This recurring editorial series will focus on where hip-hop and social media connect, with thoughts on social media's role in the interactions between rappers and other members of the hip-hop community.
As social media become more ubiquitous than ever in our interpersonal networks, interactions between celebrities become fodder for our inner voyeuristic tendencies; from the live-tweeting of births to trivial jabs at peers, exchanges posted online manage to garner global audiences, sometimes bringing forth meaningful conversations about societal behaviors that otherwise would be left unspoken. The hip-hop community, because of its international domination in terms of social influence, is perhaps one of the most visible microcosms on the web; countless websites sustain themselves on the publication of he-said/she-said banter on twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. Schools of thoughts abound when discussing the intrinsic value of what appears to be superficial bravado at the hands of hip-hop personalities. There are those who argue conversations via social media distract us from more complex, meaningful discourse. Conversely, there are folks stridently vocalizing the ever-growing significance social media platforms have in our new digital-media environments, and that celebrities should be held to standards of scrutiny higher than those placed on private citizens.
Regardless of your position on the ideological spectrum, there is no denying the prevalence of online communication-related stories in your headlines. In this fall season alone, Cee Lo Green suffered opprobrium from various media outlets after tweeting disparaging remarks about victims of rape. Talib Kweli’s open letter to Lauryn Hill’s haters went viral thanks to its dissemination on the internet, making it a trending topic on twitter and Facebook. Killer Mike became a household name after his appearance on CNN admonishing the network’s handling of Ferguson coverage went viral thanks to YouTube. This past week, Snoop Dogg and Iggy Azalea were the focus of the social-media beef du jour, thanks to a photo Snoop posted which mocked Iggy’s race and gender. What ensued was a very public back-and-forth, with the respective artists’ followers choosing sides and demanding apologies. The kerfuffle has since subsided, but the exchange brings forth issues relating to race, gender, and accountability.
Let’s begin with the photo itself. Snoop Dogg posted the image on his Instagram account with the caption “Iggy Azalea No Makeup.” The photograph is of an Albino African-American woman, perhaps one of the most ridiculed and marginalized minority subsets in the world. Whether Snoop created the image-caption duo is unclear, but his decision to mock Iggy Azalea’s whiteness while also victimizing a fellow African American through the posting of the image speaks to social media’s ability to turn harmless joking into a potentially explosive act of disrespect. Iggy Azalea, a white female in a predominantly male, African-American industry is undoubtedly unsurprised at being made the central figure in a vast discussion about race and gender in rap music; however, she seemed to take great offense at Snoop’s post, and chose to air her grievances on her own social media, tweeting her feelings of confusion as to why he would post “such a mean pic to Insta.” The immediate discourse centered around the black male-white female dichotomy at play; the conversation was framed almost entirely as a Snoop-Iggy issue rather than the black-on-Albino issue.
What immediately followed her response to the initial attack was an expletive-ridden video posted by Snoop, one that brought gendered violence into the discussion. By threatening to “check her,” Snoop was resorting to male aggression as a tool to reinforce his superior strength. His continued prodding at her femininity and her race was carried out through the posting of an image alluding to Iggy’s physical similarities to the white-faced characters the Wayans brothers played in the film “White Chicks.” Fans of Snoop’s and Iggy’s alike were quick to remind her that it is all just a joke, and that the posts were not to be taken too seriously. Nevertheless, it was clear that her personal sensibilities had been irked, and with T.I.’s behind-the-scenes help, Snoop posted an apology video. However, in that apology, he still referred to Iggy as a “bitch,” reinforcing the misogynistic language so prevalent in the rap community.
So what’s the big deal? Countless disses are posted on social media on a daily basis, and most of us know they’re not to be taken seriously. That assumption diminishes the power of our words, and we should be insulted by the idea that we have become so immune to disrespect, that mindless scrolling should be the go-to reaction to every instance of racism, homophobia, misogyny, and abuse on the internet. Surely, none of us have the time to weed out every offensive occurrence on the web, and that’s not the course of action any informed person would call for. However, the Snoop-Iggy fiasco seemed to have eschewed entirely a meaningful discussion about why so many people cared about what was going on in the first place. Is it because she’s white? Many would argue that, of course, her whiteness makes her more valuable to corporate media, and that perhaps this back-and-forth on social media would not have achieved the same prominence in the media had Snoop made the joke about a light-skinned African-American woman, for example. Why was the issue framed so vociferously as an attack on Iggy Azalea rather than the use of an Albino African-American woman’s likeness as being harmful to the community that Snoop is so seemingly quick to defend at the hands of others? The same photo Snoop posted was posted by thousands of Instagram users, so why is his posting it so much “worse” than when one of us does it?
Both rappers will continue to be active on social media, so the issue moving forward is now one of accountability. There will be similar occurrences on any given day of the week which will undoubtedly bring forth similar questions of where to draw the line and the accountability of celebrities in the public sphere. As each instance propels us towards a greater discussion on the importance of social media, let’s remember that we’re all really here for the music.