Ain’t nothin’ misdemeanor about this latest work of Hip Hop’s living legend-Missy Elliot. An ode to throwin’ in back. Way back! The presence of a living legend in Hip Hop, and especially during this era, adds more to the complexity surrounding Black American Her/History. So, let’s throw it back.
Back down to a time when all a peculiar people had was dance and marginalized spacing in the United States of America. Examining this context, “Throw It Back” takes viewers into that special world of healing-these particular forms of rejuvenation in urban, low income Black American neighborhoods and spacing. The myriad of dance cultures, which have been created from communities-heavily populated by Black American people. These avenues served as forms of therapy to contrast the realities of disenfranchisement, economic struggles, and invisibility in a nation, that they had created and continue to build.
One of the highlights of Missy Elliot’s video, “Throw It Back,” is how it brings “the hood” or urban sectors of Black American communities, as spaces of creativity and wonder. That contrary to the mask of poverty and despair, there is a world, which brings forth the healing power of dance and music. The colors, design, and fashion used in the video “Throw It Back,” highlights Black American, urban communities being magical worlds, where life exists. This greatly contrasts to solely those mainstream images of gun violence, drugs, and other negative connotations, associated with “the hood.” Creating artistic expressions, in order to release frustrations and emotional toxicities have been one of the highlights of Black American cultural innovation and artistry. Numerous genres have been created from such. Other styles such as Krump dancing (known as the “Clown dance”) were methods of preventing street violence, by allowing community members to release anger, through dance. Anger which arouses from economic, racial discrimination, and disparities. The performance of holistic therapy, well-being, self-care, and re-claiming mental stability; while having no resources for professional-clinical wellness or therapy institutions. Institutions often associated with the “elite,” or those who are within the right socio-economic group to afford them.
One of the phenomenons of Missy Elliot’s, “Throw It Back,” is how it shows performance of Black American people’s use of movement and space in continuing our existence within the United States of America. Of utilizing black energy, dark matter, as sources of nutrition for the movement and nutrition of our people. Spiritual. Mental. Emotional. Physical. It is one which brings forth the understanding of a people who returned to the energy of blackness, in order to create, anew. Creating in a land meant for their destruction. Diving in a land of anti-blackness. Designing in a land, to make the foreign more familiar. It is part of that legacy of Black American identity. One of the many representations of Black American gardens-the designs, colors, and styles, which comes with them. And, they are myriad, indeed.
The genius of Missy Elliot’s “Throw It Back” is it performs how this energetic nourishment of Black American people moves into different spaces. It doesn’t only stay in the urban sector. Rather, it is able to move into the suburbs, the high visual art scene, sports, the educational sector, and even the Universal galaxies. It is a perfect representation of Black American culture’s ability to reach into the Universal heavens for spiritual and mental guidance, or cleansing. In this video, the reality and the fantasy are intertwined. Such is greatly connected to that old tradition of Black American culture (church-based culture) reaching into Universal “fantasy,” into “invisible” worlds of the Spiritual, and making them visual and real, on Earth. Hip Hop (and other Black American musical and cultural genres) all have their foundations in the Black American church. That understanding of performing the “fantasy” or the “Spiritual” on Earth, returning to the realm of Blackness, taking the unseen and making it seen, in combination with rhythm, in order to continue the existence of their people, through different generations and eras of time, is intrinsically. . .Black American. It is the living, breathing performance of physics, chemistry, and alchemy.
One of the other intrinsic beauties of “Throw It Back” is again, the presentation of. . .image. Image in the healing and well-being of people and beautifying that image-even in spaces, deemed unpleasant to the eye. In those urban sectors of the video, blues, yellows, greens, and tie dye-rainbow coloring, bring radiance to the spaces. Further indications that life, indeed, exists within those darkened spaces. Black American maidens, along with Missy Elliot, highlight this. In one of the scenes, the apartment building has green and pink coloring. For another scene, coloring is void. Nevertheless, it goes into saying that life and creative coloring lives within Black American people of those communities. That it is not the quality of infrastructure that defines them, but how they move and create in Blackness. Which means that Black American communities in under-developed, and low-quality, environments, continue to produce beauty. The soiling is fertile. They can re-define spacing. The spacing does not define them. That magical blackness can exist within lower, socio-economic Black American neighborhoods and communities. Painted or not, developed or not, their very presence alone, can amplify and decorate even the most “miserable” of settings.
Aligning with the previous theme of “Throw It Back,” the image and basis for healthy self-esteem are the very people, themselves. Those Black American creatives, in the urban realm, who create the magic and culture. It is their vibrancy and energy, which illuminates and brings that holistic energy, within marginalized Black American communities. In the video, Blackness is the foundation of re-invigoration and inspiration for pushing forward, and softening spaces which have become hardened-due to the hardships placed upon them. These images contrasts traditional, and dominant, perceptions often associated with lower, socio-economic, Black American communities. The practice of dressing up and being fashionable, even when living in poor communities are her/historical practices of Black American people. Another form of using fashion as therapy. It is a greater message that living in poverty does not mean that you reflect, or become, the poverty, itself. Fascinating, don’t you think? With many Black American communities, there were times where you would never think that they were poor because the image of poverty was not embraced; simply because they lived in impoverished communities. Black Americans colored colorless environments. Such is another teaching, highlighted in “Throw It Back.”
Another nurturing highlight of “Throw It Back,” are the healthy representations of Black American maidens. The young girls and women, who are performing the work of channeling life-sustaining energy into the spaces of their people. Those larger than life geometrics, as indicated in the double dutch scene, gives a euphoria of bouncing and leaping into Universal velvet. A whole new dynamic has been presented of Black American maidens in the inner city, through this one depiction, alone. As the young maidens of these communities channel that energy, those Black American men, showcased in the video, join in, and help to support and protect that energy. They are being nourished by it. Nourished in their own Black American gardens, by their maiden images. Maidens perform peace. Therefore, their roles, and creative participation, in their communities becomes evermore important.
So much more is to be analyzed from the latest artistic genius of Missy Elliot. Yet, the miracle of “Throw It Back,” is how it highlights the foundational essence of Black American psychology-it’s resilience; creativity; perception of self; ability to amplify and change the perception and illusions of spacing; and circling life-sustaining energy, by purging that which does not sustain our well-being. Not only is such creativity necessary for holistic well-being, but it is also important for sustaining peace, and community building, in Black American communities-which were meant for destruction. The highlight of Missy Elliot’s “Throw It Back” is that it is a celebration of such. It is living proof of what happens when Black American communities, and especially, those of the inner cities, harness their energy to focus on their own Black American identity, as the source of wellness, salvation, and restoration. The blueprint for what our people did in the South. So, before we are ready to throw out the towel, let’s just turn back! Way back!