“It mus be that a** cause it ain’t your face. I need a tip drill. I need a tip drill.”
Hip Hop artist Nelly has reignited a 10 year old firestorm about his notorious Tip Drill video. About ten years ago, Nelly was set to launch a bone marrow drive for his sister at Spelman College. But his plans were foiled when a group of Spelman students confronted him on the issues of misogyny and the hyper-sexualization of Black women in his music videos. They invited him to speak on the issue and have an open discussion about it. Nelly wasn’t having it. He pulled his funding from the bone marrow drive and it was a huge media fiasco. However, the Spelman students did host a bone marrow drive of their own.
It tarnished Nelly’s career and he hasn’t recovered since. His sister also lost her battle with Leukemia. Over the past few years, the dust has settled and Nelly has slowly reemerged in the spotlight. However, he recently appeared on the Huffpost Live show where he basically blamed the students of Spelman for the death of his sister.
He believes that they should have left the issue of his misogyny alone and just focused on bone marrow. I’m surprised ( I don’t know why) that after all this time Nelly still doesn’t get it. Those students weren’t attacking his bone marrow drive efforts, they wanted him to confront the public spectacle that he created off of Black women’s bodies. The same bodies that he was seeking bone marrow from. For some reason, he can’t see that yes this is connected. Should we only care about his sister and not the other millions of Black girls and women that are being objectified and hyper-sexualized?
Before you go there, let me say this. Yes, those are Black women in his videos that willingly consented to being objectified. They do not speak for all of us, yet unfortunately they are viewed as a representation of Black women. And the promotion of this objectification through both song and video, participates in upholding a wide spread normalization of the degradation of specifically Black women. The degradation is so normalized that more often than not, Black women and girls have a hard time getting support after being molested, raped, and forced into prostitution (sex slavery). This normalization says, “It’s okay because they’re made for this.” Consequently, Black women are often blamed for the sexual abuse that they endure.
Just take a look at this trailer for the documentary Very Young Girls.
It’s deeper than Nelly would like to think.
Nelly is refusing to acknowledge the ghost of his Tip Drill video and what it stood for because he doesn’t have to. Treating women like property and refusing to acknowledge the right of Black women to voice their concerns outside of supporting male centered thinking is the norm. More specifically, if Black women dare to speak up for the ill treatment of women and girls, we’re viewed as somehow betraying our community.
The truth is, Nelly (as he not so eloquently pointed out) is not the only one. We know through our lived experience that almost every mainstream rap song and music video is embedded with the domination of women mentality. It was here before Nelly and it’s thriving after his short reign at the top of hip hop charts. Nelly isn’t pressed to truly think about this issue because our lived reality continuously reinforces his sentiments.
That is why what the Spelman students did is so important. They took a stand on an issue that is harming our community. And they did it despite how unpopular their stance was. We often talk about a plethora of issues in the Black community. However, things will only change for the better if we run towards our fears and truly confront the internal roles that we play. What those students did was a step in the right direction and can serve as a guide for how future generations can confront these issues head-on. One day I hope Nelly realizes this.