Black Bodies: White Faces | The Commodification of Black Bodies in Hip Hop


Noth­ing has changed. The slave-mas­ter paradigm has simply shif­ted to the cre­at­ive sphere of rap music. The mas­ter being the white record label own­er, the slaves, the cre­at­ive black youths and the plant­a­tion, the extremely luc­rat­ive hip hop industry which is estim­ated to make over $13 bil­lion a year.

The nicki-minaj i am hip hop magazinemusic industry profits off of innov­at­ive black minds but our bod­ies too with Black women being the hap­less vic­tim. Using black bod­ies as cap­it­al in the music industry in order to sell and pop­ular­ize hip hop music, draws sin­is­ter par­al­lels with slave cap­it­al. Black women in the slave sys­tem had two func­tions: to breed the next gen­er­a­tion of slaves; and to sat­is­fy white col­on­izers sexu­al needs, with the former being pivotal to assur­ing the cen­tur­ies long Trans-Atlantic slave trade. Col­on­izers viewed black women’s fig­ures to be hyper­sexu­al­ized and there­fore they thought they were jus­ti­fi­able in their viol­a­tions. How­ever, cur­rently this pro­jec­tion of ‘sexu­ally-devi­ant beha­vi­or’ on black women is being per­petu­ated by some of our broth­ers in the music industry. MTV is bom­barded with rap songs littered with ‘bitch’ or ‘hoe’ as many times as the word ‘and’ or ‘the’. All while black video vix­ens dance seduct­ively in the back­ground upon a Mer­cedes (Oh the irony). It seems atti­tudes towards black women are stuck in the 18th cen­tury. Rather shock­ingly, the story of Saartjie Baart­man is still shock­ingly rel­ev­ant to many young black female hip hop artists in the industry. Saartjie Baart­man was born in 1789, in South Africa and des­cen­ded from the Khoik­hoi tribe. She attrac­ted atten­tion from white col­on­izer due to her large but­tocks and elong­ated labia (com­mon fea­tures in her tribe). Con­sequently she was shipped to Europe where she ‘enter­tained’ audi­ences with her ‘exot­ic fea­tures; and became a cult in European cul­ture.

The Slave Trade Act (1807) meant many abol­i­tion­ists were cam­paign­ing for her release and end to her sexu­al nicki-minaj 2exploit­a­tion. Unfor­tu­nately Baart­man fell vic­tim to the vicious trio of cap­it­al­ism, pat­ri­archy and white suprem­acy and thus chose to remain as an exhib­i­tion, under the false pre­tenses that she was ‘lib­er­ated’. This atti­tude can be is also seen with­in, accord­ing to For­bes ‘Hip Hop’s Most Power­ful Woman’- Nicki Minaj who has a per­son­al for­tune of $29 mil­lion. Minaj has profited off the media’s fas­cin­a­tion with her curves. The Anaconda record where the pub­lic gets to appre­ci­ate every curve and edge of Minaj’s body, while she is suck­ing on a vari­ety of phal­lic objects has 432 mil­lion hits. How­ever this isn’t a time to attack Minaj, she is a vic­tim, a well-com­pensated vic­tim, but nev­er­the­less a vic­tim of what I deem ‘com­mod­it­ive racism’.

What are the effects on the rest of us young black women? Low self-esteem, a long­ing to con­form to a video vix­en lauryn hill i am hip hop magazineideal and also col­or­ism. Col­or­ism, anoth­er divide and rule tac­tic implanted dur­ing col­on­iz­a­tion is fur­ther per­petu­ated by the com­modi­fic­a­tion of black bod­ies. Hip Hop has digressed from the vari­ety of black beauty such as; Queen Lati­fah; Lauryn Hill; Salt n Pepa; Mc Lyte; Foxy Brown and Lil Kim (pre-sur­gery). Through these hip hop queens we saw the multi-dimen­sion­al black woman, aware of her beauty but didn’t let that define her. Now black beauty is defined light skin, straight hair and slim fig­ures, but fat in all the ‘right’ places. The Dark Girls and Light Girls doc­u­ment­ar­ies poignantly depict the emo­tion­al dis­tress of col­our­ism and the tri­bal­ism in black cul­ture. Back­lash towards Kendrick Lamar’s light skin fiancée is emblem­at­ic of the sens­it­iv­it­ies between light skin and dark skin women. Off­hand play­ground remarks such as ‘Err she’s blick.’ ‘You’re not even black’ or ‘you’re pretty for a dark skin girl’ are all indic­at­ive of slave men­tal­ity. Twit­ter is a bat­tle­field, littered with #Team­Light­Skin or #Team­Dark­Skin, this pref­er­en­tial treat­ment for cer­tain shades of black­ness impede the black com­munity from reach­ing many shared goals.

So how do we approach ‘com­mod­itve racism’? Firstly as cliché as it sounds we need to under­go a deep heal­ing pro­cess, in which we become com­fort­able with both our sexu­al­ity and black­ness. How long this Page 2 of 2will take, no one knows. The com­modi­fic­a­tion of black bod­ies is a cul­min­a­tion of the mul­ti­tudes of struc­tur­al forms of oppres­sion which are rooted in cap­it­al­ism. Black women are vic­tims from the inter­sect­ing forms of oppres­sion. So, what do we do until cap­it­al­ism crumbles? As the Com­ba­hee River Col­lect­ive State­ment ( Abori­gine Fem­in­ists) ‘If Black women were free, it would mean that every­one else would have to be free since our free­dom would neces­sit­ate the destruc­tion of all the sys­tems of oppres­sion”. There­fore we as black woman need to pri­or­it­ize com­munity act­iv­ism; wheth­er we are a clean­er or a law­yer, we are pivotal to the revolu­tion. Lastly let’s love ourselves and not have hatred for dif­fer­ent shade of black, but for the white elit­ists who have caused these ten­sions.

The fol­low­ing two tabs change con­tent below.
Maya Elese

Maya Elese

Edit­or / Author at No Bounds
Mul­ti­lin­gual Lon­don born, bred & based print & broad­cast journ­al­ist, presenter, DJ & cul­tur­al pro­du­cer with a par­tic­u­lar love for glob­al afro-dia­spor­ic cul­tures. @mayaelese on everyth­ang.

About Maya Elese

Maya Elese
Multilingual London born, bred & based print & broadcast journalist, presenter, DJ & cultural producer with a particular love for global afro-diasporic cultures. @mayaelese on everythang.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *