By Lauren Vincent

Nelly (MCT)

I remember when it started: on a bus full of middle school girls, on a camp field trip to Canobie Lake Park. The song “Hot in Herre” by Nelly played two or three times on the radio on the trip there, and a chorus of preteen girls sang “I am gettin too hot, I wanna take my clothes off.” I was one of those girls, and I realized then that I loved to listen to rap.

Why? It made me feel cool, I guess. It made me feel like I was older, wiser, sexier than my awkward seventh grade self. Not to mention listening to it in the car and hearing my parents’ disgust with it was satisfaction enough to my budding individuality. I just liked it; that was all.

I got “The Eminem Show” on CD soon after that. My mom wouldn’t let me get the uncensored version with the oh-so-awesome Parental Advisory sticker, but best friend’s did, so I got the full brunt of it every time I went to her house. And it was great. We’d lie on her bed and listen to him spit rhymes about hating his mom, wanting to kill his wife/ex-wife/fiancée, and growing up in the slums of Detroit. We pretended that we could relate.

I developed the same admiration for Marshall Mathers as many females do. Could I explain it? Not really. Can I explain it now? Not really. I guess it was just hardcore and rebellious, and I was an adolescent. I remember I had an argument with my English teacher in seventh grade about him. She said she couldn’t understand how I could say I loved someone who hated women so much, and I’m pretty sure my reply was something along the lines of, “No, he just hates Kim.” (I don’t know if I knew then about the song “Kim,” where he raps about brutally murdering his wife, but I really hope not, since I was 12.)

I continued to love Eminem for years and never felt so harshly offended by his lyrics as to stop. I defended it by saying, “Oh, Eminem just hates everyone, not just women.” I don’t know why that was justification for admiring someone, as I normally don’t find such a quality attractive in a person. And I still occasionally listen to him. I admire a lot of songs of his, because of their emotion. But I find it disturbing that so many people connect with his violent and sexist lyrics and that apparently I did in seventh grade.

Last year, I went to the Ludacris concert. I listened to him sing the song “You’z a Ho” which was followed by the song “Hey Ho,” which asks, “If men sleep around we some players, but for women they be saying hey ho.” I quietly pointed out that he should ask himself that very question, but I still enjoyed the rest of the songs and ignored the entire chorus from that one song.

Hip-hop culture fascinates me because its stories are an examination of society’s biggest problems, but it rarely offers solutions, and it glorifies violence and misogyny as a result. I enjoy the beat of the songs, but I also enjoy the rawness of the lyrics. It’s all engrained on my musical tastes, and that makes me a part of the problem. I’m still listening to Eminem, though many of his songs leave a sour taste in my mouth when I think about the lyrics.

I am in an unhealthy relationship with hip-hop. I am dependent on it, and effectively in love with it, while it hinders the progress and the changes I want to see. What am I to do?

Will I ever stop listening to it? I hope so. But then what happens? I throw out all those old CDs, delete the songs from my iTunes, but what difference does it make? Not enough.

There will still be girls out there listening to it and thinking the best thing they can do is take their clothes off. There will still be boys thinking the solution to problematic situations is to engage in domestic violence. .

I think we need to examine why some of us as women fight so hard to be heard and then put headphones on and listen to music that’s effectively telling us to shut up. I wish I could voice my concern without sounding like a hypocrite. I’m trying to break out of this hold hip-hop has on me. I’ll let you know how it goes.

Lauren Vincent is a Collegian columnist. She can be reached at [email protected].