S1: Hi I’m child too and welcome to the fourth Slate Plus episode for in Season 3 this season covers the lives and deaths of Tupac Shakur and Biggie Smalls.
S2: And as always I’ve got host Joel Anderson and producer Christopher Johnson here with me to talk more about the making of the show. Hi guys. Hey Joe. Hey Joe. Hi there. So we talked a little bit about this before about how gangsta rap was popular without really being on the radio or other places but in this episode I found it interesting to learn about how the Billboard charts actually played a role in pushing rap into the mainstream. So the Soundscan switch was pretty big to the industry right.
S3: Absolutely because previously the way that they had tracked album sales was asking record store owners which I mean that’s one way of doing it but obviously that’s not particularly precise and that can depend on which record stores you’re going to you know where those stores are located. You know it doesn’t give you like a really broad based view of what everybody is doing right. Yeah. And so Soundscan eliminates a lot of that because that’s just tracking sales right for the first time like we have a sense of like where people are actually buying and not would record store owners say or people buy to like all of a sudden whereas prior to that it had just been a bunch of pop and rock acts like we noted the story in nineteen eighty nine like the billboard charts it just dominated by like rock and pop the top albums about Bobby Brown New Kids On The Block. Paul Abdou Bon Jovi and Guns and Roses which is actually it’s crazy to think about this is 30 years ago. Yeah which is my childhood but these are like all people that are very famous back at the time and then within a few years you see NWA you know start being on top of the charts you see Dr. Dre end up on top of the charts you see Snoop. So this is like oh it’s more a reflection of what people are actually buying. Not people weren’t buying you kids on the block. They were popular but you’re not is able to dismiss rap on the strength of record store owners are saying no that makes sense.
S4: And it also it brings up the question of what is mainstream. Because billboard wasn’t pushing the artist into the mainstream fans were it was fans that were obviously supporting the music buying the music requesting the music. And it was just the tweak were moving toward Soundscan was actually a reflection of consumer tastes. Yeah. And not just industry is trying to kind of manipulate you know record sales.
S2: A lot of the argument about rap causing harm seems to hinge on so-called gangsta rap versus just rap. So for the purposes of even just making the podcast How did you to distinguish this difference like what constitutes gangsta rap and what does it mean for me.
S4: This is hard as a hip hop fan calling like these sort of slots for hip hop music and so for the purposes of the argument the point that we’re making in these episodes we kind of just used the terms that the folks who were pushing against this music were using to kind of illustrate their perspective right not necessarily our perspective or a distinction that we’re drawing it’s a distinction they’re drawing that became really real for artists and for fans and so we’re sort of using their distinctions as sort of arbitrary and ill informed as they might be. Yeah I mean to kind of make the point that we’re making. So it’s not really sort of saying as a slow burn team this is gangsta rap and this is not gangsta rap right. Did you have to think about that.
S3: Did you have to. Oh absolutely. I mean you’re right. It’s still a subject of debate even amongst people that we generally agree or gangsta rappers. I mean there was one interview that I was reading where they asked Dr. Dre Hey man so what do you think about gangsta rap. He’s are who even calls it gangsta rap. That’s crazy. And then they were like we’re actually like I’m referring to something you said you know in his song Let’s ride. It’s like that gangsta glare with gangsta raps that gangsta shit that makes a gang snap. I mean that may be hard you know without being obtuse about it to argue that that’s not what most people would consider gangsta rap. But even then you know there’s still a lot of debate about it. I would guess if I had to come up with like a definition I would just say that is probably music that is largely from the West Coast largely hood culture largely music that emerges from that particular street culture. But you know what complicates the issue is like mob keeps talking about a lot of the same shit. Right. And Christopher knows from the realness that gangsta rappers. I never I don’t think of mob deep as a gangsta rap group but I don’t know what I’m doing there.
S2: Yeah. And it can get a pie like song by song too. Yeah. Yeah but you know these rappers are talking about. So between Reverend Calvin Butts it’s like steamroller and C. Delores Tucker’s visit to time warner. It does seem like these anti-gay slur strapped Crusaders did resort to big stunts for publicity. Did that seem to work at the time. Were they getting a lot of attention.
S5: Well if by working you mean getting attention then yes if by working You mean did it like deter hip hop fans. Yeah and people from listening people take them seriously. I mean some people probably did. It’s interesting because I do I wish they mom was around to ask her because she kind of was policing my hip hop life when I was a kid and I’d be curious.
S4: I mean I don’t know that she was thinking very specifically about seat laws Tucker or Calvin Butts but I’m sure some of that energy drifted down into the consciousness of parents who were concerned about their kids listening to some of this music maybe instead and asking her if any of this sort of trickled down to her.
