Never over-invest in people’s opinion of you, whether they be praise dancing you up or pitch forking you down.

- dream hampton


Bitches...Hos and Tricks

They came three days in a row. They stayed ten hours a day. They wore dreadlocks in shades of red and brown. Doobies and wraps dyed blond to black. They were mothers, daughter and sisters. They were girls and women. They came totally unannounced---no media, no rally---carrying placards and bullhorns, shouting obscenities “Dre, I will kick yo mothafuckin' ass!" The men, African vendors and b-boys alike, kept their distance, muttering their disapproval when the women weren’t looking.

Harlem’s marketplace, 125th Street, had never seen anything like it. All summer long the boys had worn their little t-shirts without receiving so much as a second glance. “Bitches ain’t shit but hos and tricks.” It is, after all, the line from the best song on the best album of a pretty slow year, Dr. Dre’s The Chronic. “Why’d the girls have to go and get all crazy?” their little faces begged. “Ain’t nobody talking bout them no way.” The confused Senegalese vendors pleaded with their wives to intervene when the women surrounded their tables, decorated exclusively with the item under fire. The African women dismissed their husbands by sucking their teeth. What were they to do? The protesters numbered more than 25. And those bullhorns would’ve drowned any reasonable request to end the whole spectacle, to go home, to let black capitalism do its thing. There was clearly no arguing with this small army.

Me? It’s been a long time since I thought about the “bitch” word. Can’t say exactly when or where it happened. But I lost it. Just up and left me. My two favorite songs this summer don’t even include this year’s nod to Black women, The Pharcyde’s “She Keeps On Passing Me By.” Instead, I pump my two song sampler, the “bitches ain’t shit” track and Onyx’s “Da Next Niguz.”

Not that the boys have converted me. It’ll take a little more than apathy to get me believing that I’m some kind of exception, that there are women out there like that, that they’re not talking about me. Still, I watch from the sidelines as the sistas pull the brothas’ card. I giggle because the men are completely paralyzed by the protest, their mouths agape. They never saw it coming.

And surely bitches are so much more than hos and tricks.

The ladies room at the Palladium was jamming. Lady Patra, underground dancehall’s newest sensation, and Yo Yo, were freestyling. The session began after the two spontaneously embraced and screamed compliments at one another. Women wandered out of their stalls and into the growing circle. Joints, not blunts, were in rotation. B-boys crammed at the bathroom’s entrance. They peaked in, but knew not to come too close. The small cipher opened up, and before we knew it, we were doing the bogle and butterfly in front of two large mirrors. We parted with hugs and kisses and promises of further networking.

And surely bitches are so much more than hos and tricks.

There are 28 of us in all. We came to New York from cities like Los Angeles and Detroit, Chicago and Atlanta. The bravest and boldest B girls from our blocks, in search of our dreams. Every other Tuesday night we gather at Crystal’s house. We discuss our latest projects, both commercial and community. We dim the lights and turn up Alice Coltrane. We empty our souls of all that was good, all that was painful, over the past 14 days. We cook for each other, we meditate with each other. We be.

And surely bitches are so much more than hos and tricks.

It was a quasi photo shoot in one of those Village lofts. Hip hop’s bad girls were being crimped and primed. Nikki D. played her new song for Hurricane Gloria, Boss and Leshaun. We spent eight hours together, the last two at a kitchen table. We don’t necessarily agree about Mike and Desiree, Clarence and Anita, Dre and Dee. We weren’t even sure why were still around, unappreciated loyalists of this thing call called hip hop. We naively wondered why there are so few of us left.

And surely (gangsta) bitches are so much more than hos and tricks.

It was one of the best attended panels at the National Association of Black Journalist’s annual convention. The moderator, Darrell Dawsey, a young columnist from Detroit, invited Bushwick Bill to join the writers who’d taken the stage to talk hip hop and journalism. The audience, many of them twice removed from the hip hop generation, were thoroughly offended when Bushwick Bill offered that the reason he depicts women as “bitches and hos” is that ‘s all he meets. One matronly type countered, “But what do you call your mother?”

“My mother?!” Bushwick got riled, detecting a dis. “I wouldn’t fuck you, but if I did,you’d be my bitch too.” The moderator, other panelists, and the woman who posed the question, gasped for air. Bushwick rambled on. Without a single word, 200 women rose, turned, and walked out.

“There’s no way I’m gonna let some drunk, suicidal midget sit and around and talk about the imaginary women he’s fucking,” one woman said on her way out the door.

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