THE PAIN OF PATRIARCHY IN T.I.’s “DEAD AND GONE”
I’ve often listened to T.I’s song “Dead and Gone” and felt a certain kinship with the song. I found something very honest and very authentic in the lyrics of the song that resonated with me. I knew I wanted to look at the song from a feminist perspective and translate the pain of patriarchy that I found in the lyrics. Tonight, while sharing with my followers on twitter a few thoughts I had on the song; I felt the need to put my analysis of the song into a blog post.
bell hooks states in her work The Will to Change, that “The choreography of patriarchy, the unholy fusion of love, loss, and violence, spares no one.” In my opinion that is what T.I’s “Dead and Gone” is about, loss and violence brought by the embracing of patriarchal masculinity.
“I ain’t never been scared, I lived through tragedy
Situation could’ve been dead lookin’ back at it
Most of that shit didn’t even have to happen
But you don’t think about it when you out there trappin’
In apartments, hangin’, smokin’, and rappin’
Niggas start shit, next thing ya know we cappin’
Get locked up then didn’t even get mad
Now think about damn what a life I had.”
bell hooks states, ”Patriarchal Thinking: One must be violent to have power.” T.I raps in the song that the most of the situations he involved himself in didn’t have to happen, and that he didn’t think about those things when he was trappin. But I would suggest that the reason men don’t think about these things, is because they are taught that to be powerful they must be violent, and when another man or a rival group starts something with a man or his crew, the natural response is to prove that one is more powerful, and the way to go about proving that is to be violent, hence the reliance on fighting and gun violence. It’s often overlooked and quite sad that many of the men who embrace patriarchal masculinity don’t realize that by using violence as a means to gain power, they open themselves and their loved ones up to the real possibility of becoming victims of what bell hooks labels the “choreography of patriarchy,” the love, the loss, and the violence.
In the song T.I raps,
“Niggas die everyday
All over bull shit, dope money, dice game, ordinary hood shit
Could this be ‘cos of hip hop music?”
Here T.I. questions why so many die of seemingly minute things like money, a dice game, or ordinary things in the hood, and wonders if it is because of Hip Hop music. Many have latched on to Hip Hop music as the driving force behind male violence, but I would suggest that male violence existed long before Hip Hop, and that seeing how Hip Hop is such a diverse genre of music, blaming Hip Hop, alone, for male violence is to only scratch the surface. Aspects of Hip Hop particularly the most violent aspects of the genre are informed by patriarchal masculinity which teaches men that in order to be powerful they must be powerful, so it is not Hip Hop that is to blame, but patriarchal masculinity. The notions of manhood rooted in strict gender roles, and the over emphasis of toughness and a lack of emotional awareness are what produce a community or a culture that literally has men dying everyday over seemingly pointless things. I find no solace from those who wish to single out Hip Hop as the issue to societies problems when we are a culture that celebrates violence in our movies, our video games. I find no solace from those who wish to single out Hip Hop when we are a culture that wages war without consideration for human sacrifice or life.
I think part of the reason why this song hits so close to home for me is because I know men who are in T.I’s shoes. I know men who have lost friends and loved ones because of their allegiance to patriarchal masculinity. This idea that I have to prove I am tougher than the next man or the next group of boys informed much of the attitudes of the young men in my community growing up. This idea of proving manhood, a perverted sense of manhood ended in the senseless deaths of many young men. A young man who brags about killing for his own brother is gunned down for talking to the girlfriend of another man. These ideas that violence is power and women are objects to be fought over are informed not by Hip Hop but by patriarchal masculinity.
T.I. ends the song speaking of the new him,
“That old me is dead and gone
But that new me will be alright”
I call on those who have had enough of the death and destruction brought by patriarchal masculinity to imagine a new them outside of patriarchal masculinity. We see the problem but do we embrace a solution that means imagining a new manhood and freeing ourselves of the rigid gender roles and expectations that have poisoned us into a culture of loss and violence and loss? The steps that we take to addressing violence and death in our communities begins with a rebuking of patriarchal masculinity and a willingness to teach our men a new manhood not based on proving ones toughness but ones ability to respect self and others.
T.I.’s “Dead and Gone” is one of the sincerest rap songs speaking the pain brought by patriarchal masculinity I have ever heard. If you take the time to truly listen to the song what you hear is the sorrow of a man destroyed by the very ideology he embraced, patriarchal masculinity.