Backtalk with Katt Williams

Although he stands at only 5’5″, Katt Williams is steadily becoming a comedian of gigantic proportions. When not on screen in feature films such as Norbit and Epic Movie or starring in his own HBO comedy special, Katt Williams: The Pimp Chronicles Part I, the funnyman tours the country, offering sold-out crowds his fresh brand of humor. But there’s more to Williams than a few witty punch lines. Here the thirtysomething comedian speaks with BLACK ENTERPRISE about hip-hop culture and the bad rap it gets when it comes to images of women.

What do you say to critics of your pimp persona? And you have eight children–how do you handle this image with them?
First of all, as an actor of any caliber, you have to come to grips with that answer for yourself. There are a myriad of jobs in entertainment that you have to do in certain situations. As far as the pimp scenario, my kids between the ages of 9 and 11 understand that I don’t perpetuate the attitude of superiority of a man over a woman. They know they don’t see me hitting women and talking to women any kind of way. So it’s never a contradictory thing for my kids, because they see how their father really feels. Everything outside of the house is an act, and that’s what they go by.

What about the argument that women, especially the scantily clad women in hip-hop videos, are being degraded?
Being degraded? Is she being degraded by her paycheck? Is her W-9 degrading her? Because that’s how she feeds her family. Now maybe the people who have a problem with it should call that video girl and offer her something else to do for that same amount of money in that amount of time. And maybe she would do that. But you can’t answer for how somebody else has decided to make their living.

That speaks to why the women do it. But why do the artists perpetuate it?
We’re not saying that about Sports Illustrated are we? How they degrade those poor women, having them wear those skimpy bathing suits in their magazine, putting them out there like that and parading them on the beach. They’re not saying that, are they? I try to be a realist. And the realist in me understands that sex sells. So the reason that there are those beautiful, scantily clad women in videos is because people like to see it, especially men. You can’t fault all of hip-hop for that.

Do they have to go hand in hand? Couldn’t hip-hop stand on its own if they took all that out?
There’s no need of even getting into that argument. Once you start doing the removing, once you start censoring, then it goes across the board. First it’s, “Let’s remove these women from the videos.” Then, “We don’t like what the rappers are saying, so they can’t say that.” Now you have a whole separate art form. You don’t have hip-hop anymore, you have pop music. You got guys not saying how they feel, not using a certain type of language, not dressing a certain way, and not doing things they are accustomed to doing. That’s not what hip-hop was based on. Hip-hop was based on freedom. Raw, uncensored, and free–that’s what hip-hop was all about.

But hip-hop has changed a lot since its inception. Do you think it has evolved for the better?
Probably not. Has hip-hop changed? Of course it has. Has it become a lot worse? In some respects, it has. On the other hand, when hip-hop started, hip-hop was feeding, what, 10 people? And now hip-hop is feeding tens of millions of people. Stores like Champs and Finish Line, they’re doing better because of hip-hop’s influence. And the directors of companies who don’t even like rap music, their kids are going to college because of hip-hop.

So you think it has become commercialized?
It would have to become commercialized in order for it to work. We say commercialized like it’s a bad word, but there is no business that doesn’t have to be commercialized. That’s what the commercials are for.

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