Arn't I A Woman?: Crime Mob: An Introspection



May 30, 2012

Crime Mob: An Introspection

I like Crime Mob a whole lot. For anyone who doesn’t know they were a rap collective from Atlanta Georgia, probably most famous for “Knuck if u Buck” and “Rock Yo Hips”, and my personal favorite “Circles”.

Crime Mob’s sound is very gritty, the production fast-paced and jolting. (I don’t really know anything about musical production or how to describe the sounds I hear. ) A lot of hip hop production and instrumentals forgo the use of the diatonic scale traditionally seen in Western music. Leroi Jones traces hip hop music back to blues music, blues music back to field music, field music back to slave hymns, slave hymns back to traditional West African music. A lot of this music manipulates instrumentals into sounds you can’t hit on the diatonic scale, most notably mimicking human voices, and uses rhythms that are based on a totally different framework for musical creation. (See: ‘Blues People'.) Sometimes in modern music pop and hip hop become intertwined, a sort of melting pot of different musical traditions. And don’t get me wrong, I like that music. But Crime Mob’s sound is a pure form of hip hop post the emergence of gangsta rap. This type of music is nuanced and complex, it means many things to many different people. It’s hard to analyze anything, really, because everything can be analyzed a million different ways, and you’re always going to leave something out. But this is my Crime Mob analysis, which I did because I think they are awesome and I think they are important to experience.

“why did you do me so wrong?”

Lyrically, Crime Mob’s topics run the gamut. Superficially, perhaps, they appear to be one-dimensional. But if you listen to their albums they speak very honestly and openly about the human experience. The song “Diggin me” is a repentance of a love lost.  This is where gender roles sort of start to come in when analyzing Crime Mob. The song is rapped from the male perspective on a relationship gone wrong. It’s like a Shakespearean sonnet to a woman he lost:

“You did me wrong/ Alone my style is wild, but still I’m to’ up/ So sick you made me throw up/ Confused still I’m about ya/I had a crush I stay with trust/ and I would never doubt ya”

Both White and Black music is often predicated on a patriarchal model and it can trap males into only expressing themselves through certain venues, i.e. the commodification and sexualization of women, a rejection of sensitivity, etc. It makes it hard to see an honest male perspective that is free of societal expectations and hindrances.

“Mama told me love was blind/Shoulda never fucked with you/But it’s cool, that’s the news/ Even you gave me the blues/Im ready to put that all aside/ Just to get that right with you/ Girl Im a fool for you love/ In my eyes you are a dove”

The end of the song is a lament, “Why did you leave me alone” repeating to fade. It doesn’t demonize the woman he lost or try to assert some washed up notion of manhood. I like looking at a male’s perspective of a female not through a hatred of women, or based on views that benefit only men. That type of openness is not easy to come by.

“mean looks will never have me shook, take a second look”

Songs like “On the Rise”, “Hated on Mostly”, and “Second Look” show another aspect common in hip hop music: giving the disenfranchised a voice. It’s a way of taking back power that was stolen from you and ultimately fighting against the people, things, and systems that try and oppress you. It’s bathed in an air of confidence, empowering other people who feel the same. I think that is one of the reasons hip hop has been so popularized in the past fifteen years, because a lot of people can relate to those feelings. I know that’s why hip hop resonated very early in me, because I felt like an outsider. It was the first time in music I heard others feeling unsettled and cast aside by society.  An oppositional front.

“do my shit myself, got my own rules and my ways”

My favorite part of Crime Mob is that they are a collective of men and women equally talented and showcased. Diamond and Princess, the two female members of the group, are INSANE MC’s. I’d say that they are more talented MC’s than their male counterparts.

“I got that shit you need/Just like the air you breathe/My lyrical spirits are critical miracle burn like gasoline/ Im slick as Vaseline/ put a look in the must homie/ Im the realist appealist that’s trillest that’s illest that’s on the scene/ yeah hoe im runnin things/ cuz now im in the game/ball that hoop and switch and shooting like le’bron james”

Female rappers are very consistently overshadowed in favor of male hip hop artists. The lens we see female rappers through is patriarchal and it almost as if people view their existence as an anomaly, a curiosity or side-show in a game that is seen as all about men. Of course there have always been female rappers, and a lot of them, we just don’t pay attention. (Tricia Rose has a great chapter in her book Black Noise about female MC’s. which is most of what this argument is based on.) Hip hop became for a lot of academics, a way to somehow quantify the black male perspective, and it steered the direction away from any discussion about what women were saying. Crime Mob was pre-Nicki Minaj, an artist who undoubtedly changed the way a lot of people think about female MC’s. But I would argue that Minaj is more of a pop star, or a part of that genre I was talking about earlier that produces both pop and hip hop elements.

This really is a whole other discussion in itself, but aside from Minaj being a pop artist who raps (or a rapper that makes pop music) her image is very heavily based on her sexuality. It’s a tricky thing to talk about because I think that is beautiful. Lil Kim and Foxy Brown before her were similar in this regard. Women should be allowed to express themselves however they want, and can be as sexual as they want, and can do whatever they want with their sexuality and fuck anyone that says otherwise.

But what I think is pretty special about Diamond and Princess is that their images are a bit more dimensional. Sexuality is for sure a part of their image, just like it is for everyone. But it’s not quite as overt or the only thing you see. Nor is their existence marginalized because of the male members. They are badass. They are women but they are not exclusively defined by their womanhood. They are allowed to be artists. Not allowed, because that’s fucked up. They are artists who discard societal norms of what it means to be a woman, and instead, are just themselves.

And dude, Diamond and Princess have crazy flows. Like whoa what the fuck that shit is crazy. And a LOT of women do. So we need to start recognizing the amazing females we have in hip hop.

Most importantly, Crime Mob makes beautiful soul music. And I think they get looked over, outside of Atlanta and the South. And it’s a shame they no longer exist as they were.

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Sojourner Truth

Well, children, where there is so much racket there must be something out of kilter. I think that 'twixt the negroes of the South and the women at the North, all talking about rights, the white men will be in a fix pretty soon. But what's all this here talking about?

That man over there says that women need to be helped into carriages, and lifted over ditches, and to have the best place everywhere. Nobody ever helps me into carriages, or over mud-puddles, or gives me any best place! And ain't I a woman? Look at me! Look at my arm! I have ploughed and planted, and gathered into barns, and no man could head me! And ain't I a woman? I could work as much and eat as much as a man - when I could get it - and bear the lash as well! And ain't I a woman? I have borne thirteen children, and seen most all sold off to slavery, and when I cried out with my mother's grief, none but Jesus heard me! And ain't I a woman?

Then they talk about this thing in the head; what's this they call it? [member of audience whispers, "intellect"] That's it, honey. What's that got to do with women's rights or negroes' rights? If my cup won't hold but a pint, and yours holds a quart, wouldn't you be mean not to let me have my little half measure full?

Then that little man in black there, he says women can't have as much rights as men, 'cause Christ wasn't a woman! Where did your Christ come from? Where did your Christ come from? From God and a woman! Man had nothing to do with Him.

If the first woman God ever made was strong enough to turn the world upside down all alone, these women together ought to be able to turn it back , and get it right side up again! And now they is asking to do it, the men better let them.

Obliged to you for hearing me, and now old Sojourner ain't got nothing more to say.

Sojourner Truth

Delivered 1851 at the Women's Convention

Akron, Ohio