S6: Yeah. So I don’t know how much of an impact they actually had it doesn’t seem like it very much because rap continues to rise. Although I guess the other part of the question is it’s one thing to say that rap continue to rise but gangsta rap like what happened to all the consequences for so-called gangsta rap.
S3: Yeah. No I mean I guess like I don’t think music has gotten any less violent in the last 25 years. You know I mean like I do not think that like there’s still an element of dudes talking about shooting people and you know gang culture I mean we had Bobby Shimada and Takashi 6 9 you know guys like that who really emerged from gang street culture and are still making music or Oh Chief Keef Oh yeah. I mean is so like I mean people are still making music like that. So I think it’s pretty clear that you know to the extent that they wanted to stamp out gangsta rap or crush it even literally that did not work. Mm hmm. But were they able to maybe make it more difficult to distribute from the big labels prevent kids from listening to it at an earlier age maybe even hearing it on the radio. I mean you know if you want to be generous to them then maybe they did have an impact in that way. And like we still listen to the street shit on DVD people stores and DVD I guess what are you not even empty.
S7: I don’t know. I don’t know how you Spotify takes that many discs as anybody right.
S5: I do think also that like taste just changed. You know there’s all sorts of reasons that tastes change and so gangsta rap was super popular for the moment that it was super popular. You had these megastars making or these these guys but mostly guys becoming megastars of gangsta rap. And then the tastes just started to shift. I mean in part the East Coast hard to pull the music back if you will to its own sound which is you Joel was saying you might be able to argue Wu Tang I’ll get some gangster shit in terms of their subject matter.
S3: But like the taste start to kind of pull away from that like acutely gangsta sound I’d like to make the argument in a buddy of mine always says this too that the s sort of one hip hop that like the Southern sound hip hop is like really taking over hip hop over like the last yeah. I mean in terms of what popular music is. Right. Because you can hear so much of the influence immediately. You know Sanjay you know people like that like in an Atlanta sound Oh man. Who’s that guy not a set Rocky. There’s somebody else I’m thinking of and I heard him and I was like What does that do from Atlanta. And he was from New York. Oh man was it not me. I don’t want to use the song panda would definitely panda. That song was a guy that made plant designer designer. Yeah right. Yeah. And I thought that dude was from the south. He’s from New York. Yeah. And I’m just like you know. So like that just kind it was just like derivative of that. I was like oh like so many people south southern now in hip hop it’s all what it’s like. I mean right. We like to say the South won. But like Christopher said to his point taste changed I don’t know if you can make the kind of music that death row was making in the 90s and like you know. So they sold very into it actually if you listen to some of it. Now some of that sounds like kiddie shit but you mean in terms of it’s like the subject matter was a little it was sort of playful. Yeah I think like deliberately sort of silly and yeah. You mean yeah. I mean because it’s so much more clearer now. Snoop is more of a comedian. Yeah than a rapper you know. I mean like he’s he was a very good rapper and he was like a you know revelatory and like nineteen ninety three. But you see the things that made him popular is that he’s a playful guy. He’s a very sharp guy very funny guy. And that came through in his music but it was dressed up and all of this like gangster shit. Yeah you know I mean he was 18 years old and he was affiliated with Crips out in L.A.. You know I mean so he’s grown up. But like now the comedic part of it comes through. All right.
S2: So in this plus episode that we have today we have an extended interview with a male who’s pretty well respected in hip hop circles. Can you tell us more about her background.
S8: Yeah well so she’s from Brooklyn grew up in the 90s when hip hop was still like this fledgling pretty insular New York East Coast culture right. And she went to this business same High School in Lower Manhattan Mary Bertram and she was classmates with you know the members of the native tongue rap collective and you know Christopher knows how important they were to hip hop in the early 90s late 80s including the Jungle Brothers and she was classmates and later friends with like cutup. So she’s like very steeped in hip hop culture went off to school at Hampton HBC you in Virginia and was looking for postgrad work and got to The Source magazine when she was like 20 or 21 years old started on the business side for like a couple weeks working with her co-founder Dave Mayes. Yeah. And then quickly moved into the editorial role and worked with Dream Hampton who was the first female editor at the source. Yeah.
