“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.

25 thoughts on “The Ghost Of Nelly’s Tip Drill

  1. Nelly is playing dumb and acting stupid. He knows what issue is, he just doesn’t want to take responsibility. He’s basically saying, shut up hoe and give me that bone marrow.

    1. Ha! I can’t Trey. Lol. Perhaps he is playing dumb but he sure fooled me. Nelly would have been better off, just admitting that the students had a point. He could have changed the game but he choose to back away.

      1. They had a point, this is true. However, the point could have waited until after the bone marrow drive was over. I don’t care if they went on to have their own drive or not. It was inappropriate for that occasion in my opinion. And while I can’t stand see our black women twerking around in these videos. (And I know people keep bringing this up,) but I still can’t get passed the point that these women are making a choice to get half naked and dance. They’re getting up going to the auditions or to the set, changing into the costumes (if you wanna call them that) and doing whatever the director says. They could’ve backed out after seeing what the video was about if they want to, but they didn’t, they continued on….. I’m sorry its one thing if some guy abducts you and forces you into prostitution/ sex trafficking/stripping . Its another thing if you get up, take a shower , get dressed, eat breakfast and head on down to a video set to get half naked and dance, twirl , lap dance, twerk, drop it like its hot , be objectified and who knows what else…

    2. Not at all rapper’s all do that and he never degraded us the producer is to blame if yall wanna throw blame and also he is a man and all he did was allow them to show off there bodies start talking about the way these kids dress and fuck instead of worrying about videos worry about being good parents and hoping your child don’t become fast

  2. Those girls at Spellman are full of it. Some of them strip at the local clubs here in Atlanta but then want to act holier than thou.

    1. This comment just shows the exact issue: one womans’ actions DOES NOT represent the whole. Yes, there are students paying their tuition by stripping, but every Spellman student /Black woman DOES NOT have the same lifestyle.

  3. Nelly addressed the issue recently. He said having the conversation wasn’t the problem. It was just the timing. He was focused on trying to save his sisters life, And Spellmans issues with his video wasn’t bigger than the life of a human being. He also went on to say that most of those women are mostly likely not even protesting those same issues today, but his sister is for sure no longer with us. There’s of course no guarantee a match would have been found that day….But the timing of the protest may have driven away potential donors (We’ll never know). Something else he also pointed out, is that there about 3 strip clubs within walking distance of Spellman. No talk of protest of that (his words not mine…but a valid point). Here’s the link if interested

  4. I personally think it was just completely unprofessional of the students. That wasn’t the issue. The issue could have waited. Saving lives from disease is a much bigger issue. They could have talked about that at any time. Considering, Nelly isn’t the first rapper ever to have an uncut music video, nor the last, thus could have been brought up with any rapper at any time. Nobody came against Jay-Z for “Big Pimpin'”. Those girls saw an opportunity to put somebody on the spot and bring attention to their group. EL_P is absolutely correct. LOTS of those girls strip and do other things to objectify themselves. Sadly, most of our black women objectify themselves when they’re shaking their ass in front of hundreds of guys at many of our local clubs. But, back to being a student on Monday who wants to be respected. I’m not saying Nelly is free from fault. But, he’s just doing his job. It wasn’t just men that liked the song. I applaud their dedication to the cause. But, condemn their lack of professionalism. They took something that was for a better cause and made it about their cause. I guarantee that their marrow drive would have been at least 10 times more successful. But, they didn’t care.

  5. I’m not going to give my sisters a pass on this. There are plenty of momas, sisters, and aunts that have introduced our your girls to “the game”. there are plenty of female “pimps” in the game and they are right in these girls communities encouraging them to “get with” so and so because he’s on the come-up and “girl if you want shoes, a bag, jewelry and some money, you better give him some”. That has been going on in our communities for years. So we need to address the entire issue of the entire community NOT uplifting our girls and telling them it’s NOT ok to be in the tip drill video, or the neighborhood orgy, or the the neighborhood “superhead”.

  6. Women and girls are exploited worldwide, and blaming the victims makes less sense the more you do it. No matter how we got into the game, hating the game WAS and still is this issue. It was never about being in opposition to Nelly, much less about impeding his sister’s recovery. He sacrificed that opportunity for his own career. And given that the students went ahead and did the bone marrow drive anyway, who has the real integrity?

    As for the sisters that blame Black women for our own oppression, claim we’re all strippers on the side and misspell the name of our institution, please come to Spelman and learn something.

  7. Why must we always wait for justice especially within our own community . Yes bone marrow donation is an issue but exploitation of black women is also a major issue. How dare other black people and professionals tell the Spellman’s students to wait they are responding are identical to what the white clergy told Marin Luther King.

    1. NO. it’s not the same as what the so-called white clergy told Martin Luther. The Spellman students were just being idiotic self-righteous “feminist”. NO good can come from that. The focus should have been his sister. What they did is no better than his video that they are protesting, in fact it was WORST. They simply showed that they would kill another female if it meant having their way. counterproductive!!! It seems colleges and universities sap the sense from most blacks.

