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Hip-Hop: Under Fire - Slam Poetry Performance


We've been talking about hip-hop and along with the beats it's all about the words. So how about a poet to give us her take on how women are portrayed? Christa Bell is a National Poetry Slam champion, performer and activist. Here's her piece "Word Medicine."

Mr. CHRISTA BELL (Poet): Because your eyes remind me of watermelon rinds scraped clean of their meat by narrow teeth because today your skin is not burnished honey but a bitter herb chew to hold the grief at bay, because your lips are the purple grapes of (unintelligible). Each time we kiss, I bite them in my mind until the juice runs thick to stain my chin.

Little sister, I would swallow you in pieces to keep you whole. Feast on your flesh and hold you in my belly till the mark of this beast music dissolves from your forehead, scrapes itself clean from the bones of your hands. Beast music that grinds us like so many butchered animals, seasoned and smashed into teapot and patties and served with the supersize of pimp juice. We are happy meals of martial metaphors with toy surprise, credit cards swiped through disposable smack that.

There are rumors in South Africa that do not surprise me. They say AIDS can be cured by raping virgin girls. And not just any girls, but precious little black girls are being found in between the crevices of things, peeled out of ditches like flower petals caught in tar - seven months, nine months, three years old, soiled, discarded toilet paper lives, as the world nods its head to the beat.

Y'all ain't no fun if the homies came have none. It ain't no fun if the homies can't get none. It's a malevolence so ancient there are no new words for it, and so the old ones will have to do. Hip-hop hates women, you cannot get around it. Hip-hop hates women, there's no hope in it. It's not the hazy, crazy song of youth, nor the quickest way up and out the ghetto. It's lost all potential as a revolutionary manifesto. It will not ever save our souls.

We cannot pretend that Tupac wasn't a rapist. That Biggie wasn't against us. They hated us. And hip-hop, it hates women. It hates women. Hip-hop hates women. Hip-hop hates women. Hip-hop hates women. But find me 50 righteous emcees and I'll spare this city. Twenty loving emcees and I'll spare this city. Ten holy emcees and I'll spare this city, but I'll battle anybody. I don't care who you tell. Battle, battle anybody, I don't care who you tell.

Rain down word medicine like acid-coated brimstone, leprosy that comes of sucker wordsmiths who dare to morph our innocence into gaping caverns for rhythm. Little sister, when I open my mouth and you're free to skip from my belly and out into the sunlight, be born again on your own terms. Study your woman verses and know that the source of bass and beatbox is infinite, and that this infinity resides in you. It's you who gives birth to all our music who must wave death on this music today. So while you're out preparing and sharpening your sword, please turn your radio, radio, radio, radio off.

MARTIN: That's National Slam poet Christa Bell. She was backed by beatboxer Third Child.

For more rhythm and rhymes, visit our site at npr.org/tellmemore for a link to Christa's Web site. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.