cross posted from my Media Justice column
Last year Hip Hop is for Lovers (HH4L)
became a live broadcast online. Since then, the expansion and attention
HH4L has received is phenomenal. This is expected as the two women who
are the driving force, creative energy, and developers of the series are
fantastic. I asked Uche and Lenée if I could feature them for the Media
Maker’s Salon as their form of media is one that is so accessible! They
agreed. I should share that Lenée and I are homegirls, chosen family
and that I am a regular listener, tweeter, and fan of HH4L.
Uche and Lenée both identify as 30 something Black women from the US who
are English speaking. Lenée identifies as a “queer working class,
anti-academic and Spanglish speaking” Black woman and Uche as a “hetero”
African American woman. Their identities are important because this
impacts the media they create, conversations they have, and education
they provide on HH4L.
What is HH4L? When and where did it begin?
Uche: Hiphopis4Lovers.com conception came from a conversation.
First it was a microblog on tumblr and was almost a mixtape but now its a
full on radio show and now
budding network. We discuss Love, Sex, intimacy and Hip Hop Music every
Wednesday 8pm-10pm and we have The XD Experience every Thursday
What was the motivation for beginning HH4L? What are some goals you have for the project/program?
Uche: The Motivation for HH4L in the beginning was to create a
space where people we could talk about sex and Hip Hop in a real adult
way. To address the issues in intimacy and sex that the hip hop
generations faces on a daily basis.
My ultimate goal would be to change the culture of how sexuality, sex
and intimacy is viewed, and discussed in the culture of Hip Hop. To
create a space for adults who still engage in the culture of Hip Hop to
deal with issues facing them in their personal lives.
How did the two of you meet and what went into collaboration?
Lenée: We met via twitter, actually. I was out at a wine bar in
Brooklyn and Uche recognized me from my twitter avatar. We've been
hanging out ever since. Later, she approached me about taking her
microblog series, Hip Hop is for Lovers, to another level by making it a
podcast. In May of 2011, we switched the format to include live
Share with us the importance of the naming of your media. How is
language important in the projects you create and are a part of?
Uche: With Hip Hop, one of the main identifiers of people
engaged in the culture is language. There is a seeded vernacular that in
Hip Hop is this always changing but remains universal to the listeners.
In Hip Hop is 4 Lovers we are using that language, that semantic to
talk about Sex and Love.
Lenée: Language plays a huge part! The radio show is reflective
of and steeped in Hip Hop culture and language -- the vernacular we
utilize from the larger culture are a big part of the sound and tone of
the show. Also, we have our own sayings that are part of the show's
fabric. For instance, Uche coined the term "No bueno on the non
consensual anal," in response to the idea that one partner can surprise
another with anal sex. We have HH4L quotables on virtually every
episode. Also, we name every episode uniquely -- usually something
humorous -- as a way of piquing the interest of potential listeners.
What themes do you seek to discuss/address/present and how are they received by audience?
Lenée: Our subject matter is based on love, sex, intimacy, and
relationships. So, we talk about sex itself, sex work, dating,
coparenting, child rearing, etc. We talk a lot about personal agency in
relationships and sexual encounters, consent, and transparency. I
believe what we talk about on the show is very well received by our
audience. I do find that sometimes our shows about very juicy (and for
some people controversial) topics sometimes get more realtime feedback
Uche: We talk about everything sex/ intimacy related.
Everything from parenting to the kinds of sex people are having.
Addressing topics like Slut Shaming, Self Love, even Polyamory has
struck chords with our audience. We also, always put emphasis on
consent and full disclosure in intimacies between individuals. Our
audience seems to be excited to have a space where the issues that
concern them and (even some that don’t) are being discussed.
How are topics and songs selected? Is this an individual process? The two of you? audience suggestions? something else?
Uche: Its both the HH4L team and our audience. We discuss and
brainstorm about our topics and even do research to make sure we are
giving a full representation of any topic and not just our own personal
Lenée: The creation of our library was a collaborative effort
-- we both add to it regularly. We also take suggestions from our
audience, and from artists themselves.
What role does race, gender, sexual orientation, class, and location play in the creation of HH4L?
Lenée: Hip Hop, as a culture and as a genre of music, belongs
to People of Color (POC). It began in the Bronx, in a community of
working and lower middle class black and brown folks and to this day is
largely reflective of the lives and experiences, aspirations, goals, and
sometimes the suffering of People of Color. Of course, there are white
artists who make this music, and I find that the white artists whose
work is best received both commercially and critically are people from
working class and or poor communities, like Yelawolf. I think class
plays a big part because early Hip Hop was self-made entertainment based
on the experiences of black and brown youth. Though an abundance of Hip
Hop music is driven by men who identify as hetero (or express
heterosexual desires), there's a lot music informed by what we might
call alternative viewpoints. Hetero women, queer women, queer men, and
trans people make hip hop -- some of which is played on both the main
HH4L show and the show on our network hosted by The XD Experience.
Regarding location, we are NYC based. NYC is the birthplace of Hip Hop
music and culture; this means that for a long time the epicenter of the
culture was here -- some argue that it still is. I think that the urban
experience of working class and or poor People of Color is as integral a
part of the music of Hip Hop as rhyming itself.