S3: And they were like really influential Kieran is like a heavyweight dude. I mean she ended up founding Honey Magazine in the late 90s which was a big deal. So I had a subscription to yeah sadly short live Yeah I didn’t it didn’t last long. I mean it was it may have been ahead of his time you know. Yeah yeah and yeah she’s just been a big boss in the industry man. I mean she ended up working at Essence which again that was one of the magazines you saw on your mom’s hair salon you know or your auntie’s house. And she ended up you know being the top editor at Ebony magazine which is I mean wow Ebony will not exist in the way that it did. I don’t even think Ebony even exist anymore now. I don’t not not as a magazine. Yeah mixes magazine Yeah. So like she’s was like the last editor of Ebony when it was like a great national brand. And that’s really meaningful. So she couldn’t as a heavyweight man. We loved having her in here. She was really she was though she’s really though.
S2: And in the interview she talks about meeting and interviewing see Tyler Secor. And so you talk a little bit more about that source article in the main episode but what was your sense of the piece.
S9: Like why why was it important to you I’ll speak for myself.
S4: I mean to me it really captured the moment that we’re trying to capture an episode for certainly the generational stuff and the tastes and the way that Kiernan even coming here describes her interaction with C. Dolores Tucker. You won’t get someone who’s like Cyrano who’s coming from a deeply kind of hip hop perspective as sympathetic to see Dolores Tucker like you won’t find any one more sympathetic here and it was understanding that like you have your perspective and I respect you and I’m going to call you Mrs. Tucker. Dr. TUCKER Like there’s that difference between a black elder and a younger black writer. And so she’s trying to give her space. And it’s you know.
S6: SIEGEL As Tucker is not seeming terribly appreciative or accommodating she’s got a condescending and dismissive Yeah and dismissive and I love being able to kind of watch Kiana and hear her talk about one of the things that she says is that she is sympathetic especially now as a mother and as an older woman sympathetic to some of the things that Cee Lo Tucker was talking about with the music it was just her approach. Yeah. And she said something that still sticks with me and has stuck with me you know since we’ve been working on this series is that she’s like something like Your auntie right. You know and it’s true. Like looking at her she reminds me I can name I won’t but I can name a family member who she reminds me of both like physically and the way she dresses and aesthetically but also her perspective and her kind of unwillingness it seems to budge on her perspective on youth culture which is fine but then don’t get involved. Yeah yeah right.
S3: It’s kind of crazy that C. Dolores Tucker was like the locus for all this anger. I mean though although she did put herself OUTFRONT at the head of this A.I. gangsta rap she didn’t really even know about it at first. Right. Right. People came to her because they thought she would be good. I mean she was a powerful speaker. You know she had a name she had connections. And I don’t doubt that she was sincerely concerned about the impact of that rap and I mean if you look back on it now I was like oh like those dudes did hate women. You don’t I mean like you know that rap. I mean like it’s it’s like it’s sort of inexcusable you can’t really walk away from saying this is really violently misogynistic and you know that’s not the kind of music that you would want your child to listen to if they didn’t have to know. But yeah I think like to Christopher’s point into queerness point is this that seemed to look like it was like really ignorant of the art form and she didn’t see any redeeming value. She couldn’t be like well yo What about Tribe Called Quest. What about you know KRS One. What about public enemy like she would know anything about that. Yeah. And so I’m not going to say that it invalidated her critique but it like undercut it a little bit because she didn’t even take the time to like be educated about something. She was so publicly against. Right.
S6: We’re like Reverend Calvin Butts did have that kind of nuance. Seems like at least more of a nuance in his perspective. You said that he supported rap music as an art form. Yeah yeah we’re just against those thugs. All right. And he said that what rappers. He sat down and talked with them and like dialogue with. Yeah yeah yeah. And Joel gets it this very elegantly in this episode. It like the place where C. Dolores Tucker is campaign starts was really fascinating to me which is very specifically focused on women and specifically on black women and that’s to take nothing away from her own project but I’m sure that’s because of the black women who kind of brought this to her. Melba Moore and Diane Moore awake and other people who kind of came to her and the people that she was talking to who were like there are a lot of people for us to defend but we are focusing specifically our project our mission is ask black women to protect black women and to protect black women’s lives. And so that’s kind of where we want to start. And it seems to have blown up into something much larger. But I still think that that’s a super interesting piece of this is that it was focused on women and the representation of women in the perspective of women and how women were being portrayed in the music that black women also loved. And that’s kind of what Kiernan was trying to say was like I love hip hop and so I can’t throw the baby out with the bathwater. Let’s kind of look at some of the nuance and that’s what like even arty Maxine. Yeah it’s a lot like I can’t just dismiss these are my babies like let’s try to fix this instead of just being like you know get rid of it.
S3: So it is sort of interesting though because I mean think about it and you do want to hear them out. You do want to listen to you know the people that are like creating this music and hey where’s this coming from right. I mean if you think about it and as you get older and I said this already I was like Yo some of those dudes actually did hate women you don’t I mean I still do.
