Tagged: Shunda K


I’m planning on posting a SXSW preview this Friday of all the acts and showcases I’m excited to see. One recentish staple is GayBiGayGay (established in 2005), which helps close the festival on Sunday. I’ve actually never been before because I’m usually wiped by then, relying on friends and media outlets to give me the scoop. But I’ll drop some Emergen-C and watch the new Shunda K. video a million times if that’s what it takes to get myself off the couch. Here are some folks who’ve been on the bill in the past to get you (and me!) ready, willing, and able.

New music videos from Gossip and Peaches

I welcome any readings of The Wizard of Oz in the new Peaches music video, but do I really need to preface these? They’re awesome and brightly-colored and feature some of my favorite grrrls. Watch ‘em if you haven’t already.

“Pop Goes the World”
Music For Men
Directed by Philip Andelman

Peaches featuring Shunda K.
I Feel Cream
Directed by Cody Critcheloe

Lilith Fair 2k10

Ya’ll, the Lilith Fair is getting a reboot this summer. I missed the festival during its original run in the late-90s. Honestly, I wasn’t too invested in it. I was happy that founder Sarah McLachlan was putting it together, but the majority of the bill offerings were pretty nice white lady adult contemporary at the time.

But co-founder Terry McBride has resurrected the festival and it’s coming to Austin some time next summer. I gotta say that this summer’s roster looks good: Loretta Lynn, Mary J. Blige, Erykah Badu, Cat Power, Gossip, Metric, Norah Jones, Jill Scott, Beth Orton, Emmylou Harris, Janelle Monáe, Teagan and Sara, Corrine Bailey Ray, fuckin’ Heart. Of course, we’ve still got plenty of nice white lady music, but it seems as if there was some effort to mix up the genres a little bit so it isn’t only about ladies strumming acoustic guitars (ex: Mary fuckin’ J!). On that tack, I’m pretty uninterested in Sheryl Crow, Miranda Lambert, Sara Bareilles, and Colbie Caillat’s involvement, but I understand that the festival’s gotta draw in some big MOR names. That said, I like that there’s some rad queer ladies and women of color on the bill. 

As I don’t think the bill is 100% finalized, I’m hoping Thao and the Get Down Stay Down gets a spot on the bill. I’d also support additions like Jean Grae, Bat for Lashes, Neko Case, Marnie Stern, Shunda K, and Ponytail. I think it’d be cool if a stage was set up for local acts so folks like Follow That Bird, Yellow Fever, and Schmillion could get some more exposure — or even cooler if said bands formed their own counterfestival. Oooh, and if only they could get Sleater-Kinney to reunite. Can’t wait to see how this shapes up. For more up-to-date information, keep an eye on the festival’s Web site.

My thoughts on T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting’s “Pimps Up, Ho’s Down”

Cover to "Pimps Up, Ho's Down: Hip Hop's Hold on Young Black Women" (NYU Press, 2007); image courtesy of hiphoplives.org

I recently read T. Denean Sharpley-Whiting’s Pimps Up, Ho’s Down: Hip Hop’s Hold on Young Black Women, a book on women and hip hop. Overall, I found it useful and engaging. Until recently, scholarly analysis of hip hop’s gender politics (at least in the books I read) were often relegated to a chapter or two or a section of an anthology. To have an entire book on the subject is welcomed by me.

Engaging and accessible, Pimps Up, Ho’s Down weaves in interviews from both printed publications and field research, as well as the author’s own personal experiences with hip hop. It offers astute observations about well-reported news items like the student protests at Spelman College over Nelly’s degrading “Tip Drill” music video. It also covers less-discussed cultural developments, particularly the rise of African American men participating in sex tourism in places like Brazil, and how music videos like Snoop Dogg’s “Beautiful” may have contributed to the country’s sexual allure for many straight men in hip hop.  

I’d recommend Sharpley-Whiting’s book to anyone looking for an feminist entrance into hip hop scholarship. I hope it’s on some syllabi for the Feminist Hip Hop Studies courses that I hope exist in our universities. I also hope it’s getting into the hands of our tween and teenage music geek girls. I’ll make sure to assign it when I get the chance to teach classes.

I also look forward to continued reading on the subject. I’ve got Tricia Rose‘s Longing To Tell: Black Women’s Stories of Sexuality and Intimacy and the Gwendolyn D. Pough-edited anthology Home Girls Make Some Noise on the slate. If you’re just getting started, I’d also recommend Joan Morgan’s When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip Hop Feminist Breaks It Down.

Cover to "When Chickenheads Come Home to Roost: A Hip-Hop Feminist Breaks It Down" (Simon & Schuster, 2000); image courtesy of hiphoparchive.org

That said, I had a few qualms with the book.

1. Sharpley-Whiting’s gets so close to talking about girls, but she never really considers any listeners or cultural producers who aren’t at least college-aged. I would have valued the insights from younger women, as girls listen to hip hop and girls of color are often ignored when scholars construct or consider girlhood. For further inquiry into work on black girlhood, I’d happily refer you to Ann Ducille’s work on black Barbies and Kyra D. Gaunt’s book The Games Black Girls Play: Learning the Ropes From Double-Dutch to Hip-Hop. I’d also offer up Jennifer Fuller’s essay on Flavor Of Love, wherein she considers season three’s twin contestants Thing 1 and Thing 2 as rare instances of black girlishness on television. If you have any suggestions, please share in the comments section.

2. I would have appreciated if Sharpley-Whiting had broadened her scope to include more opinions offered from female rappers, as well as dancers, graffiti artists, producers, deejays, on-air personalities, journalists, and other women in the game. I would’ve especially welcomed recollections from both mainstream and independent talent, as both sides of the game are dominated by men.

Jean Grae is one of my favorite MCs, and the fact that someone as talented as she is has struggled to stay on an independent label proves to me that we have work to do; image courtesy of djtimbuck2.com

Oh, and if we could get some queer women like Shunda K and Jwl B, formerly of Yo! Majesty, in on the conversation, so much the better.

Make some noise for Shunda K!; image courtesy of wikimedia.org

As such, she mainly talks to and about participants of the adult entertainment industry, particularly exotic dancers. She also focuses on female rappers like Trina and video star and rap groupie Karrine Steffans, who worked as strippers.

Trina; image courtesy of 24hourhiphop.com

Cover to Karrine Steffans' memoir "Confessions of a Video Vixen" (Amistad, 2005) which I fully intend to read in the not-too-distant future; playahata.com

Admittedly, Sharpley-Whiting offers up an interesting and valid point that the strip club has become an eminent cultural space for hip hop, both as a barometer for a single’s success and as a site for industrial networking. She also points out that scholarship and biographies on women of color in the adult entertainment are lacking, either from management or talent. Ihe majority of published work on the subject has been written by white women.

But she doesn’t (or perhaps wasn’t given access) to look elsewhere, which I think potentially skews her findings. Admittedly, there is a clear power imbalance along gender lines in hip hop, complicated further by issues of race, class, sexuality, and age. But some ambiguities are missing here and would be greatly appreciated.