Don’t Blame Fela For Hip-Hop’s Misogynistic Lyrics
A Huffington Post piece by Kirsten West Savali which examines the life and legacy of the legendary Nigerian musician Fela caught my eye. In the article, the author implies that rap music’s misogyny against women can be traced back to Africa as evidenced through watching one of Fela’s performances.
“To watch one of Fela's performances is to witness the roots of Hip-Hop music. Misogyny in rap did not materialize in the boroughs of New York or the strip clubs of Atlanta where the magnificence of the feminine form is appreciated, while what lies beneath is ignored; rather, it manifested in part through the ancestral characterization of women as "mattresses" in need of men to elevate their status and provide sexual gratification,” she writes in the article.
Wow! Okay let me take a breath and take it deep as Rihanna would say.
Okay. To blame an entire continent for hip-hop’s shortcomings is a bit harsh. And to base it all off a couple performances of Fela is just downright ridiculous.
Just like hip-hop has plenty of conscious rappers like Common, Talib Kweli and KRS-One, Africa has political musicians like Miriam Makeba, Majek Fashek, Sonny Okosun, Ebenezer Obey, King Sunny Ade and Fela himself who all fought social injustice through their music and continue to inspire plenty of today’s politically-conscious musicians.
Yes Fela was a flawed man, yes he had many wives (polygamy is part of the culture there) and yes he was abusive to them but to blame him for an entire genre of music’s misogyny is a bit of a stretch. Besides should a society that celebrates the likes of Chris Brown, Charlie Sheen, Robert Downey Jr., Mel Gibson and more really be pointing fingers?
And what about the downright sleazy lyrics of artists like Madonna, The Rolling Stones, Aerosmith and Nine Inch Nails? Are we going to blame that on Fela as well or is it okay because it’s not hip-hop.
Look, if you dislike the man or hip-hop for that matter that’s fine but to use him as your reason for what’s wrong with hip-hop is about as ridiculous as Hank Williams Jr's recent statements about President Obama.
If you want to blame hip-hop’s misogyny on anything blame it on children who for generations grew up watching their mothers, daughters and sisters raped and traded like cattle by slave owners and were looked down upon by people who did not believe that a black woman or any black person for that matter had any worth. But please don’t blame it on Fela and definitely do not blame it on Africa!