S10: Like if you just interrogate their beliefs are the things they say about them even on social media and I’m not going to call them out specifically but I thought as a kid listening to all this just fun and games they just talking shit. This is just how dudes talk to each other. Locker room talk right. Right. And that’s how I wrote it off when I was like 15 16 17 years old.
S3: I’m 40 years old now and I’m like these do to still kind of the beliefs that undergirded that music is still sort of there they just know not to see it like that now. It’s like yo man see let’s talk I had a point. You know what we want to try to get across is that there is a point to be made. Maybe she just wasn’t the person to make it right.
S2: And her approach. Right. You know her approach to it and I’m sure there’s also a level that it was also like black elders talking about it not just. I mean see the list that she teamed up with Bill Bennett on it.
S7: Yeah yeah yeah. But she was moving in the wrong direction right. Right.
S3: There are plenty of conservative black people who love black people who wouldn’t take her up on it. Yeah. And I think that’s like where you can just be like hey man would you do it for real. You know here we’ll be it. I’ll give a shit about black people.
S5: I think it’s fair to say that it’s a good question though watching one of the news clips that’s focused on Bill Bennett. Jesse Jackson is in it and Jesse Jackson is kind of like the Grand Elder. He’s not saying anything that’s really on the ground. He’s even more kind of like holding both sides. But he’s very much looking at it as like a matter of life and death for the capital B capital C black community which is not an expression that I fucking hate that term but you know I’m saying and so I wonder if people like him thinking about black politics and very tiny a little bit I know about black politics in the 80s and 90s if they were like We want nothing. Yeah yeah right. Like if she was a you know kind of nuclear to them it’s just one of their something about her that they were like she’s toxic. Like we’re not going to I’m not saying that Tucker was toxic. You know it’s like I wonder if it’s because so many people right.
S3: It’s crazy because everybody from that era had some shit you know everywhere from Jesse and Ben Chavis C. Dolores Tucker like everybody who had kind of like the things that would’ve theoretically made them radioactive. That’s right yeah. In one way or another this is kind of like I just imagining that dance right that everybody is is doing there probably would. It was fascinating. Yeah it’s true.
S2: Speaking of also in your interview with Kenny man you talk a little bit about her writing about Bill Cosby. Can you expand a little bit on that.
S8: Yeah sure. So you know we talked about this a second ago her being the top editor at Ebony and so when she was there and I think it’s 2015 they ran a cover that had a shattered photo of the Cosby family and this is right as the heat was being turned up on Bill Cosby for his years of sexual assault and harassment and in retrospect you know maybe Bill Cosby was not the guy to be trying to promote family values and morals and anybody else right.
S3: But at the time it was a very big deal and got Ebony a lot of attention. And you know I just remember Kiernan from like having you know make the media rounds. Yeah.
S10: At that time people said well you know this is a very bold and daring move. It was yeah but it was just like hey why wasn’t everybody else onboard with this it took people a while to realize maybe the extent and the depth of the depravity of you know Bill Cosby and everything that he had done and sort of like tried to gussy it up through this TV show sort of power wash his image through this show when everybody knew that that dude was had to say he was a serial rapist.
S3: You know that was a big moment big deal. Proud of her macaroni. You should stand up. That was big deal man. You’re a legend for real.
S6: Yeah she was great. And I also want to say that like I’m loving what we’re working on all the stuff that we’re doing it’s episodes really like this one that I think prove the value of going down a pretty already deeply explored Road which is Biggie and Tupac Shakur their relationship and the stories that spin off of them. But we continue to find more and more stories and more more avenues that branch off of their lives that are not just about music as such they get into kind of larger issues around black life and culture and issues around the Constitution and all these sorts of things that are much bigger much much bigger than just these two artists but also that touched their lives very deeply especially Tupac.
S2: So there was a slight slip burns all about right in this picture. OK so let’s listen to that interview with Camilla.
S11: Kiernan I am Brooklyn born and raised.
S12: I care about the culture and I recognize that black art and expression is at the epicenter of American culture. And I was a real proud participant in my early career in shaping that by way of hip hop.
S9: You’ve seen hip hop go through a lot of changes and a lot of ways you watched it go through a lot of it’s maturing from seeing hip hop artists rappers show up at your high school just kicking it and now we’ve got hip hop millionaires. What does it say about where rap was at this point in the early and mid 90s that you’ve got this kind of rap music in the crosshairs of not just people like not just see Delores Tucker but other all kinds of politicians and political activists who are really coming for rap music and focusing in on it to push it to change. What does it say about where rap music was at this point.
