Music

Kendrick Lamar’s Advocacy For XXXTentacion Shows How Deep Hip-Hop’s Toxic Masculinity Really Goes

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Hip-hop’s long-held problem with toxic masculinity and misogyny is no secret, but every so often an example is so egregious it bears calling out — high, loud, and repeatedly.

Kendrick Lamar — or his representation — is dead wrong in advocating for XXXtentacion against Spotify’s decision to pull X’s music from their promoted playlists. I don’t care about a backlash, I’m going to stand behind these words until my soul leaves this earth. It is absolutely disgusting that with all the power of his platform and position, that this is an issue he decides to take a stand on.

The “slippery slope” argument is crap. There’s a reason it’s included on a list of fallacies, not strong logical arguments. Yes, you could question the reasoning behind every decision for every artist Spotify decides to pull from its promoted lists, but ultimately the issue falls to the age-old adage: “Don’t start none, won’t be none.”

Here’s another: Hit dogs holler. Nobody finds it at least a little strange that the correlation between the men speaking out against movements like Me Too and Times Up in fear of “witch hunts” and false accusations and the ones who are later credibly accused of harassment, abuse, and sexual impropriety?

If you aren’t standing close to the drop, a slippery slope is never a problem. If you aren’t standing on the hill to begin with, even less so.

But let’s talk about why it sucks for Kendrick Lamar of all people to support X’s campaign for playlist reinstatement. As one of the top two rappers in the world at the moment — three, if you include Kanye — he has incredible influence and visibility. His words and actions send messages, not always the ones he intends.

He thinks he’s protecting artists by standing with X. The message he’s really sending is that, as per usual in hip-hop, Black culture, and American society in general, the bottom line is more important than Black women’s safety and emotional well-being. X’s mediocre music is more important than Black women’s safety and emotional well-being. Kendrick Lamar’s own standing in the eyes of young, impressionable, and mostly male fans is more important than Black women’s safety and emotional well-being.

Malcolm X said it best: “The most disrespected woman in America, is the Black woman. The most unprotected person in America is the Black woman. The most neglected person in America, is the Black woman.” Hip-hop consistently and often proves its disregard for Black women, even as hip-hop — and many of its artists, businessmen, and influencers — wouldn’t even exist or have the same level of success without the efforts, emotional labor, and support of Black women. At some point, hip-hop has to reciprocate the same level of support, if only for self-preservation. Everyone’s got a boiling point, and the day Black women collectively decide to stop supporting hip-hop, the bottom would probably fall out instantly. You just can’t lose half your fanbase overnight.

Yet, the genre and culture have been rebuked, upbraided, called out, and admonished for its misogyny and toxic masculinity so many times over the years, making it doubly, if not triply, disappointing for Kendrick Lamar to walk over the same, well-tread territory as many of his forebears.

Furthermore, showing support for an alleged abuser like X undermines the other areas of his social outspokenness. From now on, whenever Fox News commentators and other detractors criticize him for challenging police brutality, you can guarantee they’ll attach his support of XXXtentacion as part of their complaints. In trying to characterize him as a “thug” — and you know what word they really mean — there would be no better weapon than associating him with a person who supposedly threatened to rape a woman with a grill fork.

Listen, I understand. I’m from the city. You see enough when you come from the environment Kendrick and I both come from that you can become desensitized. You can begin to see some behaviors as normal. Even if you don’t ever quite begin to see it that way, living in the hood is kind of like standing near the bottom of the hill that most of America’s shit rolls down. It’s easy to adopt this country’s cavalier attitude toward the value of Black women and unload a little. The easiest thing in the world to do when you feel worn out and want to fight back is punch down at the easier target.

But Black women are not under us, Black men. They are not below us on some hierarchy of human value, any more than we are below white folks or Asians or Latinx. We’re all in this together. The time has long past for hip-hop culture to start treating women with respect by default. That means protecting them, that means fighting for them, that means supporting them, and that means holding each other accountable.

The message Kendrick sent today isn’t about holding his peers accountable for their actions. Spotify’s policy may or may not have been nothing more than a publicity play, sure. But whatever the company’s motivations, it decided to take a stand against violence against women by removing some small level of support from an accused abuser who hasn’t faced any other consequences for his actions to date. Spotify sent a message that it won’t be supporting the reprehensible behavior displayed by artists like XXXtentacion and R. Kelly. Kendrick’s actions send an opposite message, one that denigrates that concept, one that has unfortunately been ingrained in hip-hop and American culture for far too long.

XXXtentacion’s doesn’t have a right to earn money from his music; until he proves he deserves the support of hip-hop, hip-hop has no business supporting him. His playlist placements aren’t the hill to even begin to climb, let alone die on. If you’re looking for a slippery slope, it’s this one; supporting even his alleged abuse practically ensures continued abuse among fans of hip-hop, cementing a misogynist legacy that is long past its expiration date.

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