face. Perhaps there is a fear of acceptance or even a difficulty in conveying exactly how one feels within a few minutes of a song. Either way, I believe that certain artists have made great strides in exploring racial issues within the context of their lyrics. Their messages are parallel to the themes we have discussed in this class’s literature.
In an article by Pitchfork titled, “Rico Nasty and the Importance of Black Women’s Anger in Rap” Natelegé Whaley discusses the importance of female rappers to providing representation for black women. Current rappers, such as Rico Nasty and Princess Nokia, have been instrumental in creating a space for (specifically) black women to express themselves while destroying the “angry black woman” stereotype. According to Dr. David Pilgrim of Ferris State University, black women have been portrayed as “rude, loud, malicious, stubborn and overbearing.” This is known as the Sapphire Caricature, a disparaging label of black women that’s been around in American popular culture since the 1800s. He argues that such representation is a society’s way of keeping black women silenced when they assert themselves. I can’t help but think of all the occasions people that black, female artists have been criticized simply for speaking their minds through their music.
Throughout the Pitchfork article, Whaley acknowledges the anger that Rico Nasty expresses through her lyrics. In the song “Sell Out,” Rico Nasty writes “ The expression of anger is a form of rejuvenation…I’m screaming inside of my head in hopes that I’m easing the pain.” In an interview, Rico Nasty told Whaley, “I don’t want to be that stereotypical black girl that’s mad all the time, but if that’s what you need to get your point across… you have a side of the story that needs to be heard, too.” In my opinion, she appears to be recognizing the harmful stereotypes that black females face but purposely chooses to express her anger at society in order to push it forward.
In class, we read novels by African American authors that also expressed their frustrations within their works. In Toni Morrison’s Home, there are moment in the novel that seem to resonate with the experiences of black female rappers today. The character Cee navigates her way through a world that tries to keep her down with every turn she makes. The following quote expresses Cee’s determination to keep pushing forward:
So it was just herself. In this world with these people she wanted to be the person who would never again need rescue. Not from Lenore through the lies of the Rat, not from Dr. Beau through the courage of Sarah and her brother. […] She wanted to be the one who rescued her own self. […] Wishing would not make it so, nor would blame, but thinking might. If she did not respect herself, why should anybody else? -Toni Morrison
Cee faces many hardships throughout the novel, but she constantly challenges the limits given to black women by society. This type of determination seems entirely necessary for artists, especially black female rappers to ensure their success. There are many quotes from my favorite artists that I could include, especially as they relate to the course texts. However, I can’t know exactly what Rico Nasty or Toni Morrison are saying in their crafts. Rather, I will continue to make bridges between artists through their parallel expressions of identity.
**Page number from Toni Morrison’s Home omitted due to various editions of the novel