S12: Well I it was beyond that. It was that when I met puffy who was driving a Volkswagen and then he wasn’t. So we saw the power of hip hop. We understood in a very real way that it was on Jack and we were at the center of it. You know what I mean when I say we I don’t mean hip hop journalist per say.
S13: I mean hip hop culture was a driving American force and we didn’t need anyone to tell us that you could understand the influence was so crystal clear. You need to have congressional hearings because we are the center of the war. Like it felt like that. And again this is the time where hip hop is really becoming an export. So you have people all around the globe. You know I’m best D with Q2 and a tribe called quest in the middle of the Tribe Called Quest years and I’m like Oh my God.
S14: He’s German he’s Japanese.
S12: He’s like the fans the people coming out of the woodwork with all the love like the undying love and know that the music was good. And so we felt arrogant in a way like about being at the center of the universe and no doubt that we were no doubt that this was on its way to becoming like I said just ubiquitous with American culture like hip hop is the way news anchors talk you know. I mean like everyone has been touched by hip hop whether they recognize it or not. And so being journalist it was our job to notice it. But you didn’t even have to be a journalist to notice it if you were in particular places at that point in time. New York City in namely you it would be impossible not to recognize how important we were to everything and everyone and how much money was about to be at play.
S10: So what was sort of like your first exposure to so-called gangsta rap and what did you think of it when you first heard it. Like I guess maybe that could be NWA that could be the chronic whatever.
S12: So gangster rap people who were really architects of the culture in the early 90s and before that time were not so self conscious and self aware people weren’t calling what they did a thing gangsta rap as we know it as gangsta rap was something that was put on the culture.
S15: It wasn’t a self-titled it was something that people who didn’t understand the cross-section of largely West Coast culture largely hood culture. And then clearly hip hop culture they didn’t understand those intersections. And this was the best they could this was as inventive as they could be was to call it gangsta rap. You know I even I s see the laws talk about that as I remember challenging her to define it for me I said because there were times that I’m not sure what the hell we’re even talking about when we say gangsta rap what do we mean. Because particularly then it seemed like everybody was talking about a different thing gangsta rappers themselves weren’t calling themselves gangsta rappers. So everyone else is titling is brandishing this as gangsta rap. It’s many years later when gangsta rap owns that title and then people are kind of playing to a genre. But before that they’re just doing hip hop from where they are. And so my early exposure I would say Houston like you know everything coming out of Texas is like there. So there was more to gangsta rap than even L.A. gangs as we knew them you know. And as what would happen later on when you have the chronic and albums like that that are clearly like national moments they were localized moments that were being called Gangsta rap by people who didn’t understand how the violence was being celebrated. Kind of romanticized in a way. And then gang culture dovetailed with that.
S16: And again hip hop is clearly this subversive outsider of people of color culture and everybody outside of that has to pass it apart try to understand it try to sell it try to report on it but meanwhile no one knows anything.
S15: And so in getting it wrong gangsta rap has its inception. It begins to be called Gangsta Rap. And eventually we all kind of follow suit. But in my recollection that was not the beginning. And you know even in New York we had the G raps we had like we had gangsta shit.
S12: No one called it gangsta rap until way later in hindsight.
S10: Well I can’t imagine that there a newsroom with you and dream hampton in there and there wasn’t like a serious critique of like you know we’d see the laws talk I would later try to frame her critique of the genre which was around misogyny violence against women or was that sort of discussion going on.
S17: Yeah actively is how I was. Some years later go on to create Honey Magazine with my girlfriend from Hampton. It’s in reaction to women clearly needing space in this culture because if we leave it up to y’all is not gonna be right and that’s what we were trying to do by way of our presence at the source like vying for space vying for accuracy telling women stories from a woman’s perspective challenging the misogyny the blatant rampant misogyny that see the laws. Tucker was also trying to challenge there was some fundamental differences between the see the law as Tucker’s of that era and myself and the dream Hamptons of that era. You know in 25 years of reflection I can see more in common with C. Delores Tucker than I did then but also that time in hip hop demanded cultural protectors as well because not only was larger mainstream culture completely outside of what it meant to be like a hip hop kid trying to make your way in big ole America.
S15: So were middle class middle aged black people everyone was anti hip. There had been these crossover successes that we know the will Smiths of the world today are the Wilsons of the world today but back then it was really hard for us to impress upon our parents and our grandparents that this voice this expression is really critically important.
S13: You have to get over yourself like all the pearl clutching that’s happening is in the way of actual progress. And if you want to defend black women in hip hop you can’t dismiss the genre wholesale you know or come in and say things like well the nation of Islam they don’t drink in cars they can sing as good as anybody like those were the kinds of things that C. Dolores Tucker was especially to my 23 year old self.
