About a week ago, a disturbing video surfaced on WorldStarHipHop.com that showed a largely unknown Chicago rapper named “Lil' Reese” unleash a barrage of blows on a young woman who took exception with he and a group of friends coming into her home. That the young Def Jam-signee use of his fists of fury on a young woman who was later identified as recent high school graduate Tiairah Marie was shocking enough. However, what has (or hasn’t) happened after the video emerged is what got me hopping angry.
When the video first surfaced, Lil' Reese defiantly stood by his actions. As a matter of fact, his tweet "The haters tryna see a mf Dwn lol Dey gotta b broke and bored wanna upload sum sh*t from years ago damnn we winnin it's 2 late…#3hunna Dis wat doin betta den da next mf bring small sh*t it's nothin time 2 turn Uppp f*ck it…#3hunna." was a verbal middle finger to anyone who took exception to his violent criminal actions. It was only after the voices of outcry against his behavior reached a fever pitch that he decided to “apologize” for the vicious beating on Twitter. “Everybdy makes mistakes I was out of charcter & ive grown sense then Dont judge me for my past i can admit my wrongs and I apologize.#3hunna”
The fact that Lil Reese thought that an insincere Twitter apology would be enough to right a very serious wrong is laughable at best. But we all know that when there are dollars and a career on the line *cough Romney cough,* folks are liable to say anything.
Then on Monday, the 'Godfather of Hip-Hop' Russell Simmons released a blog post entitled “The Education of Lil Reese by Russell Simmons” on the website he owns, GlobalGrind.com. A few choice quotes from his brief piece:
“…the actions of Lil Reese and his subsequent apology cause me great concern because he thinks that will be enough. He will have to do much more work to rid himself of his violent behavior…Domestic abuse is everywhere, in every trailer park and in every project building and in every rich, gated community. At times it might seem like it will never stop, but we must stand up against it…I am certainly a believer in compassion and will do everything I can to uplift Lil' Reese, in private. But let me very clear, publicly, we must do better.”
As a woman and a survivor of domestic violence, both Lil Reese’s behavior and Simmons’ response struck a nerve. Allow me to elaborate:
1. What happened between Tiairah Marie and Lil Reese was not domestic abuse. Domestic violence is a pattern of coercive abusive behavior between intimate partners that is used to assert control in a relationship. Based purely on what is known about the two, what transpired was in fact an act of interpersonal violence – not domestic abuse. This difference is important, from a legal and social perspective.
2. As the co-founder of Def Jam Recordings, Russell played a large role in the promotion of misogynistic and sexist music and videos that have helped shape many young rappers such as Lil Reese’s contempt for women. Yes, Def Jam had conscious and proud rap group Public Enemy on its’ roster…but it also had Bytches with Problems, Foxy Brown and post-Russell leadership (and co-distributed by Jive) the pied piper and golden shower lover of young girls, R. Kelly.
3. Right below and off to the right of Simmons’ post on GlobalGrind is another one entitled “Tittays and Tackles .” Okay, let me make sure I understand this. Russell will take a stand advocating against violence against women on a site that he owns which simultaneously promotes demeaning and hyper-sexualized imagery of women? Dehumanizing imagery that reduces women to sexual objects, imagery that has been proven to create a culture of misogyny that makes it easier for men to justify violence of all forms against women, including rape? Oh, okay.
4. Russell has been on many media outlets defending the rights of artists and the legitimacy of hip hop as an art form (albeit a misogynistic, nihilistic, or “bandz make her dance” ignorant one at times). It would be nice if he had the same type of outspoken fervor when the artists that he champions behave in a manner away from the microphone that hurts the community as well as the artistic legacy of hip hop.
In his own words, Russell said that he would “uplift Lil Reese in private”? I’ve got a suggestion for him: Please stick to advocacy efforts for veganism, PETA and pre-paid credit cards. The anti-violence women’s movement doesn’t need or want you. However, if you insist on speaking out on violence against women, could you at least take a real stand? That is, one other than a half-hearted blog post that says little more than “Lil Reese did bad. Domestic violence is bad. Stars must use their platform for good. I’ll support him privately and use this situation as an opportunity to make myself look good.”
Women beaters should not be tacitly endorsed for their behavior by being able to keep lucrative record contracts that allow them to sling their violent messages to the masses. If Uncle Russy really wants to take stand on the issue of violence against women, then as the founder of the label that Lil’ Reese is currently signed he should pressure the current owners of Def Jam to drop Lil’ Reese as an artist. In the immortal words of one of Russell’s former artists, Big Daddy Kane, “Ain’t No Half-Steppin” on the issue of violence against women.
Go hard or go home.
Sil Lai Abrams is a writer, inspirational speaker, anti-domestic violence activist, Ebony.com’s relationship expert, and founder of TruthInReality.org. You can follow her on Twitter: @sil_lai and connect with her on Facebook. Want her advice? Email SilLai@ebony.com to have your love questions answered in a future column!