CULTURE

"Looking Like a Rottweiler": Ari Lennox Takes on Internalized Racism

Another day on Twitter, comparing black women to dogs.

Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor are very familiar with backhanded compliments.

Recently, one user tweeted, "Ari Lennox and Teyana Taylor's ability to have dangerously high sex appeal while simultaneously looking like rottweilers will always amaze me." To which, both singers responded by calling out the cultural toxicity that still attacks black identity. Lennox retweeted the post with the reply, "People hate blackness so bad." Taylor shared Lennox's response, commenting, "No lies detected."


But the discussion launched thereafter delved much deeper than the persistent scourge of cyberbullying celebrities. By comparing the two black women to dogs, the passive aggressive attack drew from a history of anti-black sentiment that's particularly targeted black women.

Lennox took to her Instagram livestream in angry tears to address the history of prejudice, systemic racism, and oppression behind the remark: "How people hate black people so much, how black people can sit up here and say, 'that's not my problem' or 'she does look like a Rottweiler'–that's fine–but you want to talk about being so sensitive?"

Most cuttingly, Lennox addresses the internalized racism behind the comment. In response to the argument shared by many that more culturally sensitive and inclusive language limits freedom of speech, she rejoined: "That's fine…but… Why is this your speech? Why are you so comfortable tearing down black women and no other race?" She called out the prevalence of racism and prejudice within the black community compared to other identities: "When are Hispanic women ever compared to dogs? When do they do that to white women? When are Hispanic men doing that to Hispanic women?"

Unfortunately, intra-racism, or internalized racism, occurs regularly among all groups (let's put aside, for now, the problematic issues with the word 'Hispanic').

Hence, we've tried to adopt a term to address such complex layers of misogyny, racism, bigotry, and all forms of oppression: "intersectionality." While the word's been badly misinterpreted among groups all along the political spectrum, the casual comparison between black women and dogs exemplifies the heart of its meaning. Simply, an individual is "impacted by a multitude of social justice and human rights issues," to the point that even conservative writer David French calls it "common sense": "An African American man is going to experience the world differently than an African American woman," French told Vox. "Somebody who is LGBT is going to experience the world differently than somebody who's straight. Somebody who's LGBT and African American is going to experience the world differently than somebody who's LGBT and Latina. It's sort of this commonsense notion that different categories of people have different kinds of experience."

All too often, those layers of different experiences produce particular forms of prejudices. The original poster, @WinEverUWantIT, was inundated with replies calling out the hypocrisy and misogyny of him, a young black man, criticizing the appearance of two successful black women. "Black men are the weak link in the black community," reads a top comment, followed by, "Let me clarify. Black men like YOU are the weak link in our community."

Lennox then tweeted, "Moms and Dads please love on your beautiful black children. Tell them they're beautiful constantly. Tell them Black people are beautiful. Tell them black features are beautiful." This past summer, Lennox told Buzzfeed she'd had many experiences with social pressure and prejudice to change her features, from her natural hair to her nose. "I would never get surgery and I love my nose," she said. "I just feel this is a conversation that needs to be had. There are black babies that have insecurities 'cause culture says it's funny to insult black features." She uses her platform to denounce the notion that black women's features exist outside society's standards of beauty: "Rocking my natural nose, hair, and skin — that makes me feel so empowered, because there's so many people out there that would rather me not do that," she says. "I refuse to change for them. Knowing that I can encourage someone else to rock their natural self really empowers me, as well."

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MUSIC

"Revenge of the Dreamers III" Is a  Hip-Hop Experiment Done Right

This Dreamville Records mega-compilation showcases both amazing talent and the spirit of hip-hop.

343 elite hip-hop artists were invited to appear at Tree Sound Studios in Atlanta, Georgia for 10 days of nonstop music-making. 142 songs were recorded in that time, 257.65 GB of music.

