Musicians go to great lengths when promoting their new albums: some artists make sure to stop by major media outlets for interview tours and hold album release parties. Others even host secret shows and perform their new music live for devoted fans.
Juicy J decided to take a different kind of approach when he dropped his new album, Stay Trippy. On the same day of the album's release, the rapper announced he'll be sponsoring a twerking contest in which the winner gets to claim a $50,000 college scholarship.
I repeat: $50,0000 in exchange for A+ twerking.
On the one hand, it's not all that surprising. We shouldn't expect much else from an artist who's famous for lyrics like, "She start twerking when she hear a song, the stripper pole her income" and "She put that ass off in my hands, I remote control it" in his hit song titled "Bandz a Make Her Dance." But on the other hand, should we just shrug off or justify the concept of twerking because of someone's patterns of sexist behavior?
Don't get me wrong, I'm not proposing a cultural takedown or criticism of twerking in general, nor do I support slut shaming of any kind. Having the choice to twerk to your heart's content is a beautiful thing. Feeling enticed by money to engage in a competition where men judge and objectify you based on your booty shaking abilities is entirely another.
Twerking is usually, if not always, associated with women and femaleness. When was the last time a male rapper referenced a dude twerking or a desire to see another man twerk? This added element of gender imbalance in who Juicy J is targeting in this contest contributes to the problematic roles men and women inhabit in popular music: women dance for male approval, and maybe even for some money.
That's not to say Juicy J isn't on to something with his intention to pay for one fan's college tuition. According to the Chronicle of Higher Education, 12 million of the 20 million Americans who attend college take out student loans. Since about 60 percent of students take out loans to pay for school, most of who will then go into debt because of it, scholarship funds are highly beneficial.
Instead of perpetuating misogynistic narratives in hip hop and pop culture, however, Juicy J should reconsider his twerking contest and opt for a less offensive selection process.
Here are 10 alternative scholarship ideas for the rapper (and other artists) to think about:
1. Cultural critiques. Deconstructions of the recent cultural appropriation of twerking and the racial politics of this dance phenomenon.
2. Good grades. Stand out students who have overcome serious odds and hardships in order to reach academic success (see: Chelesa Fearce).
3. Bringing hip-hop into college classrooms. Proposals that fuse academics together with ideas about hip-hop and its cultural relevance, historical context, and political influence.
4. Production. Original beats and sounds made by students who want to become producers.
5. Studio engineers. Encourage students who have known an interest in studio engineering and working behind the scenes in the music industry.
6. Aspiring artists. Young women who have completed mix-tapes or albums with the desire to eventually become musical artists.
7. Songwriting. Creative and unique lyrics written by high school students who show a potential for songwriting.
8. Music journalism. Reporters, writers, reviewers, and interviewers who already have experience and want to pursue a career in music journalism.
9. Studying music. Students who plan on majoring or specializing in a music-related field, and have shown an aptitude for music in high school.
10. Choreography. Dance routines that demonstrate a knowledge of hip-hop music paired with professional choreography skills (no, not twerking).
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