Pop Culture Commentary: Nelly’s “Tip Drill” Video

I am happy to say that I have finally gotten enough free time to be able to go through my iTunes and cut out all the old music I don’t listen to anymore. When I got to the Ns and started deleting Nelly songs, I was intrigued to remember that I had his old song “Tip Drill” from way back when I was a teenager. I remember being shown the video by an old friend, one that was both shocking and profanely exciting in nature to me in discovering my new-found feminine sexuality.

I looked at it yesterday more shocked and disgusted, as opposed to naughtily intrigued. For those not familiar with this pornographic piece of art  (NSFW, so watch at your own discretion), it was a highly controversial music video that came out in 2003 that took sexual degradation in mainstream rap videos to an extreme, displaying dozens of African American women butt-naked and simulating sexual acts with each other while the rappers in the video touch them in a sexual manner.

As I sat there watching, I couldn’t help but be reminded of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines” video, but the main difference between Robin Thicke and Nelly is that this video was intensely disrespectful to women of color: one definition of a “tip drill,” according to Urban Dictionary, is a “girl with a great body but a fucked up face,” which relates directly to the lyrics “it must be her ass, ’cause it ain’t her face.” While Nelly always simply defended this video as “adult entertainment,” it was clear that he felt he bore no responsibility in perpetuating instances of hatred for women of color, his insulting justification being that this kind of misogyny existed long before he continued to carry the torch.

This brings me to another important instance of sexism that I encountered this week in my own personal life: a University of Toronto professor coming under fire for his recent comments about not wanting to teach women writers. The Internet exploded over David Gilmour’s comments, which he claimed were sarcastic and meant as a joke, and U of T students even went so far as to petition to get Gilmour removed as an instructor. Meanwhile, these forms of hatred are forgotten about.

These are just some quick, preliminary thoughts on this newly rediscovered video, but I feel as though feminists are quick to jump all over a white man’s comments and take luxurious amounts of time to demonize him for a stupid comment, but these lengthy forms of visual sexism and oppression do not receive the same amount of attention, and a lot of it has to do with who is being victimized, in this case, black women.

By Taylor

I'm a 20-something University of Toronto student trying to hack it as a freelance writer but am also an aspiring journalist. I am particularly interested in diversity within the mass media and love to deconstruct different kinds of advertising, investigating the types of populations different kinds of marketing target.

99 replies on “Pop Culture Commentary: Nelly’s “Tip Drill” Video”

I was a senior in high school when this video came out, and I actually remember there being a HUGE controversy over it at the time to the point that Nelly backed out of a charity drive because of it. It renewed a lot of discussion on misogyny in hip-hop culture.

To that point, I agree and disagree with your assertion that misogyny perpetrated by white men is “jumped all over” and “demonized” in contrast with, I presume, Black men and other men of color? In my experience Black men and men of color are accused of being uniquely and especially misogynystic and violent toward women. I believe, with many white feminists, that this position comes from a place of unexamined racism, fear of men of color and white saviorism rather than any intrinsic desire to ally themselves with WoC. Moreover, I also see many of these same feminists give white men a pass when they victimize women and ESPECIALLY when they victimize WoC. That’s partly how someone like Hugo Schwyzer got away with so much of the harm that he did even AS WoC we’re calling him out, by being aided and abetted by white feminists. So, I do think there is a racialized response to misogyny perpetrated by men, but I think it’s the other way around.

I definitely remember a ruckus being raised by women of color over that video. In fact, it ended up overshadowing his philanthropic efforts. He went to a women’s HBCU to raise awareness about leukemia, asking students to get their marrow tested and a group of students petitioned to have it called off because of his refusal to apologize for the video. He basically danced around it by claiming they were sullying a positive thing with something unimportant (to him). I only lost more respect for him after that.

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