Jeff Chang (one of my heroes) showed to us that the world of commercial rap isn’t pretty. He once wrote with Dave Zirin that media oligarchs “twist an art form into an orgy of materialism, violence and misogyny by spending millions to sign a few artists willing to spout cartoon violence on command.” Even worse, American popular culture “has trafficked in racist and sexist images and language for centuries and provides all sorts of incentives for young men of color to act out a hard-core masculinity.”
So when a friend introduced me to an openly gay rapper trying to make it in mainstream hip hop, I was ready to give him all my respect, hands down. It can’t be easy to stay strong in this homophobic world of commercial hip hop. And plus, he’s working on Operation Protect & Survive, a non-profit organization he started “for the LGBTQ community and those struggling within the inner city areas. Protecting those who are bullied and going through anything from being homeless to not being accepted for who they are.” I mean, how can I not support that? And after listening to his music, I really hope he makes it big. The only thing is… I just wish his name wasn’t Loco NINJA.
I mean, it’s not a big deal. It’s not like he’s Nicki Minaj, with her overly exotified geisha/samurai outfits. And you know what, Loco Ninja could be part Japanese for all I know. Maybe his great grandmother was a ninja, and this is his expression of pride for his ancestors. And when he’s rapping about “feelin’ like a sensei” in his song, “IM IN LOVE,” he’s probably making this reference out of respect for some martial arts sensei he once knew, right?
But if this is not the case, from now on, Loco Ninja, please move away from making any more references to Japanese culture. I’m not saying you’re not allowed to use these words — just that you gotta use them in context, understanding the history and philosophy that these words signify (as opposed to throwing them around causethey sound cool).
I say this because I sincerely want to keep listening to your music and support you. And because I want to believe in the intersectionality of our causes — issues like unrepresentative imagery in the media and stereotyping are obstacles that we both share, which means we should be supporting each other. It’s great that you’re working for more LGBTQ representation in the hip hop sphere – but in the process of this, random references to other communities isn’t exactly what we need.
But with that said, you’ve got my support. Oh, except one more thing: please promise that when you make it big in the mainstream, you won’t let me down like the Far East Movement did. Seriously, I used to like their songs like “For The City (feat Mc Jin)” or “Beautified.” I was so excited about them representing the Asian American community in mainstream hip hop, but then they came up with shitty videos like “So What?.” I mean, Kev Nish is hot and all, but seeing him in this video with a (pretty much) naked woman singing “Hundred dollar bills stacked higher than the trunk / Eatin real good taking models out to lunch / Sleepin real good take your vodka out to brunch” didn’t exactly make me proud of him repping the Asian American community, ya know?