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Posted by Dave
Rap News Network
3/4/2005 11:09:40 AM

Tags and topics realted to this article include Various Artists.

'Women' and 'hip-hop.' It's unfortunate that, when those words are used in the same sentence, people don't think of a place of female empowerment, talent being nurtured and creative genius getting recognition.

For the past 10 or 15 years, mainstream commercial media outlets have fed us a steady diet of videos filled with sexually charged images and artists using abusive, derogatory or over-the-top sexually explicit lyrics about women.

Rarely do we hear heartfelt songs like Pete Rock and CL Smooth's classic love ode ``Lots of Loving,'' the Jungle Brothers' ``Black Woman,'' Brand Nubian's ``Sincerely'' or KRS-One's ``Brown Skin Woman.'' Seldom do we hear female artists such as the Grammy-nominated Mystic and Medusa, who rap about empowerment. Heck, we hardly hear artists like Queen Latifah these days. Instead, we're given a steady diet of Trinas and Jackie O's, who take sexual exploits to heights that would make Lil' Kim and Foxy Brown blush.

Those behind the scenes who have the final say about what gets broadcast too often have shunned the artists and records that give props to women. Instead, they have opted for an overabundance of songs about ``pimping,'' how to keep a woman in check, or, if you're a woman, how to be a sexual ``freak.'' All this is done under the guise of ``good business,'' giving the public what it wants.

Of course, those of us who have been involved in the industry know that such weak excuses are used to sidestep the issue and deceive the public. In reality, there's plenty of room for much-needed balance.

According to Lisa Fager, the community activist in Washington, D.C., who runs the hip-hop media watchdog Web site, there are studies that clearly show that such lyrics harm our communities since many young women, especially in the inner city, get their information about sex and their values, at least in part, from records and videos. She also points out an alarming increase in HIV-AIDS, which she claims directly correlates with the types of music and images to which young women are being exposed.

Sadly, such complaints have fallen on deaf ears among the industry bigwigs and music program directors whom Fager regularly confronts. So she has changed her tactics, making the names of the decision makers public and spotlighting their lack of concern.

So far, that's been working. Her latest victory was getting radio stations around the country to drop an offensive song ``Wait (Till You See My . . .)'' by the Ying Yang Twins, which was being targeted to young teens. The Twins' record label, TVT, issued a squeaky-clean version.

Fager is just one of those proving that activism on the part of sistas can be effective. Here in San Jose, we have the influential crew 5th Element, which has long advocated respect and empowerment for women in hip-hop. Its mission statement notes that 5th Element takes a stand against sexism, homophobia and misogyny in hip-hop by creating an atmosphere of respect.

Folks will have a chance to witness 5th Element in action at 8 p.m. Saturday, when it celebrates International Women's Day at MACLA (510 S. First Street) with the all-ages event ``Herstory.''

Special guests will include an all-star lineup of female B-girls and artists representing every aspect of hip-hop. Among the stars in the house will be DJ Pam the Funkstress of the Coup, the Floor Angels, Aya de León and the Mamaz. For more information, call (408) 288-5420.

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