In John Singleton’s seminal 1991 film Boyz N the Hood, neighborhood girl Shalika (Regina King) and Doughboy (Ice Cube) share the following exchange:
“Why is it every time you talk about a female you gotta say bitch, ho, or hoochie?” she asks him, fed up.
“‘Cause that’s what you are.”
It is remarkable how closely Cube’s recent remarks in a Rolling Stone cover story parrot the same misogynistic crap he spouted in a work of fiction (named after a song by Eazy-E) nearly 25 years ago, and yet here we are. Reflecting on the past several decades of NWA’s career and the recent success of biopic Straight Outta Compton, Cube says:
“If you’re a bitch, you’re probably not going to like us,” he says. “If you’re a ho, you probably don’t like us. If you’re not a ho or a bitch, don’t be jumping to the defense of these despicable females. Just like I shouldn’t be jumping to the defense of no punks or no cowards or no slimy son of a bitches that’s men. I never understood why an upstanding lady would even think we’re talking about her.”
Decades on, after Cube has cultivated a successful career as a comedic actor in family friendly films such as Are We There Yet and, my favorite, The Book of Life; and after decades of hip-hop feminists thinking, parsing, fighting, writing, and imagining ways to be included in a culture that they (we) love, but often does not love them (us), starting with Joan Morgan’s enduring When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost and continuing today with multitudes of voices from there; and after many rappers of his era have had their own come to Jesus moments, including, most remarkably, Too $hort learning about rape culture in real time—the seventh richest black actor in the world still believes in distinguishing between “upstanding” ladies, and “bitches,” and “hoes.” The ‘90s are truly back, everybody. Santa chihuahua.
In the same interview, Dr. Dre discusses his assault of Dee Barnes, as well as his alleged assault of Michel’le (his alleged assault of onetime protegee Tairrie B, however, does not appear to be mentioned):
“I made some fucking horrible mistakes in my life,” says Dre. “I was young, fucking stupid. I would say all the allegations aren’t true – some of them are. Those are some of the things that I would like to take back. It was really fucked up. But I paid for those mistakes, and there’s no way in hell that I will ever make another mistake like that again.”
In Rich Juzwiak’s Straight Outta Compton review, he pointed out the glaring ignorance of NWA’s notorious misogyny in the film, which was directed by F. Gary Gray and written by John Herman and Andrea Berloff, whose prior work included World Trade Center. The film, he wrote, “omits any explicit discussion of N.W.A.’s open misogyny in their music and lives, while implicitly condoning it by keeping female characters on the outskirts of the story in small roles that service the film’s central men. They are mothers, wives, girlfriends, and sex objects at parties (the colorism in last year’s casting call for female extras is palpable in the movie).” Of course, by all accounts Straight Outta Compton is more a redemption story than anything, as “blissfully American as apple pie, low riders and gangster rap,” wrote Manohla Dargis in the Times, and meant to spotlight at this very timely juncture the ways a handful of black geniuses from the hood struggled against racist state oppression. And still, the flippancy with which the film is purported to deal with women is bothersome; the comments of the grown men associated with the group, moreso.
With that, please indulge in my favorite song of all time, Yo-Yo’s “You Can’t Play With My Yo-Yo,” featuring Ice Cube:
The lyrics are ironic: “I’m in the ‘90s, you’re still in the ‘80s, right? I rock the mic, they say I’m not ladylike.”
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