This is what the Revenge of the Dreamers III sessions looked like: one-part chaos, two-parts competition, and a whole lot of creative fun—at least according to the project's coinciding documentary. During this 10-day marathon, there were 12 separate studio setups for artists and producers to wander in and out. Each recording space functioned as its own unique and constantly shifting world. With so many talented individuals roaming the halls and feeding off whatever energies pulled them in, everybody felt an unspoken pressure to step their game up, vying not only for artistic space in a packed recording session, but also inrying to write something dope enough to make the album's final cut. This pressure appeared to stoke, rather than stifle, creativity.

"It's a frenzy," Dreamville artist Omen said in the documentary, addressing the sessions' vibe of healthy competition. "First of all, you gotta find your room, your spot, where you're gonna set up—whether that's writing, making a beat—because it's so many people coming through, and them spots get snatched up…And it's studios all around here, but, I mean, within probably 30 minutes, they might be all taken."

Once the creative frenzy finally came to an end, 18 songs were chosen out of the 142 recorded to appear on the final cut of Revenge of the Dreamers III. The end result featured 34 artists and 27 producers. Of those 18 songs, not a single one flopped or felt like filler, but this should come as no surprise. When you start with such a massive mountain of music inspired by such a uniquely dynamic and collaborative process, success is almost inevitable.

In addition to Dreamville co-founder and veteran emcee, J. Cole, ROTD III also showcases the breadth of the label's eclectic and talented roster: J.I.D., Bas, Omen, Cozz, Lute, Ari Lennox, EARTHGANG, and in-house producer, Elite. Since the album is a Dreamville Records compilation, these artists are the glue that holds everything together, offering a sort of stylistic motif in a crowded list of features that would otherwise risk sounding chaotic and without direction.

ROTD III also features Reason (of Kendrick Lamar's Top Dawg Entertainment fame), Young Nudy, T.I., Ski Mask the Slump God, Smokepurpp, Smino, Ty Dolla $ign, Saba, and Vince Staples (to name a few). So, this album is star-studded as a summer blockbuster, but what really stands out about this impressive guest list are the creative opportunities born from putting all these artists in one building for days on end—we get collaborations and truly fun moments that, had this album been recorded more traditionally, may have never been possible.

One such standout moment comes in the form of J.I.D. teaming up with T.I. for one of only two duets on the record (the other comes in the form of J. Cole with Young Nudy). Their track, "Ladies, Ladies, Ladies" is a buoyant spin on the Jay-Z classic, "Girls, Girls, Girls," in which J.I.D. runs through a list of the diverse range of women he's been with and the unique issues each one presented him. Then T.I. takes the second verse, prefacing it by playfully nodding to how much longer he's been around: "Young n----, you don't know nothing 'bout no bitches. Listen…" The track is a collaboration that we never knew we needed, and the two emcees bridge this generational divide smoothly.

Another powerful collaboration comes in the form of Reason and Cozz at the end of "LamboTruck," as they plot to rob their respective label-heads. Reason throws the idea out, rhyming, "Cozz, look, I done been broke too long / n----, bills too long, can't hide that, n---- / Cole just pulled up in a Lamborghini truck / On the homies and God, we should rob that n----." After Cozz takes issue with the plan, citing his allegiance to Cole, Reason offers another solution to the problem: "Look, let's make a deal / While I go and rob Cole, you go rob Top / Cool," Cozz agrees. This back and forth is the rare collaborative fire that ROTD III opens itself up to in its unprecedented approach to making a mixtape.

At the heart of this album is something that is at the heart of hip-hop itself: an element of fun and mutually beneficial competition for the greater good. The recording sessions at Sound Tree functioned as a microcosm of what it's like to try and make it in rap—throwing hundreds of talented people together into a shared space, all of them vying for their chance to shine. In the end, everyone grows creatively by their desire to surpass the bar set by their peers and predecessors. The whole of the culture is pushed forward every time one artist takes a step toward greatness. And in mirroring this, ROTD III translates into one of the most organic, enjoyable, and authentic hip-hop albums of the decade.