By Libby Howard
Hip hop is as American as
apple pie. Hip hop is a storm
at the doorstep, waiting to unfold
onto your body. This music is
the movement from object to subject.
Like most white middle-class
kids in the 1990s, I grew up
with hip-hop close to my heart,
far from my body. Say black noise.
Say white girl.
When I was nine years old I despised
the piano. My hands, dignified spiders
taught to censor throb and desire.
Nothing made sense to me in that
white rulebook of sheet music.
Until, I heard 2pac Shakur’s
“Changes” shake a piano for all
of its money. Jerk elegance
by the pant leg to give it
something to dance about.
Deviance was a bull breaking porcelain in the corner of my big heart.
My mom calls it “gangster rap.”
She listens “for the beat.” That
sounds stupid. But I knew hip hop
was resistance and I—the nine year old
antithesis of ladylike, had so much to resist.
When I first heard the word
feminist, it was an answer.
It debunked the mechanics of
what my femininity needed to look like.
Like hip hop, feminism didn’t ask anyone for permission.
Feminism told me that hip hop exploits women.
I was confused.
how my hero, the son of two noble
Black Panthers, an A-minor man
made of bandanas and roses,
could become my enemy so quickly.
I guess 2pac wasn’t the white—
I mean the right kind of feminist.
I should respect myself, know
that woman is a brand that marks me
regardless of if I identify with 2pac.
Hip hop has its own ideas of
what women can and should
look like. But so does this type
of feminism, wearing history with
a sinister innocence.
Historically, you take the blackness out of feminism and you have feminism.
Take the whiteness out of feminism and you have nothing.
I don’t care if you identify as a feminist,
hip hop is not the mug shot of misogyny.
I don’t care if hip-hop is your religion,
gender equality is not optional.
These movements are not mutually exclusive.
I will not choose between loving myself and loving this music.
One thing I will never abandon is
resistance, sitting inside me like
a fuming bull with porcelain horns,
the sound of a piano