Earlier this week, filmmaker Ladd Ehlinger, Jr. released one of the more offensive political attack ads in recent memory. The video ’s target is Democratic congressional candidate Janice Hahn, who, the ad says, “hired hardcore gang members with taxpayer money to be ‘gang intervention specialists’ ” as part of a crime-fighting initiative. “She even helped them get out of jail so they could rape and kill again,” the narrator continues. The intervention specialists are depicted in the video as gun-wielding fools. As for Hahn, she’s depicted as a stripper.
Writers at Slate , Jezebel , and several other publications have condemned the ad. Hahn wrote on her website, “If you haven’t watched it, don’t. But know that its [ sic ] degrading to women in the worst way.”
The two men featured in the video, rappers Kue Dog and Uncle Head, make up the hip-hop group Splack Pack, along with producer Kiddmoney. Ehlinger, a fan, approached them about making the ad and the two rappers signed up, despite knowing very little about Hahn. The refrain “Give me your cash, bitch” was Ehlinger’s idea, the rappers told me, but Splack Pack contributed the rest of the lyrics.
I spoke to Kue Dog and Uncle Head separately by phone yesterday, and each defended the commercial. When asked if he thought the ad was racist, Kue Dog said, “It’s not racist.” He did concede, though, “It might be sexist.”
But each rapper qualified that assessment. Uncle Head told me that language-and abusive words like “bitch”-is inherently neutral. “It depends on how you use it,” he said. “I don’t consider the word ‘bitch’ as sexist. They say it on TV now.” (When I spoke to Ehlinger earlier this week, he told me something similar, arguing that the ad “doesn’t show anything more or less than what you’d see on primetime television.”) How the presence of something on TV affects whether or not it’s offensive remains a mystery. But Uncle Head says he’s fine with people using the word “bitch” all they want-with one exception: “As long as nobody calls my daughter a bitch, I’m cool.”
Throughout our conversations, both men stressed that they were simply hired to do a job. Uncle Head used the word “business” repeatedly when we spoke: his involvement in the ad was business, Splack Pack’s relationship with Ehlinger was a business relationship, the woman portraying the stripper was just doing business with them.
“It was just a job,” said Kue Dog, when I asked about what it was like on set for the rappers and the woman. Both men had little to say about the actress, except that she was professional and easy to work with. (Ehlinger wouldn’t put me in touch with her, saying he didn’t want to expose her to “creeps.”) Kue Dog said that for Splack Pack, being on set with barely-clothed women is routine. “It’s something that we’ve been doing for every bit of 17 years as a rap group. Doing the kind of work that we do, we’ve always employed females to do the kind of work she did.”
Uncle Head says Splack Pack makes “booty music,” which relies on women as much as it does on beats and rhymes. Kue Dog talked about barely-dressed women-women with “barely anything on, shaking butts”-as a key part of the way Splack Pack puts their music out to the world. “That’s just who we were. That’s how we always put ourselves out there,” he said.
“That’s part of Splack Pack,” he continues. “That’s what we sell-we sell sex.”