  8. This issue is and always has been way bigger than Nelly’s video. To many girls were being raped at home way before Nelly ever thought about rapping. Also you mothers and grandmothers who have been selling there little girls for centuries, this a global problem not just a black one. We have to learn to love and respect all God’s children not just our own.

  9. All he had to do is face the music. They could have agreed to disagree. He would have made progress and gotten what he wanted, and maybe gained some respect from the people who disagreed with him. Being from the city next to University City, Mo, where he is from, I am disappointed in his actions.

  10. I love the open dialogue. I plan on sending this over to my cousin Cornell (because this is an issue very close to his heart, obviously).
    I’m just taking it all in because he didn’t make the first video and he definitely hasn’t made the last one. I have to admit that the article was well written, and well received on my end, by the same token it takes a community of us to raise a child and I think that that’s the truth because the same people who protest most definitely twerk and shake to the track. This is not about bone marrow, or the girls twerking in videos, but about our inability to break a hold of slave mentality. The mere fact that this article was raised 10 years later shows we are at least seriously trying and I applaud the effort. Let us begin to grow past this moment and self medicate and self educate it’s us as a family that needs to know what’s what. True.

    1. A_fromtheLoutoLA if he’s ur cousin tell cornell he’s a victim in a way because he didn’t make the girls be naked in the video!! It’s bad to see women that way but nobody put a gun to their heads to be in the video like that!! I find it hard that they attacked him as if he was the first artist to do that with black women

  11. Its not like they were forced I don’t get the point of saying Nelly is wrong in all this, they knew exactly what was gonna happen and they agreed

  12. I watched the interview that brought this back to light. The ladies at Spelmen were FLAT OUT WRONG!!! There is a time and a place to address certain issues, and that WAS NOT the time or place. We as Black Women are quick to blame others for any problems we encounter, instead of realizing WE ARE AS MUCH TO BLAME. If we stopped participating in these videos, stopped going to clubs dressed the way the women are in the videos, had more RESPECT FOR OURSELVES, then the men in the world would have no choice but to respect us. Yes there are those that have no respect for anyone, but that is a different topic and discussion. We have the power to change how people see us. And as long as we continue to willfully and willingly participate in this objectification peopel will continue to do the same.

  13. 1. Nelly fell off. He did, if you’re just figuring that out (some of you commentators) I’m sorry to break the bad news. Nelly’s celebrity then can not be compared to what he is now. What does he do now? Really? Host parties at clubs, talk about his up-coming album that is still yet to hit the music waves? No. Nelly has fallen off the cliff, tossed and mingled in a salad of weeds and bushes and is currently laying in the ICU unit.

    2. Nelly did not play dumb. The saddest part of it is that, misogyny is so deeply ingrained that the depreciation for black women’s bodies is almost a normal frame of mind for some men. Nelly had two choices (lucky he even had a choice) to make a great PR move by educating his thought process and sitting in that open discussion, or to walk away. I understand he might have felt attacked, because tip drill was really one voice in the chorus of hip-hop videos in that era however he was given a chance to address a video that he showcased himself and his talent in (an artist is not a child, they have some artistic license to direct, i would imagine he also wrote the lyrics — i was gonna insert some lyrics, but maybe they should be read instead because they’re uhhh a lot.) How can you ask a man to apologize for a crime he has not committed? In this case, crime is subjective. If Nelly could not see the harm in what he did (which we can all safely assume that he hasn’t) then why would he back down and hold an open-discussion to be interrogated by educated black women who feel insulted? The issue, starts in the mind. I’m glad Nelly has addressed the issue now, but this a problem that we still and will continue to see in the media.

  14. I agree w/ mercifulluv, Jey and Calvin and the rest of you who said that it could’ve waited. That was an inappropriate time for a conversation, let alone a debate, when a life is at stake. One life is just as important as another, but to interrupt a brother in his attempt to save the life of his sister is opportunistic, sadly, sadistically, and selfishly opportunistic. Couldn’t it have waited?

    1. I totally agree with you. Those students/organizers lacked feeling and sensibility. His sister was on her death bed. The models in the video were willing participants “although his message was wrong”; this should NOT have been pooled with his campaign for help. That was very evil and sadistic of the Spellman students, they had proven to be more misogynistic and more backwards than Nelly. His ART was misguided, their possible intentional harm to a LIFE was more brutal.

  15. I think that those spelman students had no right judging Nelly it isn’t his fault those women in the music video of tip drill are grown women who chose to participate in it so how is this an issue Nelly wanted to do a bone marrow drive to help save his sister and hope that a few donors would sign up and see if they were a match it really breaks my heart that he had to sacrifice alot for this cause and try to do everything he could to his sis Jackie but those spelman students took it all away there is a time and place to talk about an issue this was the wrong time to do it they were completely out of line it is their fault that his sis isn’t here smh how could they Rob Nelly out of an opportunity to try to do something good for his sister it makes no sense at all they should just leave him alone and stop attacking him dumb broads.


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