In 2009, Jay-Z released D.O.A. (“Death of Auto-tune), a song in which
he takes certain hip-hop artists to task for diluting rap lyricism and
creativity. The mogul declared that he was “drawing a line in the sand”
after a trend of artists using auto-tune technology excessively
and without regard for organic musical production. While Jay-Z is rarely
celebrated as a voice for progressive hip-hop, he spoke a timely and
needed truth. And T-Pain’s career hasn’t been the same since.
The video aggregating site World Star Hip Hop could stand similar
brand damaging from hip-hop artists and community activists. With its
heavy use of physical violence and racial stereotypes, the
self-professed “CNN of the Ghetto” is one of the most culturally
damaging media platforms in existence today.
HuffPost Live host Marc Lamont Hill recently gathered a panel to
discuss the violence on the site. “During the 30-minute online panel
discussion ‘Do ‘Hood Sites’ Normalize Black Stereotypes,’ Professor
Brittney Cooper of Rutgers University, Professor Shayne Lee of the
University of Houston, television personality Amanda Seales, Chicago
rapper Rhymefest, and filmmaker Mandon Lovett discussed whether World
Star Hip Hop was irresponsibly profiting from Black-on-Black violence,” reports NewsOne.
The debate quickly reflected stark ideological differences along
gender lines. Cooper and Seales argued feminist perspectives on how it
is problematic for the site to glorify the pain, anger and bullying of
black women. In contrast, Rhymefest, Lee, and Lovett defended the site
as a necessary mirror to the urban violence in African American
Calling World Star Hip-Hop “a democratizing space,” Lee said he
doesn’t “understand this kind of maternalistic approach that when
something harms Black women, we have to worry.” Lee argued that the site
is not doing violence to people but instead reflecting the violence
that people are already doing to one another. Cooper rightfully pointed
out the violence that happens on psychological and emotional levels,
which is often equally (if not more) damaging.
When you couple the imagery in viral videos found on World Star Hip Hop like “Sharkeisha” with
what’s happening on reality television shows like the Housewives series
and Bad Girls Club, we must acknowledge that there is an entire media
industry that is profiting off of women-on-women and black-on-black
violence. To defend World Star Hip Hop is to defend the normalization of
violent stereotypes and exploitation of pain, anger and brokenness.
World Star Hip Hop and outlets like it are protected under freedom of
speech laws and have the right to exist in our cultural world, but it
is reckless to describe their content production as “truth-telling.”
Responsible truth-telling speaks truth to power; it says the unspeakable
in hopes that the truth would set someone or something free. That is
not the mission of this site; it is quite the opposite.
World Star Hip Hop is not in the business of truth-telling but rather
voyeurism of violence. To defend the site is to argue that there is
value in repeatedly watching violence done to others in hopes that our
zeal for justice would be ignited. At that point, we are no longer
passive spectators. We then become complicit in the violence and
destruction we seek to end.
Yes, the violence in our communities must end. But so does our support of corporations and mediums that profit off of it.