I remember when the Nobel Prize winning book, ‘Beloved’, was made into a movie. I was relieved I was finally going to be able to understand what the book was talking about. Like other Morrison fans, I understand that to indulge in one of her books you have to completely abandon yourself and become involved in the art. ‘Beloved’ was one of those books I had not been able to finish because I found it too complex. Or maybe it wasn’t complex at all, perhaps it was the direction that didn’t allow me to finish the book. I remember the narrative being very haunting when it spoke to me. There were times in the book when it spoke directly to me and I felt like I had to protect or defend for myself.
The other day when riding in my car, my 12 year old niece wanted desperately to listen to a hip hop radio station. Even though the language is altered to be radio ready, I cannot stomach the majority of the new hip hop music today. I agreed to let her change the channel from my jazz station and we began to listen to a song, “hit her with a left, hit her with a right, I’mma knock her out like fight night!” (those aren’t the exact words but definitely the intent and close to it). My niece knew the words and sat happy smiling and bouncing in the passenger side dancing to the song.
When we got home, I got on the internet and pulled the song up. I called my niece in my room and let her hear the real lyrics, “hit her with a left, hit her with a right, I’mma knock that p*ssy out like fight night!” The expression on my nieces’ face changed solemn. It was a mixture of embarrassment and disappointment. Needless to say, I was pleased to see that the narrative disturbed her and she didn’t want to listen to the whole song.
I’ve read many academia on Toni Morrison and the book, ‘Beloved’. The unfortunate piece is my timing was off because I was reading different syllabi and criticisms as I was attempting to read the book. The literary world seemed confused as to which sub-genre its’ bewildering complexity belonged in. The topics of placement were realism, post-colonialism, trauma – literature, the sublime and slave narratives to name a few. I recall there even being debate on whether or not the book was of universal language or belonging to the African American community. After I watched the movie I came to my own conclusion, the poetic tones in the book allowed it to cross various genres and it ultimately presented a platform to discuss the traumatizing social system of slavery.
That’s where the analogy with my 12 year old and the rap song comes into play. Initially, listening to the song seemed like the thing to do but once she heard the aggressive words and what it was insinuating, it was no longer a cool song. In her mind it had crossed over the boundaries of an innocent fun song to listen to and then became a platform for us to discuss “why” he wants to have sex with this woman so roughly she will pass out. The next time we were in the car, I allowed her to control the radio because I knew she would not allow a disturbing narrative (rap song) play its’ entirety. She did a great job of changing the station as soon as one of the songs mentioned ‘bending them both over’…
While I haven’t read where any hip hop conferences discuss the bewildering complexities of today’s musical undertones that would lead to legitimate discussions around the sustained social system of capitalism (slavery). I am certain the parallel is how the narrative speaks directly to me as a woman and how I feel compelled to defend or protect myself. While I don’t think any current hip hop music will make the roundtable of discussion for Pulitzer or Nobel prize consideration, there should be discussion on the topics of placement in our households and communities. I am grateful my niece and I are developing our own academia discussions around various life topics and she is viewing the world from a conscious, critically thinking young person.