The Social Awareness Paradox: How Triple J failed us with the 2017 Hottest 100

Words by Emily Fuller

It is undeniable that Triple J’s Hottest 100 is an event that has firmly rooted itself within Australia’s popular culture and identity over time. For countless years, Australians have tediously refined their most loved songs to a mere ten votes, and cleared their calendars on the day of the countdown in preparation for a day of socialising and tuning in to the beloved radio station. It is an event that most of us look forward to celebrating and completely immersing ourselves in every Summer.

Very recently, the station has made commendable efforts to open up the conversation regarding the endless controversy surrounding the underlying connotations of celebrating Australia Day. The decision to change the date of the Hottest 100 was inarguably one of the most positive steps they have taken towards developing a broader social consciousness of contemporary Australian culture.

But, can we just talk about the contradiction of Kendrick Lamar’s Humble claiming the spot for number one? The irony is definitely not lost on me that whilst Triple J is championing for cultural respect and sensitivity, they still endorse naturalised misogyny that is overtly expressed by some of their artists – like Kendrick Lamar. In this widely-adored track, he utilises lyrics that are often demeaning and are ostracising for women, particularly of colour. One of the standouts which I think just takes the cake for misrepresenting women – “I’m so f**kin’ sick and tired of the Photoshop/Show me somethin’ natural like afro on Richard Pryor/Show me somethin’ natural like ass with some stretch marks”. Are we really that blinded to how problematic such statements are? Yes, he may be praising women for embracing their naturalness, but simultaneously his lyrics debase another large portion of femininity. Many listeners have quickly celebrated Lamar’s inclusion of the natural embodiment of women as a positive feminist affirmation. However, let’s just keep in mind that this particular song still instructs women on how to carry themselves in order to be considered attractive enough for men. Don’t get me wrong, Kendrick Lamar has been recognised as a lyrical genius of our time, as much of his previous work holds a lot of cultural significance – for example, To Pimp a Butterfly has been basically canonised as it was added to the library of Harvard for such reasons. I just cannot help but wonder how he can demonstrate such an awareness of complex social issues, and yet he fails so miserably in his representation of women?

Whilst I understand that Humble came off on top due to popular demand from the masses, it just seems to be a little tricky for Triple J to actively promote social change in areas of race, culture and gender whilst celebrating music that completely negates such positive intentions. I realise it’s a tough balance when such music is so heavily endorsed by listeners, and it’s difficult to articulate what the correct solution would be in addressing such discrimination. It’s hard for an alternative radio station to completely refrain from playing this music as it forms a significant niche for listeners of rap music. For me, I guess it would be important for Triple J to acknowledge the damage that such music does to gender discourse, whilst promoting more artists that are geared towards conquering these social imbalances. Take Camp Cope for example, this all-female group secured #58 in this recent countdown for their track The Opener. This fiery track is absolutely innovative, as it has solidified their status as one of the most integral voices to be heard in today’s music industry. For those of you who are unfamiliar with Camp Cope or this particular song, it essentially takes on the form of a feminist manifesto for the music industry – calling out the gendered injustices, hypocrisies and discrepancies that have been embedded within it for as long as we’ve known. In my opinion, this is a musical piece that is more representative of the Australian culture most of us are striving towards rather than the message that Humble expresses. So why can we not recognise or appreciate this?

From my point of view, if Triple J wants to assert themselves as advocators for racial, cultural and gender equality and awareness, then they should be displaying more praise for artists who share the same vision and social consciousness rather than celebrating those who are in fact regressive of our social and political views. This year may have been monumental for social sensitivity considering it marked the first year that the countdown was not played on Australia Day, but I believe Triple J still has quite a long way to go yet.

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