S15: We’re just like beyond offensive. I couldn’t make space for it even though I understood clearly then that the critique of the misogyny was important and necessary.
S12: I just felt that you needed to be inside of the culture to be an effective advocate in that way and that if you were outside of the culture advocating for I guess what we could call you know women’s liberation within hip hop culture early hip hop culture. You needed to have some baseline respect and I can honestly say that those early critics did not first well they didn’t think we’d be talking about hip hop 25 years later. They just didn’t believe in the form. They didn’t deign to understand who the young people were who were making this art form. Who were saying what you want to hear and what you didn’t want here. They just were kind of wholesale dismissive and that was offensive to me and folks like me at the time. You know it’s a tenant that I hold to this day now that I am older I do not believe in wholesale discounting youth culture. You must listen. You must come at things with a baseline respect for what is being said. You have to ask deeper questions. And again whenever you’re pointing fingers at black and brown poor kids for the problem I’m going to challenge you. Somebody is going to need to challenge you. Yes we are part of problems. But for the most part we can look at causation and we can look at larger societal structures and understand that a lot of time young people are reacting to something. Right. And so that’s what was missing from Tucker’s critique sorely missing it was completely steeped in black respectability politics and they had their place and they had their time and where Tucker was entering in my opinion back then was extending the perceived power of respectability past its prime. You had. Going to tell me that because this bra has on a sweatshirt that he’s awful not Ivy League educated or capable of being in a room with folks Ivy League educated and having a conversation. I mean that’s not even the best example but I’m just saying it was just there were stereotypes that were being put upon us by larger culture. So it hurt even more when it was put upon us by our parents. We were all in defense mode. We were defending a culture for the women it was particularly hard because we knew damn well that the misogyny was real and unacceptable and dangerous and hurtful. All of that was real.
S18: Did you want to see the laws talk a story or was it a sign to. Do you remember.
S12: I wanted that story again. Again I wanted to talk to black women. And she was a newsmaker at the time. And I also felt you know being black and understanding black respectability and where it matters. You know I had a certain as I do for all black elders.
S17: I had a certain reverence and respect for her that I was hoping would be returned in kind not just to me but to the culture. And I felt that it would take somebody who had my sensibility to even break through to her. And so I will remember just kind of consciously wanting to be in conversation with her and see where her mind really was.
S14: And she seemed a little kooky to me. I just felt like it was gonna make for great conversation and I wanted to get in her head.
S17: It was it was a Yeah. Like as a young journalist that’s definitely a decision that I made that I’m proud of making.
S18: Can you tell me about what it was like meeting her because Rob read the story so you said there was opera playing in our office. Yeah. And there was a picture of her with Martin Luther King which you know what I thought. I thought she talked about Martin with Dr. Martin Luther King and I just thought like so many people say hey how much for Dr. Martin Luther King I mean at that time. Right. I realize really what it was.
S19: No she says civil rights leader. There’s no doubt about that.
S12: In fact I wasn’t clear on that prior to speaking I just kind of like the arrogance of youth. I didn’t fully understand her history. Slash didn’t care that much particularly then. And that’s an important note because I think I was representative of an entire generation that had kind of been force fed very vacuous hollow sketches of what the civil rights movement even was and its relationship to today meaning back then and how Martin Luther King changed more than what we understood. You know what I mean. So like the packaged Martin Luther King and the package civil rights movement and the sanitized version of things. Hip hop was kind of rejecting the whole idea of things being neat and clean and perfectly packaged like we were this rub towards. That’s what it was about. And even though I had come out of Hampton University and I think that’s where I grew a distaste for like the growing bourgeois class it just turned me off. And again being a New Yorker and being a little bit more sophisticated in terms of cultures that I’d seen and ethnicities and just you know I wasn’t just from a place that had only seen black people and white people. So I had a distaste for everything especially then at that time in my life that felt like it was just old school bourgeois like George Bush Senior was my Hampton University keynote speaker at graduation. It was just devastating. But that was acceptable and that’s where black America was. It was like choose that if you want to win if you want to lose. Be with the rappers and the poor black people you know and so I made a choice who I was going to be. So that kind of led me to a certain ignorance I’d say just about the complexity and just the level of effort that civil rights architects really endured and laid forth as a path for all of anyone who has a revolutionary spirit and wants to actually change structures. But C. Delores Tucker was out of touch grossly terribly so. And when I say the kooky thing I don’t. There’s no way for that to not sound disrespectful. I just also happen to mean it. You know even now in hindsight like there were tangents that she followed and just ways in which she even deviated from her own I’m super buttoned up. I think it was Dyson back then who makes the point that like black bourgeois America at that time as matter hip hop because they’re really showing what the other’s group is doing to it like it was almost as if hip hop culture was just exposing the ills and the pathologies of what the black middle class was hiding. In a lot of respects I mean maybe this isn’t even the best example but like let’s just look at Cosby. The central piece for black respectability is in the 1980s. And now let’s really look at Cosby. You know what I’m saying. And so you had to be super sophisticated to understand that what you didn’t have to be super sophisticated to feel like you could sense it. You understood that there was just this gross kind of dismissal from everyone who was buttoned up in church going and had their black college degrees and you know just didn’t want to be associated.
