The Pimps of R&B/Soul: Pimping in R&B Music

Pimparchy: A system of control that is sexually, physically, spiritually, mentally, emotionally, and financially exploitative and damaging to women and children for personal gain or benefit. Alongside it’s parent system Patriarchy. Term coined by Fatou Diarra; Definition by Tanisha Coleman

In patriarchy, both the greatest threat to women and the greatest protection is in a marriage to a man. A man in patriarchy is promised to bring security to women in this world. This is considering that in a man’s world a woman’s greatest threat and her greatest protection is a man. Men go to war with other men, for the safety and protection of women and children. Their families. The woman that most men will choose to protect are women in his family and his wife. A woman strives for marriage expecting security from her husband. Especially since patriarchy relies heavily on the submission of women. Men control the world, and created the rules for this world, so if a woman wants to find shield for herself, she has to learn how to play the game.

The game being played is a man’s game. Patriarchy is their system that is currently in control, and this includes women. Their ideologies, their institutions, their rules, their laws… and their culture. The patriarchal culture was birthed from pimp culture. The number one way that men oppress is through exploitation. Exploitation is the number one pimp guideline as well, so I truly believe before patriarchy, there was pimparchy. Big pimping is the foundation that patriarchy is founded on. For black women, we have been the number one exploited since the beginning of time so our relationship to pimparchy is a deep tie. This is to also consider that the men closest to us, black men, invented pimp/hoe culture. Culture has significant influence in an individual’s life. Culture instills values, moral, guidelines, daily ritual, and spiritual practices.

Culture provide a basis to how many people function. Now imagine what this means for black women in a man’s world? Imagine what this means for black women who have connections, ties, and interpersonal relationships with black men who loves pimp/hoe culture? Black men lose the desire to find a wife, and rather pursue the hoe. They no longer look to have a family, they want baby mamas. The no longer wish to protect women, they want to exploit hoes. They want to exploit our bodies, our mind, and our resources. The culture they create no longer centers families, and marriages. They center playing house and creating ghetto harems with multiple women. They present these images in the culture they create. You can see it in their art, you can see it in the books they write, you can see it on social media in their video skits, you can see it by just watching them.

However, the most powerful tool they use to push pimp/hoe culture is in music. Music is the most powerful tool in culture. The lyrics can become addictive. The lyrics can incite emotions within an individual. Lyrics can trigger memories, and recite stories. Music is very powerful for its ability to also produce and control images. The lyrics and algorithms in music can produce mental images, and create thoughts in the mind. People normally gravitate towards music that they can picture themselves in. Whether in the story line of the lyrics, vibe to the beat, or dancing to the rhythm you picture yourself in the music. You imagine yourself in the music. And the artist and production takes control for just a moment until the next song.

What black men have done with music is mix pimp/hoe culture with love stories for black women. In music, they control their image, which can also be displayed in their music videos. In hip hop these images are very apparent. The classic pimp suit and pimped out car is probably the most identifiable image next to Big Mama. The lyrics of hip hop music are very forward about pimping woman, having “hoes, and “hating bitches”. This is the dynamic of relationships according to hip hop music. There is no denial that a hip hop artist is a keeper of pimparchy. When it comes to music, however, my favorite genre is R&B and Soul. I find R&B and Soul to be music that presents a healthier image of male and female relationships. In the videos you see relatable images of love and relationships. R&B Kings and Queens are seen as keeper of love, and family. Soul singer are seen as spiritual gatekeepers. This is good, right? I felt the same way. Until I decided to look deeper.

In R&B music there is also a lot of signs of pimping from men we consider R&B Kings. Though many songs in R&B centers love and relationships, there are becoming less and less songs about marriage. I can remember as a little girl I dreamed about getting married because the music I listened to were songs about marriage and family. Classic R&B was produced alot of wedding songs, and songs for family reunions. Over the years less and less of this kind of music was being produced. In the 70’s you begin to hear more and more music about pimping during the Blaxploitation era. During the 80’s more popular music was produces for the clubs, and sex with your partner. The 90’s produced many of my favorite love songs. When I was a little girl I already identified my wedding song: “So Much In Love” by All-4-One. Though many songs produced during that era surrounded marriage, some of the most popular spoke on hardships in relationships, and non-marital affairs. Even a favorite “Forever My Lady”, and started with “So You’re Having My Baby” and not “So You’re Becoming My Wife”. This triggers a memory of Diddy dedicating this song to his baby mama, and my first questions was: “How come you didn’t marry her then?”….. I digress. However, what I learned as a child is that a child will not secure your position with a man. Perhaps this explains the out of wedlock rate present in the community, accompanied by absent fathers (pimps).

Despite the message of Love, I see the microaggressions of pimping. The image that black men can push very heavily is that they can be good loving men, even if they don’t marry the woman they claim to love. Many men who have been crowned “R&B Kings” preach a good game about love on beat, but not in real life. The first one that comes to mind, is R. Kelly. It should obvious at this point that he is a pimp. Many of his songs were a favorite of mine as a child, but as I got older I saw that he was just a fuckboy. I often find men present themselves as husband material in R&B music, but the question remains, “Are They Looking For a Wife”? Many fuckboys get away with passing themselves off as good men if they produce the art of love, and not the reality of love. Others that come to mind is Chris Brown, and Trey Songz. Never heard a song of them getting married, however they are forever calling for the Ladies to give them love. The other day a radio show called out for the Ladies to tune in because Tank was coming on the show, and my first thought is of his music where he recently called himself a “Don”. R&B Kings can entice your sexuality and sensuality, but they stopped singing about marrying you. Their music can pass off as the greatest love songs, yet do they practice what they preach?

As a woman who desires to be married, I am learning that I have to create a culture around me that centers love, marriage, and family. While I understand that every woman does not desire marriage, I can only hope that gatekeepers of culture produces more music, and images of love and marriage. Though there are many who do not have faith in marriage, I will always believe that marriage is an important aspect of relationships. Committing to a legal obligation to your partner is a great way to gain security in your relationship. Building a culture of marriage can also produce stable and happy families and help children understand the importance of commitment and building healthy partnerships. Today I take a vow to not live a culture that does not align with my values and beliefs. I notice how much my depression was caused when hearing songs that didn’t align with my spirit and my desires. Songs that made me lose hope in love and marriage. Songs that gives a hint of pimping and playing house with my baby daddy. I want music that reminds me that I am a woman of value, and I deserve to be loved, and married.

© Tanisha R. Coleman, 2019. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this site’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Tanisha R. Coleman with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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