Ashley Judd has responded to the backlash surrounding the commentary in her recently released memoir on rap, hip-hop, and what she calls the “rape culture” of the latter. Her statements had music fans talking and tweeting all weekend (Read them here).
In a piece on Global Grind today, the actress at once defends the remarks as taken out of context, apologizes, and lets us know what she would write if she could do it over:
The Outcry: As a thoughtful friend put it, “fans stand behind their artists,” and rightfully so. Hip-hop and rap — which are distinct from one another, although kin — stand for a lot more than a beat and vibe. They represent more than I, an outsider, has the right to articulate. This tweet capture’s the essence of what you have taught me: “Rap is something you do….Hip-Hop is a CULTURE you live! Don’t let a few bad apples’ lyrical message speak for a whole culture! My equivalent genres, as an Appalachian, an oppressed and ridiculed people, would be mountain music and bluegrass. Those genres tell the history, struggles, grief, soul, faith, and culture of my people. In imagining how I would feel if someone made negative generalizations about that music, I am deeply remorseful that anything I may have said in “All That Is Bitter & Sweet” would hurt adherents of genres that represent their culture. This book is an act of love and service. Insulting people of goodwill is the antithesis of its raison d’etre.
I have looked closely at the feedback I have received about those two paragraphs, and absolutely see your points, and I fully capitulate to your rightness, and again humbly offer my heartfelt amends for not having been able to see the fault in my writing, and not having anticipated it would be painful for so many. Crucial words are missing that could have made a giant difference. It should have read: “Some hip-hop, and some rap, is abusive. Some of it is part of the contemporary soundtrack misogyny (which, of course, is multi-sonic). Some of it promotes the rape culture so pervasive in our world…..” Also, I, ideally, would have anticipated that some folks would see only representations of those two paragraphs, and not be familiar with the whole book, my work, and my message. I should have been clear in them that I include hip-hop and rap as part of a much larger problem. It is beyond unfortunate that I am talking about some, for example, of Snoop Dogs’ lyrics, an assumption has been spread I was talking about every single artist in both genres. That is false and distorted. Here, I am again aware that it would be impossible for me to get this “exactly right.” Some will find fault, no matter how careful I am, no matter what my intentions.
It would have been nice if Judd would have thought carefully about the how her statements would be interpreted during the editing process of the book instead of waiting until she was under a major Twitter attack.
But given the subject matter of the whole scandal, we’d be remiss if we didn’t point out that it would also be really nice if the artists Judd refers to would engage in the same quality of reflection about the impact of their language on listeners. It’s practically unheard of to get an apology, let alone retractions and “deep remorse” for the troubling messages of some (not all) rap and hip-hop.
Lesson of the day: Whether you’re a memoir-writing actress/activist or a hard-hitting hip-hop lyricist, words have power. Do us all a favor and think before you write.