On Watoto From The Nile- Letter to Lil Wayne

3 Mar

This musical open letter to Lil’ Wayne is getting lots of love!

I want to join the chorus and give a big ol’ YAY to black girls creating media and saying what’s on their minds! Speaking back to Wayne’s misogyny is super important!

That said, I wonder about the limits of such a message.

Steve Harvey’s views on women are not progressive. He’s simply peddling a more respectable sort of black gender relations that still have women in the role of subservient sex goddesses but with a bit more modesty. To set him up as a positive alternative to Wayne misses his own belief in narrow gender roles for men and women. The song disparages Wayne for being single and seems to imply that ideally he should be married or that if he was acting right he would be. Erykah Badu is signaled as a “good” artist despite having worked with Wayne (and she’s single too; tweets is watchin’).

Wayne gets constructed as wholly negative and Lauryn Hill et. al as wholly positive. That good vs. evil split is a little too easy and doesn’t get at the complexity of the issues I have with Wayne’s music. For me it’s not so much the “calling women out their names” as it is his objectification of women that informs his word choice and the earlier trauma in his life that may impact his behavior.

When we are young and maybe a little influenced by our parents, we can go a little too hard in the virtuous/Queen/good black people paint. In speaking back to Wayne and other rappers with misogynistic lyrics we have to be careful we don’t end up creating a new box for women, that is just as limiting if a bit more respectful. The “Madonna” is just as limiting as the “whore”, even if she gets more props.

I ain’t mad at them though and I definitely am sending them love, particularly since they are getting such hateful comments on the video’s Youtube page.

The three black girls embracing each other who made the video giving peace signs to the camera

Congratulations, Watoto From The Nile, for rekindling a conversation that needs to be had!

28 Responses to “On Watoto From The Nile- Letter to Lil Wayne”

  1. Toni Blackman March 3, 2011 at 10:12 AM #

    Love the thought provoking commentary here as much as I love the video/song. Your post is making me ask questions I had not thought about. I wish your post could circulate with the video.

    • moyazb March 5, 2011 at 2:49 PM #

      Thanks Toni! I hope you are well!

  2. withoutscene March 3, 2011 at 12:37 PM #

    I thought some of the same when I saw the video/heard the song, esp. the comment about Steve Harvey. I think it is a good start and posts like this one will hopefully help people think a little deeper about how to hold people accountable while staying on point and not setting up new traps. Deep love for CFC.

  3. Stacy March 3, 2011 at 1:25 PM #

    I do appreciate your article that at the very least acknowledges the potential impact watoto of the nile will have on several different communities and at the most challenges people to dig deeper into the message they are trying to send. At their defense, they are children, 9 and 10 (I think) and the message they have sent is deep coming from people their age. I think they did an excellent job and, even if at that age, they are just scratching the surface, that’s phenomenol. They elude to an understanding of concepts and values that most adults don’t have. Kudos to their parents for instilling in them a value system that seems to be disappearing. So what if they haven’t worked it all out yet….I’m glad for them this is just the beginning…..and kudos to you for the article!

    • moyazb March 3, 2011 at 2:14 PM #

      Word Stacy. I’m not saying they need to have it all figured out, just asking those who can, to push the message a bit further.

      No defense necessary. I’m not trying to come for them just offer what their video brought up for me. They are people of this world like the rest of us with something to say! Yay!

      So powerful to see young black girls speaking back! Only love here!

      • Nuala March 4, 2011 at 4:35 PM #

        The Steve Harvey reference seemed off to me too. And I don’t understand what the single talk is about.. would love to hear them explain that.

        Sis, your ability to notice those nuances, contradictions and raise these questions is SO dope. Thank you, thank you. I support this video and the important questions you raise.

  4. Carmen March 5, 2011 at 10:31 PM #

    Hey, loved your post. But I didn’t think they actually meant him being single (not tied down). I heard: “You lack knowledge, information, inspiration IN your single.” And then the next words: “& then you start cursing. They make it even worse when they play it with the radio version…” Soo yah. I think she’s talking about his singles, not him being single. It makes more sense that way, anyway.

    • elledub March 6, 2011 at 1:39 AM #

      i agree…that’s what i though. i figured the “single” thing was a play on words, not saying he’s wrong for being single (ie, not tied down).

      • miwe3 March 6, 2011 at 10:02 AM #

        Interesting take on it. I thought they were referencing playing a ‘single’ as in his music track. LOL

      • miwe3 March 6, 2011 at 10:04 AM #

        Whoops… thought that was going under reply to a poster who thought it was his relationship status!