S14: It’s like how do you not want to be associated with the black youth of America. Like how do you want to disassociate yourself from that and how do you have a critique of that that isn’t rooted in you know something that feels more loving. Maxine Waters was the only grown ass black woman with a platform who had sense enough to say these are my babies some they’re not all the way right.
S13: And they’re not all the way wrong. You know but that was a voice that was few and far between. Right. You know there wasn’t any of that. And see the lawyers took it to me was just the embodiment of the hate of that kind of disrespect from larger culture. Even though the great irony is that here is a black woman fighting on behalf of black women but she’s also somebody who uses Melba Moore and Dionne Warwick as the black youth that she is fighting for. I’m like that’s how far off you are that you think that Dionne Warwick and Melba Moore who brought this to your attention are the people you are defending.
S12: You know it’s just like it was a mistake on our part. I wish that there had been more opportunity for deeper richer dialogue. But again in personal conversation with her she’s someone I experienced up close just as close as we’re sitting and I can tell by the affects around her and I could tell by her personal effect that she was just dis interested.
S19: She very much posture. She was kind to me but she was you know like patting me on my head. She called you baby sweetheart. Yes. And I don’t give every older black woman that pass just cause that’s how that works. You know what I mean. And I might call somebody baby as we are. But I’m also going to try to respect their path and where they’re coming to the table from and also what they are bringing. She did none of that.
S3: I want to kind of drill down on the cookie a little bit. But so like you walk into her office what is it like.
S12: Do you remember it felt like a government building. And I remember again until I got into her personal space that they were just no effects that felt like you were in a national center of black women at all. But she did have things in her office that I think that said something about like a Rosa Parks bus or something she she definitely was a black woman of the civil rights era. And those were the icons around her. But again I was so centered in my urban. Ness and I mean that being from a metropolitan area. And I think I was so sensitized to what I felt she was desensitised to that it just fell off putting like I wanted the whole world to be what the source was in a way. I wanted every one to be able to wear sneakers to work. And again I’m young and don’t have much professional exposure outside of the source.
S15: And then don’t have a lot of folks to even challenge and critique me within the walls of the source. And that’s all of us because of the experimental nature and the fact that we were all so young and there was no precedent.
S16: But I just I don’t know I felt that going into her space was like going back in time and not in a good way.
S15: It was entirely too sanitized like today it’s a pearl clutching the whole building was clutching you know like everybody was just couldn’t Oh my God I have never. Oh no and we’d never and I’ve never reading the piece. It just seemed like it was really intense. It was very intense.
S14: OK but I was determined again because I had the skills to deal with booze. I did just come out of Hampton. I do have black parents who want me to be respectable.
S12: I felt like I was built for it. You know and so that’s early me kind of assessing my own chops and what I can do in the rooms I can be in and who I can hold court with.
S19: But she wasn’t super friendly mostly because she was in fight mode you know. And she didn’t know where I was really coming from and I was walking the line I was baiting her because I disagreed. And when I challenged her once a what is gangsta rap like that was a moment where she was like you know exactly what it is. It was very kind of maternal paternal.
S15: That the conversation felt finger wagging. I mean I’m pretty sure she whacked her finger at me a few times yes. But I also fully expected that. So that wasn’t outside that then blow me away. That just kind of was what it was and it was like I know this woman you know what I mean. Been black my whole life I know her. Good.
S12: But she didn’t know me and that was the problem.
S18: Still to this day I feel I was going to ask you if she was thoughtful but I just kind of want to go over one thing that she said that someone was building concentration camps for black kids in New Orleans. So that’s what I meant about the kooky thing and I don’t know.
S12: Like I just was she talking about something real. A lot of the conversation in retrospect was kind of like wild like far fetched. That’s something real. Let’s put that on the table. Let’s talk about what’s happening. Don’t just bring that up in a random kind of that’s your argument. You know and I just remember bits and pieces of that. She just didn’t strike me as someone who was an intellectual by any stretch. She seemed completely like a reactionary populist kind of girl who was looking for a moment.
