Monday, March 31, 2014

Rappers Wearing Skirts


Recently Lord Jamar has been in the news for some pretty incendiary comments. Those topics range from Macklemore to White People’s places in hip hop. Out of the controversial statements he’s made there are so many journalistic opportunities to respond to. But one of his statements caught my attention and forced me to address it in this blog post because it’s something that’s more recent.

“First of all, it’s not just jabs at Kanye West. It’s anybody promoting the feminization of the Black Man in hip hop culture.” ---Lord Jamar, SOHH.com

I speak to a lot of people on a lot of different blogs and hip hop websites. And when this story appeared or when a subject similar to this one appears in which a Black Man is wearing a “skirt” of some kind, you pretty much hear the same type of words that Lord Jamar spoke. For example, when a recent photo of Mos Def aka Yasiin Bey emerged of him wearing a Kente cloth wrap, the hip hop fashion police were at it again.  Bloggers called foul and labeled it a “dress”. Homophobic words were peppered throughout numerous hip hop comments sections.
photo credit: didy b via photopin cc

“How dare he?” “What was he thinking?” “Dude is weird anyway.” The judging was swift and mean. It was yet another case of a rapper that had fallen victim to the feminization of Black Men.
When Omar Epps from classic hip hop movie Juice showed up on the show The View in what some perceived to be a “skirt”, Lord Jamar got into a bit of a Twitter battle with Marlon Wayons (who defended Omar) about the incident.

To a lot of hip hop purists there appears to be a secret agenda to “feminize” the Black Man and to make hip hop more digestible to the masses through visualized feminization tactics. Some hip hop heads believe that “real” hip hoppers should never wear skirts or anything other than baggy jeans and a baseball cap. They believe there is a secret agenda that exists, set up by pro-gay rights people to infiltrate hip hop.
And I strongly disagree.

First, these people always seem to pop off when anyone wears anything different than their chosen attire (Lord Jamar). People like Lord Jamar label themselves as strong, righteous Black Men. Yet when they speak, their ignorance betrays them and reveals that they are really nothing more than ill-informed conspiracy theorists in dark closets. Why?

If you take it back to the motherland (Africa) you will see that these so-called “skirts” that most hip hoppers are complaining about are there. And they have been there from the very beginning! For instance, the Maasi Tribe has worn and continues to wear their traditional garb. These masculine men wear numerous bright colors and unique print within their clothing. To the Maasi Tribe the items are their clothing. But to most of you American haters, they’re “skirts”.

If Lord Jamar and people like him would take some time to do a little bit of research, even on the internet, their so-called “knowledge of self” would stand out less as a slogan and more as actual truth. Even when Omar Epps revealed that his attire during his visit to The View was a tribute to his ancestors and his African roots, Lord Jamar refused to accept it. One can only hope that he learns more about who he is and where he came from.
I know that I’ll have a few people to state that traditional African clothing is different than skirts. To them I would say this; it had to begin somewhere. To me the word ‘traditional’ only means “extended period of time”. But one African brother had to be the first person to put it on. Just because you’ve been programmed to believe that “only women wear skirts” and didn’t do the knowledge for yourself doesn’t mean that your ignorance is an excuse.

Now if Kanye West, Mos Def, Omar Epps, and numerous others walked into a Macy’s Department store and made the purchase in the women’s section and then openly stated that they were trying to make hip hop softer for the masses, Lord Jamar would be absolutely correct. But that’s not the case.
But let’s keep it even realer. Let’s name some Black Men that actually wore skirts.

Eddie Murphy, Arsenio Hall, Chris Tucker, Flip Wilson, Jamie Foxx, Wesley Snipes… I could go on and on. But none of their bank accounts seem to indicate that fewer people purchased their works because of the perceived “feminization of Black Men”. And these men wore actual women’s skirts and makeup! How long has Eddie Murphy been in the game? How many of his movies do you own? I’ll bet a million of you dudes saw Jamie Foxx in the movie Ray. I’ll even bet Lord Jamar saw it. But he didn’t protest it because Jamie Foxx was dressed up as “Wanda” on In Living Color. And before some of you come out of your mouth and say, “Rapping is different than acting” I would submit Rick Ross as my proof that hip hop is on par with acting. Ross took his name and his persona from another person and was actually a prison guard. Next!

Me as a person, I would never wear that type of gear because my preference is jeans. It is what I’m accustomed to and what makes me comfortable. But I’m not going to judge someone who chooses differently. We as hip hoppers need to understand that the world isn’t always against us. Sometimes we do it to ourselves. Conspiracy theories aside, one man is responsible for his own behavior. While trends do emerge and some people do ultimately follow suit we are accountable individually.

Lord Jamar is right in his viewing of fashion trends. A lot of men are choosing to push this button. But it’s based on fashion trends and not some conspiracy against Black men. What can we expect in the age of Facebook and Twitter? We are a nation of followers and biters. We are the “like button” generation.

We have to stop judging entire blocks of people based on our phobias or ignorant and unsubstantiated theories. We hurt far too many innocent people when we do this. While Lord Jamar may be correct in detecting a certain pattern or fashion trend, attacking someone because you don’t agree with that trend is out of bounds. You govern your life. Just simply say that you don’t get down with it. You don’t know what motivates others.