Following the massive outcry that resulted after he participated in an XXL.com video blog that offered young boys disturbing "advice" on touching young girls (which he followed up with a less-than-satisfactory apology), rapper Too $hort asked to speak with writer dream hampton because she'd publicly joined a group of women, We Are The 44%. Here they talk feminism, accountability, rape culture and traumatizing playground "games."
Too $hort: I just wanted to reach out because I had been truly disturbed by this whole thing as far as me putting this out there like that. I’m not trying to make this go away or trying to make this right or anything. I understand completely. I know there are a bunch of people out there that think that I don’t care about this or I just want to just throw some statement out there but honestly I don’t. I can explain all day about where this came from or how I got into this. Or how I let this happen… I’m not expecting it to be some kind of cover up. I feel like the kind of person I am, I know that I would never put any kind of message out to kids like that. I understand what the music does, I understand who the music has reached over the years. Some people told me that twenty years ago there were little youngsters listening to Too $hort. Its not legally supposed to be sold to kids. It is adult music. At the same time, my only concern right now is that as a person who put this negative thing out, I have to put something positive out...
You have to be accountable for what you do…I don’t expect you to waste your time and energy trying to hear me out. I just want to get involved in something that does not (simply) say "Hey, forgive me!" I understand that I made a big mistake.
dream: I wish that that would have been the first thing you said (publicly). I joined a group of women who have come together and made a statement about this. Your first statement blamed it on social media, you said: 'Before social media this wouldn't be out there like this.' That was defensive and flawed logic, as if the point was about you being caught. No, the point is that what you did was wrong. And it really isn’t about you, it's bigger than you, which is why we started the Twitter hashtag #ItsBiggerThanTooShort. It’s just more about girls and boys… when it comes to what happened with the tape from XXL, we can all agree that we don’t want our little boys to be out here catching sexual assault cases, and we don’t want our girls sexually abused… and it’s good that you are coming with an action. In terms of an action, they say 1 in 4 girls are assaulted by the time they are eighteen. There is a lot of sh*t that passes for playing (around) amongst us, and…it’s sexual assault. I remember being in the pool and boys pulling my bikini top off. I remember eighth/ ninth graders smooching my booty when I was in the second grade. I remember boys trying to hump me. And I’m not the only one, it’s not like I’m out here traumatized and mad about that stuff. Of course I am traumatized and I am mad. But I don’t know a girl who didn’t have that type of thing happen to them. Where boys just thought that they would practice on us. And that is what we were there for.
I’m not even saying that kids aren’t sexual. I’m not saying that we, as humans aren’t sexual, but clearly what you said was wrong. You can’t be giving little boys instructions on how to catch a case and how to victimize little girls. I think that a lot of times when it comes to rape, we tell women what not to do to be raped. We don’t tell boys not to be rapists. We are like “don’t walk home by yourself to your car. Don’t get too drunk at the bar. Don’t wear short sh*t.” As a feminist I think you should be able to wear short clothes. But as a girl from Detroit, I know that you shouldn’t. There are chicks in Detroit who get thrown in the back of (car) trunks coming out of the club. Now…not in the 80s, not in the 90s. In terms of an action, there has to be some men talking to other men, and in this case it seems like you should be talking to boys since that’s who you were talking to when you made the first tape.
Too $hort: …when I taped the XXL video, my goal was that this was some kind of comedy piece. So I am sitting there and the thing that I am saying is actually reminiscent of when we as little boys were being bad and (what) we were doing something or learning or practicing. But know I'm understanding that it's actually it’s a form of sexual assault. And it's crazy that I'm just now understanding this.
I’m not going to lie to you…my eyes are opening just from reading the comments, the stuff that is coming from people. They say stuff like, “Does he get it?” I’m reading it and I am starting to get it. I am looking at this and I am looking at all the stuff that they put out, completely from the entertainment industry, from the movies I watched when I was a kid. A rape scene in a movie was pretty normal. They don’t really do it that much anymore, (but) back then a guy would take it and the girl would enjoy it. They put those images out there over and over again and it’s like so much society is ok with the images of aggressive male and female sexuality. I’m just reading this and I’m reading that, and I’m like I am so much a part of that whole “man” thing.
…in my mind, I’m not a rude guy who just goes around calling women “b*tch” but at this point, this is not just a wake up call to let go and do something good. I have been doing good, I have a track record. I have been doing good in the community with the kids around the Bay Area. Just being involved with the programs around here. The message that is missing (for me) is about this whole aggressive sexual thing. It is entertainment to me. I have been saying that for a long time. I have been making money off of it. I could have spoke about what I really believed in, I could have been a Tribe Called Quest or KRS-One type artist, but I knew if I just write these little curses, people would want to hear that. My mind was saying “do what they like.” At the same time I was battling with myself on doing what I thought and knew was right.
