Race and gender have always been complicated issues in and around hip-hop—which occupies the complicated space of being consumed globally and produced primarily by Black men, yet largely influenced by White male label executives, fans and music critics. Two scathing criticisms of Lupe Fiasco’s “B*tch Bad” from SPIN's Marc Hogan and Brandon Soderberg are a powerful example of what happens when someone who is not emotionally connected to that which they profess to be an expert on is given a microphone and a position of influence.
Hogan’s “Lupe Fiasco Mansplains Misogyny on Counterproductive ‘B*tch Bad” opens by suggesting that two very different songs speak to a massive cultural shift around the word 'b*tch':
"Who you callin' a b*tch?" rages Queen Latifah, on her jazz-sampling single "U.N.I.T.Y.," originally released on the 1993 album Black Reign. "I'm a bad b*tch / I'm a, I'm a bad b*tch," repeats Nicki Minaj on her fire-breathing 2009 mixtape cut "Itty Bitty Piggy"…Clearly, something has changed in hip-hop's relationship with anti-woman slurs over the past two decades.”
Perhaps if Latifah's attitude had been the most pervasive one at the time in hip-hop culture; alas, '93 was the same year that Snoop’s Doggystyle was released and rap was becoming an increasingly hostile space for women. Fun fact about “U.N.I.T.Y.”- Latifah calls out a young girl for attempting to be a “gangster b*tch” after the popularity of rapper Apache’s hit song (produced by Q-Tip, creator of affirmative and loving songs about women) of the same name…meanwhile, Apache was her labelmate and homeboy. Contradictions and complications are not new territory for rap music, be from a “sanctimonious” emcee or a blissfully ignorant one, so the anger at “B*tch Bad” really seems unwarranted.
Hogan goes on to charge that there is no need for rap music to “scold” listeners, as the genre has grown to include emcees who are better at being thoughtful without being preachy:
“From Das Racist and BBU to Killer Mike and Big K.R.I.T., more and more MCs are remembering how to make rap that has a political charge without sounding like Tipper Gore.”
Here, the writer's cultural disconnect is painfully clear. The 12-year-old girl popping her butt to the latest Nicki Minaj track doesn’t know who Das Racist is. God bless BBU, a multicultural Chicago hip-hop collective that was progressive enough to name a mix tape “bell hooks,” but the average 25-year-old brother from that same city doesn’t know who they are either. As for Killer Mike and his ‘romantic’ tale of a violent relationship on “U Know I Love You” and Big K.R.I.T.’s narrative about stepping out on his problematic girlfriend to sleep with an overweight woman who will pay his rent (“I Ain’t Sh*t” ), both songs peppered with the b-word…Hogan fails to cite evidence that “B*tch Bad” is worthless.
It’s bit absurd for two men who can enjoy rap music while existing on the outside of the culture that sustains it to dismiss the need for a conversation about “b*tch"
If one anti-“B*tch Bad” piece from a White dude who will never walk down any of the country’s Colored main drags and have the experience of being called a b*tch for no other reason than being a woman and present…SPIN ran another one weeks later.
Writer Brandon Soderberg is obviously no Lupe fan, made blatantly obvious from his opening line (“Why must we continually endure Lupe Fiasco's half-baked conscious hip-pop?”) and slams the rapper for “mining the moronic 'lyrics over everything' attitude, reducing rap to a game of preaching to the converted,” as if this particular artist isn’t championed by fans for his style of rapping (and as if one has to be ‘converted’ to see the value in challenging the word ‘b*tch.’) This is from a person who has described the faux-gangster narratives of Rick Ross as "effective" and entertaining, yet clucks his tongue at the bra-busting rapper for exploiting ghetto life with his latest video, so weigh that as you will.
He goes on to reiterate Hogan’s assertion that the song is guilty of “mansplaining,” but in the very next sentence asks “but does any female want to be called "a lady"?
This is what happens when a person who is far removed from someone else’s world decides not only to peek in, but also tries to narrate from the outside. Speaking as an Actual Black Woman, not Race Non-Specific Pretend Woman referenced in this article, I can tell you that the word “female” is a far greater point of contention than “lady” amongst sisters. And while plenty of women eschew the word “lady” or the expectation that one has to be “ladylike” to be respectable, others still cling tightly to the term and the traits. “Female,” however, is a term often hurled from the same lips that favor “b*tch.”
While Soderberg says little about the scenes featuring small children watching rap videos and emulating them (I don’t think this dude is particularly concerned about what little Black girls are witnessing that may be to