Uche: As a woman (especially a woman of color) who grew up in
the culture of Hip Hop and has no fear being identified as such is a big
deal. I have met a lot of women who have a love/hate relationship with
Hip Hop. Dealing with issues of “where is my place?” is very real for a
lot of POC women who grew up listening to a music that at first glance
doesn’t seem to value them or acknowledge their place in the culture.
I’m sure that goes for other “alternative”(probably not the right word)
identified groups that ultimately identify with the culture of Hip Hop.
The fact that the majority of the people involved with HH4L are POC
women is a big deal as we tend to talk about what affects us more so
than our non POC counterparts.
How has HH4L evolved? How would you like to see it evolve in the future? Are there goals for the year?
Uche: We went from being a podcast to a live weekly show. Now
we are branching out to becoming a network by adding The XD experience
and some other shows that will be announced soon. We have goals of
always expanding the audience and growing as a team.
As media makers, what outlets/equipment/training/workshops/tools/etc. do you utilize to create?
UW: HH4L is broadcast right from my home. I did research on a
lot of different broadcast sites style sites before settling on
Spreaker.com. We also use lots of social media to get the word out about
our broadcasts and the happenings of HH4L. I would say that social
media is a major tool for us.
Lenée: I think it's imperative that people who make media
understand the intersections of social media (Twitter, Facebook, Tumblr)
and traditional media (print/ radio/ video). It's all linked now. Since
Twitter is a big part of what we use to communicate and share our
media, I think demonstrated ability to navigate and manage social media
is as important as knowing how to update a website via platforms like
WordPress. Also, it's a good idea to learn about sites like podomatic,
Spreaker, and Soundcloud.
What are some necessary texts, films, images, photography that
you think are essential for youth, especially youth of Color, queer
youth, and youth who are marginalized in general, to interact
with/read/be exposed to? Why these artifacts?
Lenée: I think for young Women of Color -- queer and hetero
alike -- to begin to actualize themselves, it is imperative that they
know their experiences do not occur in a vacuum. I recommend Colonize This!, and Borderlands/ La Frontera for starters. I also suggest Sisters of the Yam: Black Women and Self-Recovery and Naked be read in tandem. It's never too early to learn!
For marginalized youth in general, I think it's important that they
utilize the resources they have access to -- be they libraries in the
community or at school, or even the personal libraries of people they
know and trust. When I was 15, I read The Autobiography of Malcolm X,
because I thought it was necessary for me to learn exactly how he
became an activist. Not everyone is born with a fist in the air -- our
kids need to know that. I also read Race Matters
by Cornel West (required reading by my school) and found the words I
had been seeking all along to explain what I felt when my wealthy white
schoolmates expressed not just racism or sexism, but classism in their
interactions with me and one another.
Have there been any challenges/obstacles, etc. you’ve encountered in creating your media? Will you share some examples with us?
Uche: I would say that my greatest challenge in creating HH4L
is that I didn't know of anything that existed like it before. I had no
guide to tell me how to create a site/radio show that wants to discuss
Love, Sex and Hip Hop. Sure there are sites and radio shows that discuss
sex and hip hop but not together. So I would say my biggest challenge
has been creating this form of media that I didn't know to exist prior
What support systems help you cope with frustration, challenges, obstacles, etc. as POC inclusive media makers?
Uche: I would say our biggest support system has been our
growing audience. They have let us know we are doing something needed
and wanted by them. That is what I know helps me face any challenges or
obstacles I’ve faced.
Lenée: I'm not certain that we've faced too many frustrations
or challenges as POC inclusive media makers, but I have noticed that
sharing with people what I do as co-host and sometimes site contributor
to the show can be met with puzzled faces. People really do seem to
think that Hip Hop music is all about guns, hoes, drugs, and violence.
They're sometimes surprised... While others think that the music library
couldn't possibly be extensive, as the music within the genre that they
like is very singularly minded.
What time management strategies/advice can you share with us
about creating media and also finding time for yourself/family/friends?
Uche: There are times that I feel consumed by HH4L. I live it
constantly so I make sure to have my down time to “check out.” Its
essential for me to create a work/ life balance as it allows my
creativity to recharge and grow.
Lenée: We make sure we're fed and hydrated before the show
starts. It's imperative that we have sufficient nourishment and rest
beforehand. HH4L Radio, though it requires a substantial time
commitment for me, doesn't keep me from having quality time with friends
and/ or family. I believe Uche has different experiences, though, since
she's the site's founder and primary content contributor.
Are there any upcoming events planned?
Lenée: With dates TBD, we have a group trip to the Museum of Sex in New York City, and another Lovers Joint!
How may people get in contact with you? listen to the show?
Uche: Tune in to the show on www.hiphopis4lovers.com. Also, find us on Twitter, Tumblr and Facebook. If they want to submit music they can do it through the contact section on the website and also sign up for our mailing list.
Lenée: I don't know specifics, but we've got a good following
on Facebook and Twitter. Also, the site we broadcast from shows us our
stats including unique listeners to each broadcast and how many
downloads we get. I'd estimate that we have just under a thousand folks
listening to us, which is quite impressive to me considering that we've
been doing the live shows for just under a year.
Are there any other topics/issues/etc. you’d like to discuss?
Lenée: Check hiphopisforlovers.com for announcements about upcoming events and to stream our latest shows.