Just a few days after rapper Rick Ross responded to allegations that his lyrics condone rape, Harvard students are publicly protesting against the university’s decision to have Tyga headline its annual Yardfest concert, due to his “explicitly and violently misogynistic lyrics.”
A Change.org petition, started by senior Leah Reis-Dennis, garnered more than 400 signatures in its first hour online and today boasts 1,891 supporters. Of the many reasons given for signing, William Poff-Webster of Boston keenly added, “I believe that art should represent the best, not the worst, of our culture.”
This sentiment pervades, as the general Harvard community is beginning to come out of the woodwork to speak up against endorsing the now notorious rapper. Alumni called the university’s invitation “embarrassing for the entire Harvard community,” since it is “directly opposed to the kind of image and values that an institution like Harvard should be promoting.”
Yet, ‘I Poke Her Face’ artist Kid Cudi, whose lyrics read: ”I make her say, Oh, oh-oh-oh / Oh, oh-oh-oh/ When I p-p-p-poker face / P-p-poke her face” and several other hip-hop stars with questionable lyrical choices including Wu-Tang Clan and Wale, have already graced the Yardfest stage, raising questions about the university’s now critical stance against misogyny in hip-hop music.
Some attribute the backlash to tensions that mounted after headlines of campus rape at Harvard circled the news for the past few years, leaving many on edge. Rachel Cheong, another petition supporter, points out that considering Harvard’s recent struggle against sexual assault and rape culture, “Tyga is still a terrible choice for Yardfest.”
She then went on to express concern for the hip-hop genre that is often subjected to a lot of unfair cultural criticism. “Policing a form of expression that has been an important and meaningful tool of protest, empowerment, and identity formation in traditionally marginalized communities has the potential to be extremely problematic, especially when the policing is done by Harvard students who have a vast apparatus of educational and class privilege supporting their critical actions,” she wrote.
The Harvard administration has yet to formally respond to the outrage, but petition founder Leah Reis-Dennis sees this dramatic university-wide response as “an opportunity for tangible, if short-term, response to rape culture.” She further added, “Activism surrounding Tyga’s performance at Harvard should not be divorced from activism surrounding larger structural issues of race gender and homophobia.” Whether or not the university decides to ditch Tyga or not, Reis-Dennis’ petition has definitely ignited a heated conversation.
Yardfest is scheduled for April 13.