Aliya Ewing's DX Farewell
This has been a wild, and rewarding journey; I have so many people to thank for that, but first—the tying up of loose ends.
A lot of people have asked me about what happened to me writing the Beauty & Brains section. I was honored when the editors at DX approached me to write this insanely popular column, especially because since its inception it has always been written by a man. Kudos to DX for being open to a change of perspective. Initially, I thought I could use the opportunity to bring the “brains” back to the section’s title as I noticed that, increasingly, the column became more about T&A and less about any showcase of intelligence. However, due to circumstances that I wasn’t aware of beforehand, I learned that I wouldn’t personally have control over choosing which women I interviewed. So what I was left with was trying to make the best out of encounters with women that I probably otherwise would not have chosen to showcase. I noticed a running theme with many of these video/body models—they all screamed “self-empowerment” when criticized or questioned about their line of work. While a rare few have been actually able to parlay their modeling into something more powerful, many video models seem to be confused as to the definition the word. If they did—they would understand that financial gain is but one miniscule portion of empowerment. Dozens of questions I had lined up for these women ended up on the cutting-room floor when I realized many couldn’t answer a simple question about current affairs. Straightforward questions such as, “What’s your opinion on the health-care reform debate?” were met with cringe-worthy answers rivaling Ms. South Carolina’s infamy. For that reason, only one of my B&B interviews ran, with the others being scrapped at my request.
I also started to team up with Demetrius Walker of the clothing line and record label dangerousNEGRO for a weekly blog discussing various aspects of Hip Hop culture. Due to conflicting schedules, this proved to be a much harder task than anticipated. Though our angles tend to differ at times (with dN taking a much more militant approach to their message than I prefer) I still highly encourage you guys to continue to listen to what this brother is saying. Demitrius hasn’t given lectures across the country (including at Yale University and his alma mater, Vanderbilt) for no reason. You can still catch him at DWalkerSpeaking.com, and support the dN movement at dangerousNEGRO.com.
Now for the well-overdue appreciation.
I’d like to thank DX’s former Editor-in-Chief, Andreas Hale, for recognizing my potential and being the first to give me a very public platform to speak to the world. Unfortunately, I didn’t always take this platform as seriously as I could have. I came to DX a few years ago as a recent college grad after completing my degree in economics—I had no formal training in journalism, just natural love of writing and an opinion. Because of this, starting my writing career so publicly was in many ways like growing up with a celebrity parent—I was raised with everyone well aware of all of my amateurish screw-ups: The bad interview questions, the less-than-stellar writing, poor grammar, the not fully thought-out opinions. Still, I regret nothing. Bun B once told me something along the lines of “If everyone judged themselves on what they did 20 years ago, or 10 years ago, or last year, I don’t think anyone would be happy with themselves.” True words. We evolve and we move on.
I’d also like to extend equal thanks to DX’s current Editor-in-Chief, the extraordinary Jake Paine, for constantly going to bat for me when needed, for understanding my vision, and for encouraging me when I needed it the most. You have helped me more than you will ever realize.
Big thanks to my DX family of past and present, especially William E. Ketchum, Starrene Rhett, Rick Polk, Dominique A.H.L.O.T Howse, Kevin Clark, Paul W. Arnold, Brian Sims, Amanda Bassa, and Krysten Hughes (please forgive me; I know I omitted some—I’d be here all night if I included everyone who made a lasting impact on me). I’d also like to thank my readers, the ones who faithfully engaged in the conversations in the comment sections, and the ones who took time out to email me for a job well done—those words of kindness made my day each time. For the ones who gave me a hard time—I thank you too. The respectful disagreements kept me on my toes and helped me refine my opinions. Then there was the general harassment and ‘internet thuggery’ all online writers encounter. Also, the disrespectful sexual advances, and the claims that people only read my articles because I’m a marginally attractive female, etc. Those people were (and still are) easily dismissed. How quickly people are willing to speak recklessly when sheltered by anonymity. But in a twist of comical irony, the comments that I “belong in the kitchen cooking” proved to have an inkling of actual truth—a large reason for my departure is to pay closer attention to caring for my family.
In this world of varying viewpoints on feminism, I have no ‘stance’ on what the role of a woman is—she belongs wherever she is happiest, just as I feel about the role of men. Each has his or her own path, and each is equally important: some go out to directly take on the world, but I’m realizing that my path is turning inward towards bettering myself, and, in turn, my family…which, of course, indirectly benefits the world at large.
