Black Eyed Peas On ‘Time’s Up’, Sexism In The Music Industry & Art As Activism

It’s something many of us have known for a while – that the music industry, still largely run by men, is indeed riddled with sexism. While there have been a number of artists speaking out about this, it feels like there may be more to come as we experience the force of the #MeToo movement which is taking down some powerful men who have gotten away with disgusting and egregious behavior for too long.

At the Sundance Film Festival this year, the Black Eyed Peas’ Will.I.Am, and Taboo were present to promote their ‘Masters Of The Sun’, project which is a comic book with an augmented reality and virtual reality component.

In an interview with Variety, the topic of sexism in music came up, and Will shared his thoughts, exhibiting how he has clearly been familiar with this issue for a while.

“Music…does a really good job at diminishing the power of a woman. And that’s really sad. Especially hip-hop, rock — sex, drugs, and rock and roll. A woman is a resource in that sentence. It’s sad,” he said, pointing to the blatant objectification of women in two genres where it is well-documented.

When the trio were specifically asked about ‘Time’s Up’, the organization started by Hollywood actresses and activists to help weed out sexism and abuse in the workplace, which has also come to represent the greater movement with just two words, Will said the following: “It should have happened a long time ago”.

Let’s just pause for a second to agree with him, but also point out that for any movement designed to dismantle forms of oppression in the pursuit of equality, it requires allies to also leverage their power and voices for good. Why didn’t Will.I.Am speak up sooner? If so many men knew about the widespread problem of sexism especially in their own industries, why did they choose to turn a blind eye, only to now show support? This is an issue that should absolutely be part of a conversation and movement like #MeToo, if we hope to never make the same mistakes in the future.

Although he is well aware of sexism in the music industry, he shied away from claiming that women need men to give them permission to be empowered.

“A man doesn’t have the power to empower a woman. All a man can do is acknowledge the power of a woman. I don’t have the power to give a woman, when a woman gave power to me. So our society is all effed up,” he said.

He is right, to a certain degree, but as long as men still control a number of industries that have begun to be exposed for rampant sexual misconduct allegations (media, film, fashion, politics) if they aren’t required to empower women, it will mean seeing more women in positions of leadership.

One area where the Black Eyed Peas have been pretty consistent in their messaging is social activism. Sure they have been known for some of the biggest party anthems of the early 2000’s, but with so much political upheaval infiltrating almost every aspect of society, it’s hard not to see messages around activism and justice being weaved into industries like art, music, film, sport, business and more.

Taboo says music used to be an industry known primarily for its social activism, but that it has changed.

“It’s sad that, in this day and age of music, we don’t have a huge support for activism like we used to. In the ’60s, everybody was trying to make a statement with their music. It seems more athletes are standing up for causes than actually in the music industry,” he said.

Earlier in January at a kick-off event for a 10-day summit of music, art and activism, Taboo again spoke about this, saying there is an uprising of activism in pop culture due to the current political climate which is hard to ignore.

“I think what’s happening now is the renaissance of art and activism colliding so you have people rise up to say, ‘Look, we have all these people that stand together — whether it’s Standing Rock, Ferguson or the marches,” he said.

Back in 2016, Taboo collaborated with Hip Hop Caucus, creator of People’s Climate Music, to release a track called ‘Stand Up/Stand N Rock #NoDAPL’ during the height of the protests against a pipeline project in South Dakota, which would impact the water source for neighboring Indigenous tribes.

The Black Eyed Peas’ most recent release was a song called ‘Street Livin’ which tackles poverty and racism. The New York Times called it “an indictment of systematic racial oppression: poor education, police killings, violent neighborhoods and high incarceration rates.”

We’re no doubt going to see MANY artists get asked about #MeToo and ‘Time’s Up’, and it’s important to see words and opinions be turned into action. Not in a way that tokenizes the issues, however. Like Taboo says, music has traditionally always been an industry for activism, so this is a moment where we hope to see more artists utilize their platform for powerful messages about sexual harassment, abuse, rape and conduct that makes a woman feel unsafe to go to work.

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