This is something that I would never do (intentionally). Never in my life would I ever sit down and turn on the camera and really do something negative. This is only a wake up call for me.
dream: Just like you have women and men calling you out for this, I know there are just as many or more people telling you 'ignore all this, keep pimping.' So if you're serious about changing, on a fundamental level, expect to be ridiculed and abandoned by your core base. In terms of change and what you can do, it’s kind of like what Malcolm X said to the White girl who came up to him at the university and she said “Malcolm what can I do to help the movement”, and he was like “You gotta go back and talk to White people”. When it comes to the stuff between boys and girls, it’s about men talking to boys. It’s about men talking to men ultimately…
Again the statistic says 44% U.S. girls get assaulted by the time they are eighteen. I bet any amount of money that Black girls are twice that number, and it is not like it just happens once. I can think of ten times when I was assaulted by boys before I even had breasts, assault that passed for "playing". And you're right, what you described earlier It is what feminists call rape culture…To some dudes, it is sexy to see a girl tied up and a dude taking it. And that's sick. And it's not like Hip-Hop, or you (as an individual) have created this culture, but you have been a part of perpetuating it. The number one danger that women who are serving face in the Army, the United States Army, is rape by other soldiers… by their own soldiers. So it’s just a general culture of rape and it affects men and women everywhere.
Too $hort:… I was in the sixth or seventh grade when I started doing some of the things I was talking about doing in (the video), and even as an adult, I had never realized until this thing came up that legally and more importantly, morally, it just is not been right… I put out this video, and was describing something a young guy would do to a young girl and from the backlash, I start to learn that in entertainment, we have just come out with us (encouraging) this sexual behavior between girls and boys. If you really analyze it…a guy saying “pull a girl’s top down and pat her on her butt”, all of that is legally sexual assault.
dream: It makes young girls not want to leave the house. Or we take the long route home or we go the other way and we are like, “Oh, this is how boys like me, boys like me if they put their hands up my (skirt) It doesn’t matter that I’m not in the eighth grade yet…this is what boys like and if I want boys to like me than this is what I have to let them do…'
Too $hort: I did not even realize what the subtitle had been on the video that released. I did not even know it was put up and that it was available to all ages and advertised with a picture and stuff. I didn’t know any of this. I just got the “F you, F you, F you, you pedophile.” I actually tried to put together an explanation, and I was advised to word it differently and put it as an apology explanation. I never liked putting out any kind of words that are not my words. Someone writing it and I say I said it. I was definitely offensive because I had not gotten what this whole culture was that I was talking about.
The older kids would tell the younger kids, “just kiss,” and we didn’t want to. It is all the same stuff. Even as kids you play little innocent games, that are sexual in nature, we used to play house and stuff and not want to get caught. As a grown man it probably affected the music I wrote. I probably could have been a little more aware of what I was doing, and wrote it a little differently. I was not doing anything (offensive) on purpose, it was for the money. Part of the story is part of what is going on right now, and it is how I am going to bring this whole thing home…
I hate that this had to come out like this but I really feel blessed. I feel like I am going to kick in and kick back a lot positive energy in something that I have been kicking out a lot of negative energy in a lot of years…I am not expecting anyone to say “I forgive you” or anything in that nature. It may not be the biggest mistake in my life, but it was a major mistake, looking at the camera and saying those words.
dream: This is what it is with Black feminists. We still love (brothers), we are not trying to throw y’all out. Don’t nobody love the Black man more than the Black woman. So its like we have been buying your (music) forever. Women are the number one topic in Hip Hop period and it’s usually to say 'f*ck you, ya'll ain't shit'. And yet we still buy your music, we still support this. In our real lives we still love Black men. So usually when you talk about black feminists, you’re talking about women who want to see some growth and some change…[those of us who are heterosexuals] are going to bed with you, we are going to raise children with you, we are going to show up when you get killed by the police. We are going to do all that shit, we just want you to have our backs once in a while. And if you cannot have our backs can you have a baby’s back? Can you have a little seventh grader’s back? We are creating these patterns and we can stop them. That’s the bottom line.
dream hampton has written about culture for 20 years. She's a mother, an activist and an award-winning filmmaker. She lives in Detroit. Follow her on Twitter: @dreamhampton