So I am taking a moment to reclaim, and rejoice in, the weight of motherhood: the significance of running a household 24 hours a day, the undeniable importance of being able to cook a deliciously healthy meal (soon with ingredients grown from our own backyard), and the joy of reading to my son without having to skip pages so I can start yet another phone interview. Bless the women and men who have it in them to do both without sacrificing something from each. That’s not to say that I don’t intend on having a ‘paying’ career at some point soon—But the career I choose to enter into next will have to be a better reflection of who I am.
Which leads me to my last point…
The other reason for my departure is music itself. In the parenting world there’s this silly ongoing debate about whether or not it’s good practice to praise a child for their scribbled artwork; or if only “good” art deserves praise and a framed center-spot on the refrigerator hall of fame (Give me a second, I promise this all comes full circle back to Hip Hop). I say, if you don’t encourage the child to scribble, s/he will never develop the skills necessary to produce great works of art. But to actually frame the piece may fool the child (and ultimately the viewers) into thinking the art is better than it actually is. My son has tons of scribbled drawings and paintings, but I’ve only actually framed a few that really are visually interesting and appealing. If we frame every scribble it becomes a lose/lose situation. The child is under the very comforting delusion that they’ve reached a meritable level of talent, making it harder for them to push through to their actual full potential, and the viewers are left confused by artwork that falls short of the frame it’s been placed in. In the same way, I’ve learned to think about rap music. There has never been a genre to fall so gleefully, albeit tragically, short of its full potential because of what we as a society have chosen to frame.
If you are still reading this letter, then there’s probably no need for the history lesson—I’m sure you understand all about the commodification of Hip Hop and its downfall thereafter. It’s a topic that has been spoken about by many. Trying to point fingers about who is responsible for the downfall of Rap as art, and the emergence of this hyper-sexual, materialistic, misogynistic, violence-ridden dribble is just as hard as trying to figure out why our daughters and sisters have no self-respect nor concept of true empowerment. We are all products of our surroundings, yet ultimately, responsible for ourselves. So, as my brother Ahmed says, “What came first…the chickenhead or the egg?”
All I know is that the same 20 sub-par songs are being played, ad nauseum, across airwaves everywhere while countless talented artists are left to wonder if they will ever get the attention they deserve—a sort of musical monopoly if you will. It’s not that good music doesn’t exist; it’s that after years of media outlets using up all of the limelight ‘frames’ on undeserving artwork, the masses are confused as to what constitutes meritable art to begin with. They simply don’t know what their missing because it’s never been shown to them. They’ve been tricked, hoodwinked, and bamboozled.
I will say, though, almost everything has its place. As I once mistakenly believed, it’s not about the existence of the so-called “coonish” dances that are accompanying so many rap songs these days, as no-one so much as blinked an eye at Digital Underground’s “Humpty Dance” in the '90s. Truth be told, as a mother, I’d rather have my son on the dance-floor doing the “Stanky-leg” than selling drugs, disrespecting women, or involved in a life of violence. It’s not all about simplistic rhymes either—Slick Rick made a legendary career off of his simple, nursery rhyme-like delivery. It was fun, and it still is—so long as that’s just one small piece of the larger musical offering.
I wish I could remember who told me this, but a friend of mine once said how he noticed that most rap music on the radio/TV is solely focused on what occurs between the nighttime hours of Friday and Saturday: Poppin’ bottles, getting high, meeting women at the club, having sex with the women from the club, showing off your $100,000 car, or getting shot at in that $100,000 car because someone was jealous of your (questionable) drug-dealer status that supposedly rivals that of Tony Montana. Judging by most popular rap lyrics, it’s as if life is nothing more than one big, expensive, intoxicated, violent, commercially-endorsed, sex-filled party. What happens on Sunday? Or Monday? What about the other aspects of life? Don’t mistake it; there’s nothing wrong with a good party, and there’s definitely nothing wrong when that party can be skillfully recounted lyrically over a really dope beat; but it’s time we balance that out with something of more importance—because NOW is an important time.
If you take a minute to unplug from the matrix, and look at what’s really going on in the world after your Ciroc bottle is empty, you’ll see that this is a time of great transformation for us all. The world is evolving…I don’t know about you, but I won’t be left behind. I would, however, like music to start reflecting the countless experiences being felt across the globe. Right now, more than ever, we need our artists to offer us something much more meaningful than a tale of Friday night debauchery or other equivalents of lackluster scribbles on paper. We need our artists to develop, and then reveal to us, their full potential. Right now, we need art worth framing our lives around.
And with that, I very gratefully sign off from HipHopDX.com.
I’ve been given an open door to come back and hop up on a soapbox whenever I feel necessary, so perhaps this isn’t a final goodbye…but in the meantime, I’ll be lurking around the digital-world elsewhere, easily found on FaceBook.