S3: And this was the way to one at this point that you interviewed her was this after like all of her protests. Like I’m just trying to get a sense for like yeah we’re better on your on your right.
S12: Yes. Yes. The protests had begun. You know the Tipper Gore moment had happened right before that and she was taking cues from that moment with 2 Live Crew and Tipper Gore and there was a lot around censorship. Remember hip hop itself is pushing its way through larger culture and there’s a lot of resistance. So people were open to censorship like that was an actual thing that people fought for. You know the dangers of censorship and yet this was like fully on the table as a way to address hip hop. Shut it down. You know. So yes she she was in motion and that movement was in motion. Now later you would see a more evolved version of this movie perhaps you could say she was an architect in a sense in that organizing against misogyny because when it did become fueled by women of hip and even you know Essence magazine in the early 2000s Take Back the Music with McKayla Angela Davis and just another group of women taking this on with a far deeper understanding and respect for the culture itself and for the culture creators. So it has a different tenor at that point but you know perhaps it’s only fair to give Tucker her due in the sense that she put the organizing on the table and centered that.
S3: So you published the piece what sort of response did you get in general and did you ever hear back from her.
S14: I don’t think I heard back from her.
S12: I want to say I heard back from her team that young woman Von Von I would say that yeah I was more nervous about their response than what it actually was.
S19: So you know it was not completely imbalanced. The piece you know I try to own the fact that we actually felt the same about certain things.
S17: It’s just the place that we were coming from was so vastly different. I remember being nervous and it just kind of dying down like a going away.
S9: You mentioned before that you don’t wholesale disagree with where C. Dolores Tucker was coming from. So how did hip hop from the inside especially journalists and artists and producers and everyone else in the hit inside the hip hop community how did folks like yourself try to address some of these issues that Tucker was trying to take on.
S20: Well first of all is still a problem. It still hasn’t been fully addressed nor fixed. But one of the things that I felt Tucker didn’t really recognize or respect. I’ll give you an example. You know how today when there’s a conversation about gun violence a lot of mainstream critique of black America will be.
S19: Well how come you don’t talk about black on black violence you only want to talk about gun violence when it’s outside of the community. That’s actually not true.
S12: There are people whose entire lives are dedicated to fighting the good fight from the inside. And that’s exactly what it was in hip hop. We had been having panels beefs discussions conferences. There was no part of the misogyny that was happening in hip hop that went unaddressed. It was always addressed it was addressed in the music it was addressed in editorials. It was addressed in articles it was addressed. And like I said on panels it was addressed in private. It was addressed in relationships. It was addressed you know we were always conscious of it and we always struggled with it. We just understood that it wasn’t a simple thing to unpack. It was a very complex thing. The idea of male supremacy and how it plays out in culture is real. From the church to the studio and so the fact that young men who comprised a hip hop culture at that time were subject to that same kind of thinking. Was no surprise you know. And the fact that there were some conscious people who fought against it and many conscious people who just nodded their heads to it impart to it is also no surprise. So we didn’t really invent anything. We were doing what we needed to do when mainstream media got a hold of the again like the tactics and the stunts that the C. Delores Tuckers were kind of pulling for attention which you know you do stunts for attention. But in my opinion again just it was so off base.
S18: It’s not a surprise that you ended up with from C. Delores Tucker to doing the Cosby cover. Oh here you go. I’m just saying that is that surprising you.
S12: If you look back you know I’ve said it does make sense Cosby is not much unlike Tucker I guess you’re right that there’s a parallel there in some respect. Again back to this idea that it’s funny because we have language today like the respectability politics like that.
S16: But we didn’t have that language then and now these ideas have been thought about by people far smarter than myself and have been added to you know we like.
S15: That was a sensation I had. Now there’s a tom. You know what I’m saying. So I knew some and I felt that when I was a 17 year old on the campus of hand and I was like your me groans off fronting you know as much as there was the black pride and as much as there was the black history and all the good stuff.
S19: There was also like how come nobody’s gonna say dishes things because it stinks here’s George Bush at our graduation. That’s OK. Is it. You know so they always have to be some people that are willing to say what needs to be said and my career has kind of giving me that opportunity to the audience that I care most about.
S17: You know like there’s a way to say this to a larger audience to and kind of miss your flight but particularly for me then it matter to speak to people whose language I spoke and who spoke mind. Same thing with Cosby and Ebony.
S12: And I mean they’re still just as they are people who critique the take on Tucker. There’s far more people who critique the take on Cosby black people critique to take on Cosby. And that’s OK.
S11: It’s OK. I’m so glad you came. Thank you.