Almost a decade ago, St Louis Hip-Hop artist Nelly faced off against Spelman College activists due to the release of one of the raunchiest, most hypersexualized videos of all time, “Tip Drill.” In an appearance on HuffPost Live, the St. Lunatic said that if he could go back and handle the incident differently, he would have “kicked somebody’s ass.”
Yes, Nelly really said that he wishes he could go back and kick some Spelman ass.
If you’re unfamiliar with the story, in 2004, Nelly’s organization 4Sho4Kidz was scheduled to hold a bone-marrow drive on Spelman College’s campus to raise awareness and to benefit his sister Jacqueline Donahue, who died from leukemia in 2005.
Once Spelman student-activists Moya Bailey and Asha Jennings watched the “Tip Drill” video, they organized a campus-wide protest to push-back against, what they considered to be, exploitative and misogynistic images. Though the goal was to disinvite Nelly, his organization cancelled the drive before they could do so.
At the time, the highly-publicized beef was likened to a feminist response in the vein of C. Delores Tucker‘s epic, long-standing feud with the legendary Tupac Shakur. Young, educated Black women standing up for their sisters and refusing to provide a platform for a misogynist rapper was applauded in many circles, but certainly not all.
Many of the dancers in the video were employed at Magic City — an (in)famous strip-club in Atlanta where I waitressed for a couple of years in college — and the conversation among the dancers was very different. The Spelman women were called “squares,” street-speak for uninitiated in the culture of the Atlanta strip-club scene. They were seen as haters on a soapbox, more focused on proving a point about their brand of feminism than truly combating misogyny or caring for their sisters who weren’t pursuing college degrees. Where Spelman saw exploitation, the dancers at Magic City saw opportunity. And the debates and arguments surrounding issues of class, education, misogyny and sexuality overshadowed the initial cause: the bone marrow drive that was intended to save lives.
In response to host Marc Lamont Hill asking him what he would have done differently, Nelly not only said that he should have “kicked somebody’s ass,” but that the Spelman activists possibly cost his sister her life:
“The Spelman thing, the only thing I feel I would’ve did different is kick somebody’s ass…that’s just how it felt to me, Pimp,” he said to host Marc Lamont Hill. “I don’t have my sister. And I doubt it if half of those girls are still campaigning for what they quote, unquote took advantage for that opportunity for.”