    • Toni Blackman March 6, 2011 at 5:09 AM #

      @Carmen True, I agree. ‘his singles’…

      • moyazb March 6, 2011 at 6:43 AM #

        Makes so much more sense!!!! Thanks Carmen! The text is amended!!!! Should have crowd sourced the lyrics first!

    • KJ March 6, 2011 at 12:57 PM #

      Its from the original song that Wayne did. They used the instramental part from his song ‘I’m Single’

      • MB March 6, 2011 at 3:25 PM #

        Thanks y’all for schooling me! And here I thought I knew Wayne’s catalog!

  5. rothemarathonrunner March 6, 2011 at 4:51 PM #

    Its always a complicated issue. But mostly when we refuse to approach all aspects of it with love. I say you go Watoto From The Nile. Speak your mind child, hates never like people with a perspective different from their own.

  6. Pollypureheart March 14, 2011 at 8:55 AM #

    Here we go again whinging selectively about hip-hop what a joke! And am I supposed to believe black kids are just IMMUNE to the misogyny,racism,sexism,nudity,profanity,drug use,violence,violence towards women,and all around debauchery all too common in HollyWEIRD films where’s the song about that?! Or a-hole and director Quentin Tarantino who uses the vile n-word in ALL of his movies I have yet to hear anyone question how any self respecting black person could star in them. Or how Queen Latifah can rail against ‘bitches’ and ‘hoes’ yet happily play mammies and speaking of which where’s the song and outrage for the constant barrage of buffoonery from the likes of Martin Lawrence and Eddie Murphy. Black comedians say some of the stupidest and sexist crap ever yet you all NEVER take them to task or the sleay as hell media. Calling themselves journalists while gossiping endlessly about Tiger Woods love life where’s the song for THAT?! Youa ll act as if you are about ‘saving’ the image of black women yet are so hypocritcal about it makes me wonder what is your point.

    • crunktastic March 14, 2011 at 9:23 AM #

      And yet you keep reading our blog…but if we’re that terrible, Pollypureheart, feel free to STOP reading us at any time. Seems your energies would be better spent starting your own blog about issues that matter to you.

    • Mya March 22, 2011 at 8:23 AM #

      Um well im 18 and feel the exact same way of the kids.

  7. HH_L10 March 14, 2011 at 9:15 PM #

    It’s no secret that the world we live in (especially in the context of our youth and youth culture) that things have become simplified (due to the increasingly subliminal messages pushed through “Bubble gum music,” but that’s another story…). These little girls, who are little girls and not full-blown emcees, although being educated out of it, are born into a simplified society. With all that said, I feel like this song has been over-analyzed.

    One I will point out is the most confusing reference – the Steve Harvey line. It’s just a line, a line Harvey always did in his stand-up, his TV show, and radio show, and a line that they used as just that – a line. A counter to “fuck bitches get money,” and overall a tactic used that most lyricist use. There are times it’s ok to analyze references an artists use, but not every reference, especially when it’s only made to rhyme and flow well with the verse.

    Not taking shots at anybody, but I feel like this song was a tad bit over-analyzed for it to be created by some little girls.

    • moyazb March 14, 2011 at 10:10 PM #

      Word. I appreciate your comment and I’ve heard this also from a couple of friends. I want to push back a little on this “they are only little girls” thing. They are savvy enough to make a track that got folks attention. It included a reference to Wayne’s own lyrics which was really clever. I wanted to highlight what the song brought up for me. I think we should consider how we talk with young folks so that we are opening up conversations rather than steering them in a specific direction. Thanks for your thoughts though!

  8. NOLADarling April 18, 2011 at 3:11 PM #

    Unfortunately, hip-hop/rap is just the extreme of what’s going on in the larger black community in terms of gender relations, such that it becomes easy for people to confuse shades of grey with black and white, which would explain why Steve Harvey’s brand of sexism seems like acceptable and respectable treatment when contrasted against Lil Wayne. Frankly, I can’t even listen to Steve Harvey or Tom Joyner on the radio without being offended by the running commentaries and music (woke up last Friday morning to a song with a hook about grabbing a woman’s butt on the dance floor).

    The ultimate irony in all this is that many of the people making their money off misogynistic hip-hop/rap (including a BET executive and a producer who works with Lil Wayne) won’t even let their kids listen to it, because they recognize how the messages and values the music promotes are counter to what they want to instill in their children.

  9. wolf pack April 20, 2011 at 3:34 PM #

    You misunderstood “Single” .. it’s a reference to the fact that the single version of the song is highly edited on the radio.


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