At times I am reluctant to share my fascination with dancehall music in certain social settings. Everything that dancehall music encompasses is usually made to be seen as vulgar and uncouth, and though in many cases that is so, there are also many instances where dancehall music gives credible take-home messages on sexism and female sexuality. These messages, however, tend to get lost in the catchy lyrics and rhythmic beats.
Earlier this week, when photos of Spice, real name Grace Hamilton, surfaced on social media many were quick to accuse her of falling victim to societal pressures and Eurocentric beauty standards. They were quick to claim that her actions were another reason why dancehall music couldn’t be taken seriously.
Spice was 20 shades lighter than her usual complexion and wore a long blonde wig. She captioned the photo: ‘a fresh start’. She looked manufactured and white washed to say the least. Many also presumed that the pressure of being on the reality show “Love and Hip Hop Atlanta” was getting to her so she probably felt as if she had to conform with the image of her peers. She was ‘too black’ many thought, and it was always the elephant in the room when it came to progressing, an issue which she has highlighted in several interviews.
Shortly after the picture appeared, Spice released a single called “Black Hypocrisy”. The whitewashed look, which I believe is a marketing stunt, is centred around promoting her new single in which she expresses her frustration with colourism and how it has negatively affected her career. The song also conveys that her experience with colourism hasn’t been with Caucasians as many would like to think, but with people of her own race, who look exactly like her.
I have written extensively on this issue prior to this and sometimes it feels like I will always be writing about it. Every time there is some revolutionary article or a song is dropped by a celebrity, we go through a natural processing phase, which usually ends up with us carrying on as before.
These call-out songs that lay bare personal struggles are successful for this very reason. As humans we have a naturally hard time processing our shortcomings and unlearning years of conditional thinking. In many cases, we are even sometimes too lazy to confront our own demons.
In addition to this, a confrontation of the issue also means dismantling the system which benefits some, a reality that some are not ready to detach from. And to think about it logically, people are never really concerned about an issue until it affects them directly, because the system works for them.
This is why I believe Spice called its hypocritical. There is always a standard to match up to and in the struggle to conform in order survive, one can be deemed as a sell-out. It feels like this issue is like a hamster on a wheel. It just keeps going round and round because an escape doesn’t seem likely.
We all need to express our struggles about dealing with colourism, where we have been on the giving and receiving end. Only then we will be comfortable enough to discuss it in a more meaningful way.
Perhaps people will be able to dig deeper on why they draw racist elements to determine beauty and acceptance. Perhaps I would even be able to further examine why I feel uncomfortable listening to certain music in certain places and how this influences how I view myself.
Spice has once again given us message in the form of a reggae song, which shouldn’t be overlooked. We need to take full advantage when it comes to exploring her lyrics if not the repetitive phases and temporary healings will continue.